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Your Office Versus Your Health

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Do you physically dread walking into your poorly lit, stifling office every morning? Don’t worry, that’s just your body’s way of telling you that this environment is having a negative effect on you. So why isn’t anyone doing something about it?

John Alker of The Guardian posted a piece on this issue, taking a hard look at buildings and their relationship to workers. They recognize that your salary and benefits take a big chunk (90%) of the company’s operational costs, compared to the 1% of energy usage and 9% that goes to rent. This makes you and your coworkers a pretty big deal. So if you’re not happy with where you have to work, why isn’t more being done to change that?

Most engineers and architects know all about the connection between a structure and poor health and productivity. In fact, the World Green Building Council got together and discussed this issue with other experts to bring light to this problem. So what did their research yield? It’s absolutely irrefutable that your dingy office is not only affecting you mentally but physically as well. To quote:

Good indoor air quality, thermal comfort, high quality views, daylight, good acoustics and indeed location and amenities – all play a crucial role in creating a healthy, productive workplace.

offices and employee satisfaction

© Flickr user Matt From London

The Guardian even had examples to back this claim up. A 2006 study of poor air quality showed that employees’ performances were lowered by 10% when measuring speed of typing and output of units. Not only that, but short term sick leave took a hit when fresh hair was being ventilated into the building, lowered by nearly 35%. Temperature wise, a baseline of 21C to 23C was used to prove there was a 10% reduction in performance at 30C and 15C. And when it comes to that awful office lighting, research in 2011 of Northwest University, Washington, showed that those who had offices with natural lighting and a better view took 6.5% less sick days. Not only that, but Neuroscientists have claimed that workers that have loads of natural lighting (173% more) actually gain 46 more minutes of sleep every night. And we all know how important sleep is regarding productivity.

We here at The Methodology Blog know all about how a poorly designed workspace has a huge impact on employee satisfaction. We have written about the affect it has on workplace productivity plenty of times. So what is the answer? Well, giving employees some control over the temperature of their area is a great idea. Find a way to let some light into your office. These small fixes will help save on the energy bill, too. But that isn’t enough to eradicate this problem. What’s the first step that companies can take to really give this issue some attention? Alker explained:

No matter how convincing the evidence, it will only make a difference when organisations can make their own business case. We have created a toolkit for organisations to fit to their own circumstances. It’s based on three broad types of data: financial, perceptual and physical.

The power is in the company’s hands. Most companies are already collecting data on their turnover rate, medical issues, and absenteeism. The problem is that they’re not using this data to take a look at how their employees are reacting to their environment. It’s not as hard as it may seem to switch the focus, either. Every HR team already gathers information on employee happiness and performance while Facility Managers will have data on the building itself. Companies just need to use this information differently. Reaching out to business process consulting experts would be a great way to dip your toes into this growing concern.

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Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea

Alyssa Shea transplanted from Illinois to South Carolina. She loves to write, read, and spend time with her dog and her family. Alyssa is very active on social media. She has been part of the AccelaWork team since 2013.
Alyssa Shea

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