Eight hours a day, forty hours a week – or more. The average office worker spends an estimated ⅓ of their waking hours at their job, with much of their time spent typing memos and technical documents, pouring over data, attending meetings, and speaking with clients. With so much time spent in the office, it’s not surprising that the office space and how it’s designed can have an impact on the health of workers.
The Basic Office
There’s an old stereotype of evenly spaced cubicles with gray walls, and workers dressed in business attire sitting in front of brightly lit computer screens. Most employees, however, need more than a desk and computer to do their jobs efficiently – it may sound like a poor investment to decorate office walls or introduce a company fitness plan at first, but studies have shown that workers’ productivity and mental well-being goes up while working in a quality work environment.
This, in turn, increases employee retention and improves employees’ intrinsic motivation at work!
One of the main concerns of many office workers is the risk that sitting at a desk all day poses to their health. These concerns range from weight gain to stress placed on their lower back or neck from sitting. Company-subsidized gym memberships, wellness rooms, ergonomic seating, or even healthy cafeteria options can help offset some of these concerns.’
Too Much Blue Light
Computer screens and other artificial lights, which strain the eyes, could be offset with the use of strategically placed windows and natural light sources. Poor lighting can also cause headaches and increase stress levels – even outside of the office, neuroscientists claim that employees who work with exposure to natural lighting receive an extra forty minutes of quality sleep per night.
As an alternative to natural lighting, circadian lighting mimics the pattern of natural light. This means that it provides the brightest light during the afternoon, when the sun would be at its highest point, and lower levels of light during early mornings and evenings. Circadian light fixtures allow the body to follow the same pattern of wakefulness as it would under natural lighting.
Not Enough Fresh Air
Yet another concern is air quality. It’s reasonable to expect an office to provide air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, but access to fresh air is often overlooked. An unventilated office could have high levels of C02 and indoor pollutants that affect focus and cognitive function. Conversely, research has shown that employees who work in well ventilated spaces with below average levels of CO2 experience the opposite – after taking tests, their ability to strategize or respond to a criss was much higher than employees who worked in an office setting with typical levels of indoor pollution.
Air quality can be improved even through simple means, like using air filtration systems that don’t contain strong chemicals, and not utilizing building materials that do. Many paints and commonly used office products also contain traces of strong chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which should be removed from the air to improve employee performance if possible.