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Five steps to a healthier office


Five steps to a healthier office

More than one million people in the UK suffer from work-related illness each year with around 27 million workdays lost overall as a result. Consequently, absenteeism costs UK businesses an estimated £36 billion each year.

A business is only as good as its employees so most of us should be going the extra mile to ensure employees are happy, healthy and engaged. If you can manage to do all three, the increased employee engagement is likely to boost the productivity and efficiency of your office. Here are five ways in which you can replenish your staff and reap the benefits as a result.

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Maximise natural light so employees gain 46 minutes extra sleep each night

Office work can be visually demanding, particularly when it involves staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time. It is important to ensure a workspace is adequately lit to avoid headaches, eyestrain and other ocular-related illnesses. Poor lighting is also a contributing factor to sick building syndrome, a term that describes high levels of absenteeism in an office thought to be linked to various environmental factors.

Researchers have found a correlation between exposure to natural light and sleep, activity and quality of life. Employees positioned near windows received 173% more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more each night. Those without windows had higher levels of daytime dysfunction.

Office design experts Open Workspace Design suggest using an open plan layout and positioning desks by windows to make the most of natural light. Glass partitions can be installed to section off spaces without blocking natural light. The partitions can be combined with blinds or opaque film to control brightness and offer privacy when needed.

Stabilise office temperature to get up to 30 minutes more work out of staff each day

Temperature can have an effect on the health of office workers. Employees who work in cold or fluctuating temperatures are more susceptible to illness, while those who work in sustained heat can suffer from heat exhaustion.

A survey carried out by ventilation experts Andrew Sykes found that 80% of office workers have complained about the temperature of their workplace. 29% of workers spend between 10 and 30 minutes each day not working due to an uncomfortable office temperature. Overall, around 2% of office hours are wasted due to temperature alone.

The key to employee wellbeing is keeping to the recommended optimal office temperature of between 21 to 23 degrees Celsius year round while providing plenty of heating or cooling alternatives to adjust to changing conditions. In summer, purchase desk fans or open windows to circulate fresh, cooler air. In winter, employees are likely to be wearing more layers so turning the heating up is not always necessary.

Encourage employees to get active to prevent obesity and reduce stress levels

The sedentary office lifestyle has regularly been linked to increasing levels of obesity as more and more employees sit stationary at a computer for hours each day. One in four adults in the UK is obese and the figure is expected to rise to one in two adults by 2050. To help prevent the escalating obesity crisis, encourage employees to get active during work hours.

Office yoga classes are an increasingly popular trend with many businesses hiring a yoga teacher to run morning or lunchtime sessions. There are plenty of health benefits to regular yoga practice including improved blood circulation, balanced metabolism and reduced stress levels. Other ideas to increase employee activity are walking meetings and cycle to work initiatives.

Provide healthy snacks to improve employee brain function by 11%

When the to do list is piling up it is easy for an employee to reach for a biscuit to indulge in some food therapy. Businesses can encourage healthier eating by providing nutritious alternatives that can boost energy levels.

Weekly fruit deliveries can be arranged using services such as Ocado. Swap crisps and biscuits for nuts and seeds. Nuts are a source of vitamins and minerals that are good for the brain, immune system and skin. Blueberries have been proven to improve cognitive ability by 11%.

Also providing healthy beverage options such as green tea can boost employee health. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants that improve brain function, fat loss and can decrease the risk of cancer.

Introduce office plants to increase productivity by 15%

Plants not only add decoration to a dreary workplace, they have actually been proven to have an extraordinary effect on the health of office workers. Plants absorb toxins from the air and release oxygen back into the atmosphere so an office is more likely to have good air quality if a few houseplants are added.

A NASA study into the air purification capacities of plants found that certain species are able to absorb harmful organic compounds commonly found in offices including benzene and formaldehyde. Employees are also 15% more productive when a workspace is filled with a few houseplants.

I am the founder of Startup Today. I am the main writer and have put in many hours of work into creating this blog. If you want to find out more about me then lets get in contact.

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