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How to Turn Your Office into a Healthier Workplace

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When it comes to office design and the creation of an ideal working environment, there are many considerations to take into account. With that said, one of the most essential has to be the well-being of your employees. Indeed, according to the Center for Disease Control, health problems cost U.S. companies $225 billion every year.

Employee health problems have a significant financial impact on businesses in the United Kingdom too, through absences, decreased productivity and increased staff turnover. However, this means a competitive advantage can be gained by turning your workplace into a healthier environment. So how exactly can this be achieved?

Obesity Crisis

First of all, it pays for employers to encourage healthier lifestyles, in order to combat obesity. According to the World Health Organization, 40 percent of adults worldwide can be considered overweight, while research from Duke University found that obesity-related absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’ costs U.S. businesses $73 billion a year.

Of course, people’s food intake is a personal choice and people’s weight is a sensitive issue. Nevertheless, there are some proactive steps you can take to reduce the associated costs to your business. For instance, at a basic level, the installation of standing desks may encourage employees to spend less time sitting down, reducing idle time.

However, if you want to go a step further, there are other options available to you. Some workplaces have started to implement gyms or game areas into their office interior design, while Google used behavioural economics to assess workers’ snacking habits, in order to subtly encourage employees to eat more healthily during working hours.

Mental Health

Another common health issue that office designers should attempt to tackle is the issue of mental health. In fact, figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that a combined total of more than 15 million days are lost to absence caused by stress, anxiety or depression each year, costing UK businesses £30 billion.

While many of these problems may be impossible to prevent, some can be helped. For example, a recent Human Spaces report found that almost half of all global workers have insufficient natural light, while giving workers more light or visual contact with the natural world can ease stress and reduce absences related to mood.

“Organisations that do not promote the mental well-being of their employees risk long-term problems, including reduced competitiveness [and] lower productivity,” says Louise Aston, from Business in the Community’s Workwell Mental Health Champions Group. “Conversely, the rewards for businesses that engage with this issue are huge.”

Other Problems

In addition to combating obesity and mental health issues, there are a number of other health problems that can be aided through careful planning or workplace design. For instance, according to the Get Britain Standing campaign, international research has concluded that sitting for more than four hours a day can contribute to:

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Muscle Degeneration
  • Back Ache
  • High Blood Pressure

This means that the likelihood of such health problems impacting upon staff in your organisation can be reduced by finding ways to reduce sitting time. Among the solutions suggested are the implementation of sit-stand desks, the use of comfort mats to reduce discomfort when standing, and dedicated exercise or stretching areas.

While making the necessary adaptations to turn your office into a healthier workplace will require planning and investment, the available evidence shows that the return on that investment could be enormous. Moreover, as long as the majority of companies fail to look out for employee well-being, doing so can give you a clear competitive edge.

 

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