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Does your building promote a healthy workplace?

For many of us, the majority of our day is spent indoors where for an average office space, the air we breathe is often up to 5 times worse than outdoor air. Add to that eye strain from computer screens, poor lighting quality, and glare from direct sunlight and it becomes apparent how we've adapted over time.

 

While businesses realize that investments in building efficiencies can improve the bottom line, competitive survival is leading an increasing number to turn to the people side of the equation as well.

 

Focusing on the wellbeing of building occupants and employees can help improve the bottom line through reduced medical expenditures, less frequent absenteeism, and increased productivity. And if incorporated successfully, design elements in the workplace can also serve as an effective tool for recruitment and retention of top talent.

 

Investing in employee productivity makes sense. When you think about the total costs of a building over a 30 year period, salaries and benefits will far out weight initial construction costs and ongoing operation and maintenance.  Modest increases in productivity per employee can have a significant effect on the bottom line.

 

Adopt Effective Workplace Programs and Policies
Programs which are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families, and communities. Promotion of wellness activities and even providing convenient bicycle storage and changing facilities can increase moral which can be linked to productivity.

 

Conduct regular workplace surveys to monitor indoor environmental quality issues. In general, people appreciate being asked for their opinions and the feedback can help building management be more proactive. The tool can also be used to gage interest in a variety of programs and building features. Evaluate those with the most potential for participation and implement with senior management support.

 

Control Sources of Indoor Air Contamination
Use green cleaning products and low-emitting building materials to minimize or eliminate contaminant sources such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Low-VOC alternatives are available for most products.   

 

Install monitors to track carbon dioxide levels which can cause fatigue and headaches at higher concentrations a sign of inadequate ventilation (fresh air).   

 

Bring your plants to work! Chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide are harmful to human health, but plants thrive on them while removing them from the air. Plants that top the clean-air list include peace lily, bamboo palm, English ivy, mums, and gerbera daisies.

 

Provide Access to Nature, Views, and Daylight  
Natural daylight is important to help regulate circadian rhythms, the daily cycle of waking and sleeping hours. Install shading devices to block direct sunlight to reduce eye strain. If office layouts prevent regular access, encourage employees to go outside for breaks.

 

Position workstations to allow a view to the outdoors. Focusing on distant objects relaxes the muscles in your eyes, reducing focusing fatigue developed from extended computer use.  

 

CONCLUSION
Because employees are affected by the quality of the workplace, productivity could be considered the single most important factor when evaluating the long-term cost effectiveness of high performance building strategies or workplace design. Take stock in your employees it's arguably one of the better business investments you can make.  

 

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