Organization of the work environment and the workplace concerning mental health

The work environment includes the conditions under which the professional activity is performed.

Usually, environmental factors act in it:

1) illumination;
2) noise;
3) vibration;
4) microclimate (movement and humidity, temperature, radiation, dust, etc.), etc.

Particular attention is paid to the harmful effects of the environment, which interfere with work and impair mental health and performance.

Until now, less attention has been paid to the harmful effects of these factors on the mental components of health (motivation, relationships, etc.).

Every manager must know the standards for business organizations related to the work environment

There are regulations for business organizations that limit the harmful effects on mental health – the so-called. hygiene standards. Every manager must know these standards. Reference: “Managers, learn about working conditions and mental health“,

Besides them, there are other types of norms – the so-called. ergonomic norms that take into account the comfort of the workplace (the limit at which workers feel dissatisfied with the impact of the indicator).

There are different tables for these norms. For example:


Optimal temperature – 21 degrees
“Disturbing effect” (ergonomic norm) – 27-30 degrees
Adverse effects – 34 degrees


Optimal – 30-70%
Disturbing effect (ergonomic norm) – 20-80%
Sanitary norm – 15-90%


Optimal rate – 40 dB
Ergonomic norm – 65 dB
Sanitary norm – 90-100 db


Optimal – 200-500 lux
Ergonomic – 150-200 lux
Harmful impact – 100-50 lux

Through the influence of these environmental factors, the severity of the respective type of work can be determined (through methodologies for assessing environmental conditions).

One can adapt to not very good conditions, especially when one has an interest in working in these unfavorable conditions. “Compensation” is usually given for such work and they motivate different categories of workers. Reference: “Objectives of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

The manager must inform about the available hazards of the working environment (they must be identified with the appropriate equipment and controlled!). Quite often employers have no interest in providing such information.

Illumination problems

It is known that more than 80% of the information is perceived by the visual analyzer. Through vision, we orient ourselves in space and differentiate details and signals. The following harm visual perception:

– blinding;
– excessive contrasts;
– unpleasant brightness;
– movements in the periphery of the visual field;
– focused observation of close objects;
– the need for continuous adaptation (adaptation from light to dark and vice versa);
– continuous accommodation (near-far);
– the lack of adequate space for the release of visual tension.

Relevant units and concepts exist to establish (and assess) workplace lighting.

The issue of lighting from a “primary” or “secondary” light source is important.

Lack of good lighting leads to rapid fatigue of the visual analyzer and damage to it. Strict control is required for activities that place greater demands on the visual analyzer. Reference: “Development of the Human Resources Management (HRM) concept“,

According to McCormick, increasing the intensity of lighting leads to increased productivity. But in ordinary activities, a greater increase in illumination does not lead to an increase in the capacity of the worker.

The following factors must be taken into account when determining the optimal lighting conditions:

1) Size of the details to be worked with.
2) The minimum contrast between the subject and the background.
3) The time required to distinguish the objects being worked on.
4) The time spent working under artificial lighting.

Lighting in the workroom is usually provided by general lighting (located on the ceiling) and by local lighting.

When using artificial lighting, the best case is when 10% of the lighting is obtained from general lighting (but this 10% is not less than 10 lux), which allows good orientation in space and provides conditions for a good adaptation of the eye (without the need to adapt from complete darkness to high brightness). Reference: “Evolution of the concept of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

Light sources (their location) should not create contrast and shadow!

Different countries have different intensity norms, which depend mainly on the size of the objects being worked on.

It is not appropriate to place fluorescent lighting where colors need to be differentiated (the spectrum of fluorescent lighting is more limited than daylight).

Take into account the dangers of glare under artificial lighting.
Coloring in the work environment has its mental aspects.

The ergonomic design also takes into account the color scheme of floors, walls, and ceilings. From a psychological point of view, color is a qualitative component of visual perception and its physical essence is electromagnetic waves (of a certain length).

Note: By definition, “color is the subjective perception of objectively existing quantum radiation with a certain wavelength (360 to 760 nm, ie nanometers) from the visible spectrum.

From smaller to larger wavelengths: violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green, yellow, orange, and red.

The color of the light and the color of the object must be taken into account. We distinguish “harmonious” colors that evoke pleasant sensations, as well as “warm” or “cold” colors.

Color preferences depend on the type of object, facial experience, individual characteristics, and cultural environment. (Doesn’t it come to you immediately “Comrade net in taste and color!”)?

Cetas are also used as light signals in production. Green – normal conditions. Red – attention. Yellow – critical condition. Etc. (remember the traffic light …, but there the meanings are different).

For mental activity, it is preferable to color in cold colors, the space should be in saturated tones, and the ceiling – in light. it is good to use color contrasts. It is also important the exposure the room (where it is located in the building).

Noise problems

The physical essence of noise is the physical vibration of the environment.

The tone is steady. Sound is a combination of different tones. Total noise, made up of mixing different sounds, is one of the most dangerous characteristics of the workplace (and a powerful adverse factor).

Units of measurement:

– Frequency (number of oscillations/sec): measured in Hz (hertz)
– Intensity: measured in dB (decibels)

Man perceives sound waves in the range of 16-20000 Hz. The minimum limit is the lower threshold of sound perception (rather – than auditory sensitivity). The maximum limit is the upper threshold of sensation of noise (pain).

The perception of noise depends on the sound pressure, the frequency of the sound, the duration of the sound (which are physical characteristics), as well as on the individual characteristics and condition of the person; its ability to perceive noise, to adapt to it; his general state of health.

Noise affects the hearing analyzer. If the duration of the noise exceeds a certain standard (in Bulgaria – 90 dB) within one working day on an unaccustomed person, it leads to headaches, tension, etc.

When working for more than 5 years in a noisy environment, hearing sensitivity is often reduced by up to 50%. With very long work in such conditions, hearing loss can occur.

The source of the noise and how the noise spreads to the environment are important. It is easier for a person to perceive a sound that he creates himself. At night, the noise is perceived as more disturbing.

The impact of noise is widely studied in the psychophysiology of labor. It has been found that in real conditions a higher general background noise is tolerated. The quality of work improves with reduced noise levels.

McCormick, for example, found that by reducing noise by 15%, the capacity of administrative staff increased by 10%. Typewriting errors have decreased by 30%, and when working with a computer – up to 50%.

Zuckerman found that noise with an intensity of 90 dB applied for 10 minutes, has almost no harmful effects, but after 20 minutes reduces the reading speed, for example.

The harmful effects of noise are reduced to a change in the nerve cells themselves, leading to a decrease in the sensitivity of the nerve soil, to changes in the middle ear.

Noise with a frequency above 15 kHz (kilohertz, ie 150 Hz) causes an unpleasant sensation. Long living in a noisy environment has a detrimental effect on psychosomatics and somatics (leads to neurosis, ulcers, cancer).

Prevention methods:

– use of mufflers in the workplace (such as earplugs, headphones, etc.); but psychologically this way is not perceived very well, because the “useful” contacts with the environment are limited (communication, etc.);

– isolation of noise sources;

– isolation of the workplace (the room).

Microclimatic conditions in organizations

Influence of heat (kilocalories for 1 hour). Factors for the sensation of heat:

– Heat exchange between man and the environment (main factor);
– Humidity (optimal – 30-70%);
– The speed of the airflow (should not exceed 0.2 m / s; if it is higher, the air temperature in the room should be increased).

Heat balance in humans is a condition in which the environment takes as much heat from the human body as it produces (body temperature is constant). The effect of a temperature of 27-30 degrees is disturbing.
Temperature above 20 degrees at 30% humidity is critical for mental work.

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