As employers have become more mindful of their workforce’s mental and physical health, the importance of stress reduction and management has been brought into the spotlight. Stress reduction is important in any industry, but in the complex world of finance it’s particularly relevant.
LinkedIn conducted a survey that showed at least 67% of those working in financial industries report high stress levels. While this number is lower than only a select few fields, employers definitely benefit from reducing workplace stress.
High levels of stress can lead to declining physical and mental health, leaving workers struggling to thrive at work. Studies have been done clearly demonstrating that as worker stress increases, their productivity decreases.
Every company has a vested interest in reducing stress levels for workers, but how can this be achieved? We often hear suggestions for things like meditation, exercise, mindfulness, and such.
The focus of stress reduction advice, like the kind mentioned above, tends to be on how the individual worker can improve their own stress levels. This approach is definitely useful and important, but we often forget that the environments we spend time in can be used to reduce stress.
Yes, even your office spaces and trading floors can be used more efficiently to benefit the well-being of those who work there!
Work Surfaces and Physical Stress
Standing desks, desks made only for standing, have increased in popularity accompanied by the idea that they will improve your physical health and subsequently mental health as well. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly true.
The benefit these desks provide isn’t the standing, it’s the extra movement associated with standing. In fact, being on your feet all day is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular problems.
Additionally, suddenly switching from a traditional sitting desk to working at a standing desk for long periods of time can cause notable fatigue.
It may sound like standing desks are a poor option to relieve physical stress, but the reality is that a desk only for standing poses the same number of problems as a desk only for sitting. The solution to these problems is a sit/stand desk.
Why a Sit/Stand Desk?
Sit/stand desks provide some obvious benefits and some less obvious upsides as well. These kinds of desks can be adjusted so that workers can get the benefits of sitting or standing and have the ability to switch between positions before you start to feel sore or fatigued.
Sure, it seems obvious that a sit/stand desk allows an employee to sit or stand. It is in the name after all. Believe it or not, there’s more to it than that. The movement of changing positions frequently can relieve aches and fatigue.
Having a desk that can adjust its position is a huge health benefit, and having a desk that can adjust in such a way that the body can be positioned ergonomically regardless of someone’s proportions is even better. With models like this Vari Sit/Stand Desk the desk can be adjusted to a specific height that meets each person’s physical needs.
Many sit/stand desks are electronically adjustable too! Just press a button and your workers can change up your position to keep working comfortably.
How to Effectively Use Your Sit/Stand Desk
Let’s say you’ve invested in the health of the workforce and gotten a sit/stand desk. Great! Is it going to solve every problem you sought to deal with? It has the potential to, if used effectively.
Switching between sitting and standing is very important to reduce the physical stress on employees’ bodies, but switching positions once aches and fatigue have already been felt isn’t the best practice for your new desks.
The most efficient and effective use of sit/stand desks is to stand for roughly 20 minutes out of every hour at the desk and sit for the rest. Making the change to working while standing, even for 20 minutes at a time, can be physically demanding.
It’s a good idea for users of sit/stand desks to work up the amount of time spent standing in small increments. Maybe even take a second to stretch out the legs and roll the shoulders as employees switch from sitting to standing or vice versa.
Furniture with a Positive Impact on Posturing
The increased importance of technology in the workplace has seen the rise of a unique problem causing soreness, pain, poor posture. This problem is colloquially called “tech neck.”
Tech neck is the strain put on shoulder and neck muscles from the common position used when viewing computers, phones, and tablets. It looks like leaning forward at an angle, and the steeper the angle, the more pressure put on the muscles.
This strain causes stiffness, soreness, neck spasms, headaches, and more. Finance workers don’t need any added physical stress, so how can you combat this?
An effective method is one we’ve already discussed. Working while standing and implementing movement can significantly help improve posture, thereby relieving pain. This is where those sti/stand desks come into play!
As previously mentioned, standing all day isn’t a good solution either. Spending some time sitting is not only acceptable. It’s helpful! At least, it is when employees are positioned for optimal ergonomic benefits.
A so-called “rule of 90” is commonly discussed in office work, referring to the angle one should have elbows and knees bent at. However, this rule does not extend to the posture of the back when seated.
The most physically beneficial way to sit when working with a computer is actually to lean back. Sure, employees should maintain those 90 degree angles with the elbows and knees, but your workers’ backs should be reclined to a 25 to 30 degree angle.
Ergonomic office chairs can be really useful to achieve this. Sitting up straight won’t provide the most benefit, so you need to ensure your trading floor or office space uses ergonomic chairs that can recline the recommended 25 to 30 degrees.
Layouts and Use of Space
The way that space in an office or trading floor is used can be a useful tool in helping your employees’ stress and health. Open floor plans are common, but by positioning technical furniture carefully, this space can be used in efficient ways.
The concept of efficient use of space can seem a little vague. There are a lot of different ways to be efficient, so what does this mean?
In this context it means using your furniture to facilitate movement while still keeping the space together aesthetically. Let’s get into why this is important and how it can be achieved.
Walk It Off
As already discussed, movement is key to maintaining physical health. It’s also an extremely important factor in mental health too. In fact, it’s often recommended that workers take brief walks a few times during the work day.
Sit/stand desks can definitely help with encouraging movement, but workers do benefit even more from the ability to get up and walk around. Unfortunately, walking in a crowded office space or a bustling trading floor can prove difficult.
By utilizing a layout that clusters desks, tables, and other furniture together, the amount of space left for walking can be increased significantly.
As important as it is to let people stretch their legs, you need to ensure that enough space is left for people rushing to let their bosses know that the important deal in progress just went through.
Thankfully, some surfaces are built with space efficient structure in mind. For example, the Haworth Sit/Stand Technical Benching is designed to maximize space while providing all the benefits of an individual sit/stand desk.
These occasional walks don’t have to be long. Even going to get some water can get those steps in. Incorporating the importance of worker movement into the design of your space is what makes the biggest difference.
Putting The Aesthetics of Your Trading Floor to Work
When discussing the optimization of space in any work environment, we think about how to get the most use out of what’s available. The way the space looks does factor into that quite a bit.
Maybe the layout has every inch of available space being used for work, but it looks cluttered. Maybe everything is against the walls to maximize floor space, but it looks empty.
These aesthetic elements can have an influence on your employees mental state!
You want your trading floor to facilitate business, and we definitely understand that at Saraval Industries. That doesn’t in any way mean that you have to sacrifice style as well. After all, when employees have facilities and furniture that look and work well, they feel more valued.
It is absolutely possible to find sit/stand desks that are stylish and facilitate all the necessary functions of your business. Arranging this furniture to hide monitor wiring and electrical cables is absolutely possible as well.
A well organized space can help declutter the mind, in some ways.
Additionally, the modular qualities designed into many pieces of technical furniture can permit you to maximize any natural light from windows. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light increases mental and physical health.
You want to make sure that even the employee farthest from the windows can still get some of those benefits while working at those sit/stand desks you’ve invested in.
These seemingly little things, like lighting and layouts, can make a bigger difference than one might think. Every measure that decreases stress, therefore increasing productivity, is a worthwhile investment for any company.
It’s Not All About the Trading Desks
Stress reduction is an important goal in any industry, but finance is a field where it takes a special kind of focus.
We’ve focused largely on using furniture and office space to facilitate stress reduction, because Saraval’s expertise is in technical furniture and trading floors. We know how to make these products work for every company’s specific needs.
However, stress management isn’t only about technical furniture and space usage on the trading floor. That’s merely one kind of approach, albeit a useful and effective one.
Discussions around managing work stress need to include habits and practices both in and outside of the workplace.
Psychological Approaches and Needs
A significant aspect of stress is mental. The way workers frame thought patterns can have a huge impact on stress levels and work performance.
Stress can cause employees to subconsciously place a negative lens over thoughts and situations. This negative thinking can compound with preexisting stress to increase stress levels and change how workers approach difficult situations.
Reframing thoughts is an effective strategy to combat a habitual negative outlook. When employees learn to challenge subconscious negativity, they can improve their own moods and potentially transfer this technique to interactions with clients.
Reframing negative thoughts isn’t necessarily easy. Harvard Health Publishing recommends treating negative thoughts as hypotheses rather than as facts. Encourage employees to ask themselves “is this the only possibility? Are there other ways to consider this? What are they?”
It may take time, but it will help ease some mental stress. It also is good practice for problem solving that your employees can seamlessly apply to most situations in the workplace.
Of course this isn’t the only way to address the mental aspect of stress. It’s absolutely a great place to start and important to include in any plan to address stress management.
Keeping Healthy Work Habits Starts Off the Floor
Physical activity and spending time outside are key behaviors to managing stress levels, and this absolutely expands to what your employees do outside of work.
If space is present, encourage workers to eat their lunch outside or take a brief walk out of the office during their breaks. This time outside can do wonders for decreasing stress levels.
All of the aforementioned tactics to encourage movement within the workplace are excellent for providing physical activity and health benefits, but it can be taken further! Workers can be encouraged to maintain physical activity at home when their employers stress a desire to see employees happy and healthy. Expressing a genuine interest in your workforce’s wellbeing goes a long way to encouraging healthy, and productive, behaviors.
Why Does This Matter?
Why does providing ergonomic furniture and promoting healthy habits matter?
On the one hand, investing in the wellbeing of your workforce is an investment in the success of your business. On the other hand, employers have both an ethical and a legal obligation to maintain the welfare of employees, including the provision of ergonomic furniture and practices.
The Occupational Safety and Hazard Act (OSH Act) does not specifically mandate that employers provide ergonomic workstations and chairs, but that doesn’t necessarily absolve companies from failing to provide these things.
Under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, written in section 5(a)(1), employers are obligated to keep the workplace free from recognized hazards, and ergonomic hazards are indeed recognized in the OSH Act. Even specific guidelines are not present for a specific industry, the General Duty Clause does hold employers responsible for keeping the workplace free from hazards, including ergonomic ones.
So, yes, employers should be taking care of their workers with ergonomic equipment and stress reductive practices. This should be done for the best interest of your workforce, but also to be compliant with the law.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available to help you make the best decisions for you and your company. It’s easy to find quality guidelines for stress reduction and the use of ergonomics in the workplace, and Saraval Industries is here to help with actually obtaining the ergonomic furniture that will help your employees thrive.