How to Design a Health-Conscious Workspace
Health is not something that should be restricted to before and after work; it should permeate as many aspects of life as possible. People spend a significant amount of time at their jobs, but far too many workspaces do not account for their employees’ health and happiness. Work is a primary source of stress for many folks, which can cause diseases and conditions including insomnia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, circulatory problems, heart issues, and more—all of which physical inactivity can exacerbate.
Offices that are optimized for employee health result in happier, more productive workers (and it’s the right thing to do). Even if you are an individual with no control over your office itself, there are still steps you can take to promote health in your workspace. While you may workout in the mornings and eat nutritiously when you can, your body and mind will thank you when your environment helps you stay healthy all day long.
For the wider office
If you are a business owner ready to (re)design your office layout (or someone who has been tasked with doing so), there are several factors you should keep in mind:
Socialization: Humans are social creatures, so cubicle-style floor plans are detrimental to productivity. Everyone operates differently, though, so something you can do is include both private offices and an open area in your design. When people have opportunities to collaborate, they build stronger relationships, focus better, learn more from each other, and burnout slower.
Environment: Natural elements are essential to physical and mental health. Prioritize natural light: the sun is directly linked to proper sleep and mood, so do your best to ensure that everyone works near a window. Conscious Company Media recommends that you install curved blinds upside down or blinds that redirect light onto the ceiling to prevent hurting people’s eyes, especially when they are looking at computer screens.
Improve indoor air quality, too. You and your workers are breathing your building’s air for long periods of time, so do your best to avoid concentrations of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that negatively impact human cognitive functions. Make sure the temperature is something your workers are comfortable with, too.
The colors in your space matter, too. Environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, Ph.D., from Design with Science says that “most of us have to be creative at work, whether we’re coming up with a new advertising slogan or figuring out how to analyze data on a spreadsheet in a different way. Colors that aren’t very saturated but relatively bright put us in the right sort of relaxed mental state to be doing knowledge work.”
So consider painting your walls a soft green shade. This is also reason to include a few plants: not only do they look nice and clean the air, but they also inspire creativity and help fulfill people’s need for connection with nature.
Exercise: Can you sit for eight hours each day comfortably? You most likely cannot without getting restless. People need to get up and walk around during the day. A little bit of exercise promotes healthy blood flow (which your brain needs to focus). A lot of activity, however—say, if you were to implement an office gym—is helpful for keeping you and your employees active. Businesses with gyms also have increased employee retention. It’s okay if you do not have the budget for a large one, but designating a space for employees to work out whenever they want to will boost their productivity and, more importantly, their happiness.
For individual workspaces
Besides the office itself, you can optimize individual workspaces for health. Stop eating at your desk, spritz the area with something that smells nice, sit up straight, and encourage your employees to do the same. You might also want to offer the option of standing desks, so you and your workers can go back and forth between sitting and standing whenever you please. Having space for personal items will also improve moods and emotional wellbeing.
Not all careers are office-based, of course. If you work a home-based position such as e-commerce, you can still apply these tips to your space. You have flexibility others do not, so take advantage of it and keep your health in mind. Purchase aesthetically pleasing furniture (you want to be excited to start work each morning, so it helps if your space is elegant) that supports your body in such a way that you avoid neck and back problems. Use natural light, but compliment it with electric lighting that highlights your desk itself, not your monitor.
Please do not neglect yours or your employees’ health. Offices that account for wellbeing are more exciting, dynamic, and productive—and you’re less likely to count down the minutes until you leave. How do you plan to design a healthy workspace?