Trading stress for wellness: redesigning the trading floor

Forget the Wolf of Wall Street: trading floors can seriously damage traders’ health. New research from architects Gensler, supported by furniture company Erich Keller, explores ways to mitigate stress on the trading floor to improve wellbeing and decision-making

There is an image of the trading floor indelibly imprinted on popular culture:  wild-eyed young men staring at a battery of screens and shouting on the phone, making high-risk decisions in a high-stress environment.

There is some substance behind the stereotype: when compared to the dramatic evolution of workplace culture in other business sectors, the trading floor has not developed progressive new models of work behaviour and design as swiftly.

Trading floor furniture by Erich Keller

According to new research from architects Gensler, supported by specialist dealer room furniture company Erich Keller, the stress and intensity of trading environments can harm the health and wellbeing of employees as well as negatively impact the business as high levels of stress can cause poor decision-making.

Stress linked to environment

Stress is closely linked to the environment to which employees are exposed, says the report, entitled Trading Stress for Wellness. The dense, unvarying linear layouts of trading floors are in contrast to the move towards fluid spaces that promote and encourage collaboration and openness in other corporate environments.

The Gensler research looks at how the trading floor design can be reimagined to reduce stress and improve wellbeing while also improving critical decision-making for the business and levels of staff retention.

The report advances three potential solutions to the design of the trading floor that will enforce a positive change: better control of the environment; adjusting sensory stimuli such as acoustics, density, indoor air quality, lighting and sightlines; and behavioural ergonomics to improve posture.

More rational decisions

By controlling the physical environment, businesses could reduce risk-seeking behaviour. Traders typically over-estimate their control of the market; the greater the feeling of control, the worse their performance in terms of taking risks. By creating an environment that is controlled by the user, this has the potential to reduce the need to control the market. The argument is that traders will then be more rational in their decision-making.

Furniture by Erich Keller

Exposure to artificial light and constant noise can cause physical reactions that affect cognitive performance. Fluorescent lighting and long hours has a direct impact on mood and performance; views and sightlines impact experience. Opening up an office to create more natural light can have a positive impact on wellbeing and performance.

Minimising errors

Another factor that alters performance is the way employees sit and stand. Proper posture has been shown to improve cognitive function, emotional disposition and decision-making. Open postures can even improve confidence and minimise errors.

Transformation of trading floors is not an easy task given long-established rituals in the industry. But it can be kick-started by a fundamental re-evaluation of the existing spatial design. Gensler’s research in this field is on-going and a fieldwork study is planned.

The full report Trading Stress for Wellness: Rethinking the trading floor to improve well-being and performance by Gensler with Erich Keller can be found here.

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