We are a little obsessed at the moment with creating a healthier office environment.
Yes, its true: We’re obsessed with offices. In fact, so excited we can barely stand it. Did you know health is no longer something you pursue before or after work? That’s right, health can be obtained while you work. Are we loving the relationship between building biology and workplaces? You bet we are. It’s like getting married, except the marriage is between work and health. And the great news is, more research is being done to show the relationship between buildings and health (check out McGraw Hill Construction’s Smart Market report on how buildings affect health). If you are interested in higher productivity and employee satisfaction while reducing sick days, keep reading.
Lets talk about all the ways to make an office or workplace healthy.
Whether it’s new construction or renovation, you can ensure all the building materials and products used will not “toxify” the environment with a lot of off-gassing. In many situations an air flush (forcing air through a new construction building prior to occupancy) could be beneficial. And while we are on products, cleaning products will inhibit good air quality faster than most anything else. So once you make it healthy, don’t ruin it with unhealthy cleaning products. The healthy ones are everywhere, so that’s easy. Let’s also ensure there is not only a smoking ban inside, but one outside as well. Throw in some upgraded air filtration (or at least an individual unit in areas where there are machines like copiers which pollute the air), and your air will be much cleaner. A recent Harvard study showed that cognitive function and response rates are much increased with improved air quality.
The stuff is necessary for life. Research shows we humans still aren’t drinking enough of it; and particularly enough clean and healthy water. Research also shows people will drink more water if its easily accessed. Solution: place healthy filtered water stations at regular intervals.
Did you know lighting is one of the biggest ways your circadian system is regulated? The circadian rhythm is the biological mechanism for regulating the cycle of sleep and activity. Proper lighting, glare control, and exposure to daylight can dramatically influence eyestrain and productivity. It will also decrease eye related health issues such as headaches.
Exercise at work? Yep, you heard that right. We love incorporating walking and cycling desks. Why not burn more than three times the calories of sitting? Even a standing desk is better than sitting all day. Or, go ahead, ride your bike to work. Many offices are equipped with showers and bike racks. Maybe you are lucky and there is a gym in the office so you can grab a workout during lunch. Yoga classes onsite? Sure, healthy employees are more productive employees. If the above options are not present, at least take the stairs. Six flights a day is enough to offset the average annual weight gain.
Admittedly, this is a little more difficult to control with the demand of WiFi and other technologies. However, you can ensure workers are as far away as possible from routers and offices are not located adjacent to mechanical rooms. And did you know, a hard-wired system is more reliable for that super jazzed up conference room you use to impress your clients?
Work spaces are opened up. Gone are the days of the private office. Collaboration is key so work spaces are designed with more comfortable groupings to encourage teamwork. This is fantastic because we all know teamwork creates success and mental stimulation. Remember, the healthiest happiest societies are those where people are more (and more often) relational. You need a minute to revitalize? No problem, lets incorporate a meditation room. 15 minutes and you are nearly as good as new. Many offices also offer seminars about sleep support, stress management, or nutrition.
Are there onsite food options? Perfect! But lets be sure vending machines are free and clear of unhealthy items and plenty of fruits and veggies are accessible. Maybe there is a coffee bar. We suggest offering hot tea and healthy juices as a complement to the typical coffee with cream and sugar.
Ahhhhhhhh… so many fun ways to make an office healthier. Are you trying to recruit the best talent or the next generation of workers? A more collaborative, healthier office could be a key component. And why wait? In the future this will be the norm. Work, home, play, live — the lines are getting blurry. And that is music to our ears.