Office Design Strategies To Make Your Employees Healthier.
“I don’t care about the office design as long as they are productive and working hard.” How many times have we heard business managers say this and believe it? Managers who have recognized the clear correlation between employees’ health, productivity and profits are the ones who are now building sustainable, profitable businesses. Progressive companies, both large and small, are working with physicians, dieticians, fitness experts, etc. to develop and implement programmes to improve employees’’ health and wellbeing. As well as working with health professionals, managers now recognise that the design of the workplace can have a significant impact on employees’ health. Here is a list of design strategies that will make your employees healthier.
Design for exercise
Not every business can afford to have their own in-house gym no matter how beneficial it may be. However, think about including a shower for staff to use after they have been to the gym, out for a run or cycling to work. It’s a simple design inclusion which makes an enormous difference to convenience when exercising. Include staff lockers for the gym gear and maybe even provide bicycle storage in the office or office car park.
Design for movement
The World Health Organisation now lists inactivity as the fourth-biggest killer of adults. Map traffic flows in the office and then design to maximize the distance staff have to travel to printers, breakout areas, meeting rooms, etc. There may be some loss of productivity as staff will be away from their desks for longer, but this will be more than offset by the beneficial health effect. Options of having standing desks and standing meeting tables can be significant health improvers as well.
Design for natural light
One of the largest health problems among staff is headaches which are often caused by inefficient and inadequate lighting. Maximise the number of staff with direct access to natural light. Natural light has the highest colour rendering index. Once you move to artificial light you start to lose colours from the spectrum.
Design for nature
Ecopsychology is a science that studies the effects of nature on humans. It has been proven that a direct connection with nature improves health and wellbeing. Introduce natural elements into the workplace with pot plants, indoor gardens and even graphics of landscapes. Staff located at windows will also have the benefit of a direct connection with nature, even though it may only be the sky.
Design for the task
Reduce stress (i.e. increase productivity) by providing spaces appropriate for the tasks being undertaken. For example detailed tasks requiring high levels of concentration are better carried out in ‘quiet’ zones. Tasks requiring teamwork should be carried out in an open space where there is easy communication between team members. More social tasks such as informal meetings or entertaining should be carried out in casual spaces such as kitchens or breakout areas.
Design for quiet
Loud noise raises our levels of epinephrine (a hormone involved in our body’s fight-or-flight response), even if we don’t feel bothered by it. Design spaces which have sound absorbing floors, walls and ceilings. Introduce white noise to mask the noise or design to segregate and acoustically isolate the noisy areas from the rest of the office.
Design for business success
When designing for health, we are designing for success. Healthy employees will feel good about themselves and their job. Sickness and absenteeism will be reduced and staff retention rates will increase. Productivity will improve and this should flow through to the bottom line. Finally, to be a progressive, responsible business, employers have to give the same priority to health and well being as they give to salary.