In London on 22th September 1796, an extremely accomplished lady called Mary Lamb was preparing dinner at home when, in a fit of extreme pique (read this as ‘mental breakdown’) she attacked her own mother with a knife.

It turns out that Mary was “worn down to a state of extreme nervous misery by attention to needlework by day and to her mother at night“. She’d reached the end of her tether with her repetitive work – and the end result was nothing short of tragic.

Mary’s brother was the renowned writer and essayist Charles Lamb. Today you can find him looking down at you from the walls of the British Library, with an expression that the Mona Lisa herself might have practiced in front of the mirror. Go take an hour out one afternoon and check him out.

Charles had a lot to say about the work environment, not least how wearisome and detrimental to the spirit it is to be subjected to the same working environment day in and day out. Here’s how he put it:

“Thirty years have I served the Philistines, and my neck is not subdued to the yoke. You don’t know how wearisome it is to breathe the air of four pent walls without relief day after day.”

It’s clear that Charles and his sister Mary would have both welcomed the concept of the chill out room* – an area of respite to punctuate the repetition of their respective working days. Such a place could potentially have saved Mary from the asylum and her mother her untimely demise.

The majority of London employees still spend most of their working days in the 2m square area that houses their desk. The desk takes many shapes and sizes these days, but to some, it’s still the torture device of the modern age, tensing up muscles and coiling up innocent employees like springs. Poor lighting, posture and even nearby colleagues can create stress and frustration, but a good number of these problems can actually be solved with a place to take refuge and to reconvene.

“Embrace the chill out space”

Slowly, businesses are cottoning on to the idea that ‘chilling’ isn’t an activity exclusive to the under-21s. Being ‘chill’ is hugely important to an effective workspace. When it comes to stress, prevention is the most effective cure.

Imagine your perfect room, devoid of all office-related accoutrements. A personal zen-garden perhaps, situated at the heart of the office – a place where you can escape your desktop computer and instead expand your field of vision to a feast of greenery and plants. Imagine taking a few moments of your day, every day, to forget you’re in the office and effortlessly supercharge your grey cells.

We all know that when employees are less stressed, employers benefit from drastically increased productivity, so why not suggest a daily meditation class where you and your colleagues can unwind both mentally and spiritually?

The UK ‘Google approach’ to chilling out involves giving unique designs to a variety of rooms in the office. These designs break the mould with themes such as the 1950’s room, or an office library. It’s not rocket science that creative rooms stimulate creativity and encourage us to feel like individuals. They can also prevent the onset of mental blocks that can lead to stress, anxiety and even depression.

Don’t let the plague of stress overtake your office. Think back to poor Mary and step away from the cutlery. Give your eyes a break, your mind a rest and, most importantly, demand more from your office.

*It’s safe to say that the ‘chill out room’ might have taken a different name at the end of the 18th Century. Do comment with your ideas 🙂


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