How Office Environments Impact Health and Productivity
The average person spends 90% of their time indoors with a significant portion of that time spent at work, typically in an office environment. Because of how much time we spend in our work environments, the quality of our surroundings can have an impact on our wellbeing. At the office, work and wellbeing go hand-in-hand—if worker health is not at an optimal level, then productivity won’t be either.
Doing what we can to shift our office environments consciously toward a healthier setting can improve employee health and wellbeing, in turn, increasing and maintaining productivity while reducing absenteeism.
Office Environments and Employee Health and Productivity
Our environments have an impact on our wellbeing and productivity. Environments can either support and enhance our wellbeing and productivity, or they can detract from it. This is true of all environments, including offices. Employers wanting to provide a better work environment for their employees should examine how their office design, layout and equipment may be impacting wellbeing and productivity.
Countless studies have looked at the link between office environments and the impacts they have on occupant health and work performance. Many of these studies reveal that a person’s relationship with their environment is complex. However, they all generally find that employees who feel comfortable in their environment and have less exposure to office stressors are more likely to perform at higher levels and experience greater levels of overall wellbeing.
But what exactly separates a good office environment from a bad one? To better understand how to create an office environment that’s more conducive to employee wellbeing and productivity, we need to examine the different factors involved in office design.
Environmental Factors in Office Design
When designing an office that maximizes human performance, it’s important to consider the most influential aspects of an office over a person’s comfort and health levels. Countless factors can affect a person at any given moment during the day. Some of these are easy to control, while others are out of your hands.
Many researchers have looked at the tangible aspects of an office environment that can be controlled to determine their impact on employee wellbeing and productivity. In general, the major aspects that contribute to worker wellbeing are:
- Air quality
All of these aspects of our environment contribute to how we feel—and how well we can focus on and engage in our work. If workers perceive any of these aspects as unpleasant or uncomfortable in any way, it can lead to reduced performance, especially in workers who interact with customers or focus on complex tasks.
Here is how each of these aspects affects human health and how they can increase employee productivity and wellbeing when controlled and optimized.
Studies have consistently found that the louder an office is, the more it leads to greater human errors and reduced productivity. Loud sounds are distracting and limit a person’s ability to focus on the task at hand. The more intricate a task, the more distracting noise can become. If employees are unable to focus because of noise, it can have negative effects like elevated stress and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
While it’s not possible or reasonable to eliminate all office sounds, managers can monitor and minimize noise levels. Solutions like soundproofing and sound-absorbing panels and switching phones to vibrate instead of ring can help reduce noise. Additionally, closed-door office spaces for conversation can help limit the amount of co-worker distraction.
Lighting is intrinsically linked to our sense of wellbeing. Studies show that people work better and have a better quality of life when they work near a window and have natural light sources. Many offices don’t have the luxury of having multiple windows or lots of natural lighting available. Therefore, it’s important to make due by selecting the best artificial lighting for human health.
One study looked at the optimal lighting in an office environment for employee productivity and concluded that an illumination of 1,000 lux was the optimal level. Additional studies suggest that LED lighting is much better for productivity while we should avoid fluorescent lights with a cool light spectrum that can cause eye strain, headaches and tiredness.
Air quality refers to air that supports health, comfort and productivity in an indoor environment. Good indoor air quality is achieved when ventilation systems prevent outdoor pollutants from circulating indoors where workers can breathe them in. Poor indoor air quality causes symptoms like eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches and fatigue. When workers experience symptoms like these, their health declines and productivity drops.
Research has shown the link between good indoor air quality and human health and productivity. While good indoor air quality is highly dependent on the mechanical ventilation system of the building, it can also be improved with plants and greenery. Air purifying plants like spider and snake plants, peace lilies, aloe vera and bamboo can help filter indoor air and enhance its quality for occupants.
Temperature is one of those ongoing battles in office environments. Everybody is different in terms of the temperature they find most comfortable. Many hours of research have been dedicated to finding the perfect indoor temperature for the average office worker. Unfortunately, the results remain unclear.
Some studies show that warmer environments of 77℉, promote high efficiency and low rates of error. Other studies have found that warmer environments make it more difficult to complete complex tasks. While you won’t please everyone, it’s safe to say that if you set your thermostat somewhere between 70℉ and 73℉ degrees, you’ll like find a happy medium in that range.
The design and layout of office furniture and equipment has a direct influence on worker wellbeing and productivity. Lack of movement and sitting with improper spine alignment for long periods can cause chronic back and neck pain. Chronic pain diminishes quality of life, causing employees to feel less engaged in their work. When employee wellbeing suffers, so too does workplace productivity.
Ergonomic office furniture supports the body’s natural neutral posture—a comfortable position that keeps the neck, shoulders and spine in proper alignment to alleviate stress on the joints.
Investing in ergonomic office furniture and equipment reduces the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders—injuries that affect muscles, tendons, nerves and discs. Additionally, research shows that by switching over to ergonomic workstations, workers can significantly reduce symptoms of existing chronic back and neck pain issues, making ergonomic office furniture a helpful tool in improving worker wellbeing and productivity.
Improve Employee Wellbeing and Productivity With Relax The Back
Your office environment directly influences your health, which impacts your ability to remain productive. By making even small changes to your office environment, you can begin to notice improvements in the wellbeing and productivity of both yourself and your employees.
Relax The Back can help you achieve greater wellbeing and productivity at the office with our selection or ergonomic office furniture. We provide everything you need to set up your own ergonomic cockpit, including:
- Ergonomic chairs
- Adjustable standing desks
- Computer monitor stands and arms
- Keyboard tray systems
- Office footrests
All of these products help you set up the perfect workstation that fits your work and comfort needs. Shop office furniture at Relax The Back today to find the right ergonomic solutions for you. With proper spine alignment at work, you’ll be on your way to preventing chronic back and neck pain and enhancing your wellbeing and productivity.