Home Business Insights & Advice Top five office factors which can impact your health

Top five office factors which can impact your health

by John Saunders
22nd Aug 22 11:36 am

Modern offices have come a long way in terms of their safety and wellbeing, design and ergonomic consideration, but they still represent a health challenge to office workers. Many offices still need a modern upgrade and without these enhancements, businesses will invariably find that they struggle with high rates of sickness, absence, low productivity and staff turnover. So what are some of the biggest issues in the workplace which are impacting employee’s health?

1. Lighting

If your business office isn’t blessed with natural light, it’s all the more important to get your electric lighting right. Common issues include insufficient light, glare on screens, excessive white or blue light after dark and inappropriate light. Employees struggle to see fully and may squint – experiencing headaches and eye strain in the process. And employees who work under blue light after dark may find that they have insomnia as a result.

Solutions that can help: Lighting issues can be fixed with a workplace lighting assessment. The correct degree of light can be installed, with yellow or ‘soft’ shades for after-hours work (blue light stimulates energy during daylight hours.) Task-based lighting at desks can help to reduce eye strain and glare.

2. Screens

Many office environments are now heavily reliant on screens and technology as part of day-to-day business. Needing to use them so frequently can start to have an impact on an employee’s physical health. Office workers often end up looking at screens too closely and for too long, and again, this can lead to headaches, eye strain, poor posture and other health issues.

Employees can help by implementing the 20-20-20 rule, designed by optometrists to protect eye health. This rule simply encourages people to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes when working with a digital screen. There are also many other useful and practical ways to reduce screen time on mobiles too, such as setting screen time limits, that workers can implement into their daily routines. Posters around the office, email reminders and training can be useful to help embed this culture.

3. Unsuitable furniture

Many businesses still have old-fashioned furniture which simply isn’t fit for the task. Broken or non-adjustable chairs, keyboards at the wrong height, seats in the wrong position and desk arrangements that have little to no access to natural light, or which are in draughts or by walkways, are all challenging to workers. This is particularly the case for workers who may have physical challenges, such as pregnant employees, employees with mobility issues or larger people.

Businesses should invest in desk assessments that ensure every employee is comfortable and able to work to the best of their ability. When people are comfortable at their desks, they will naturally have a better posture which translates into better health overall. If your employees are off sick because of back pain, it is often a sign that you need to assess their working space – fast. As part of establishing a healthy lifestyle, employees should also be encouraged to take regular breaks from their workstations too to get some fresh air, stretch their legs, and get away from their screens for a while.

4. Air conditioning

Air conditioning is welcome when temperatures rise, but poorly maintained systems can actually lead to health issues. If a workspace is also too cold, then this can have an impact on employee productivity and concentration. Air conditioning can impact eye health and cause dry eyes, which can impact daily work. Some common symptoms of dry eyes can include red, watery, and tired eyes, blurry vision, and light sensitivity.

While aircon can be great for regulating office temperature, there are also ways aircon affects your business in a negative way. Chilly drafts can have a negative impact on employees or any visiting customers. Some studies have also linked excess AC use with headaches, fatigue and backache, particularly if people sit too closely to AC output vents. The key to success lies in establishing the best fit model for your office, using it appropriately and also servicing it on a regular basis.

5. Office culture

The physical space of an office can instantly be made healthier in a variety of ways that go above and beyond the methods described above. For example, windows can be opened to let natural air into the space. Artwork and colour can be used strategically to create harmonious energy and productivity. Clutter can be minimised to remove safety risks and healthy extras can be added into the mix to encourage wellbeing at work, such as fruit deliveries and chilled mineral water.

But office culture also plays a huge role. Where employees invest in healthy working spaces, it also makes sense to invest in a positive, supportive office culture that encourages the right work-life balance. Employees should be encouraged to find ways to be healthy at work in a holistic way. For example, many forward-thinking businesses invest in volunteering days, lunchtime fitness activities, standing or walking meetings, flexible working and even the odd ‘duvet day’.

Invest in the health and wellbeing of your employees, create the right working space, and your business will reap the rewards of lower absenteeism, higher satisfaction and better productivity overall.

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