Better offices – healthier employees

How can we create premises that boost employee health? Clean air, plenty of light and opportunities for physical activity are the key.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” according to doctor and professor Maj-Lis Hellenius at Karolinska Institutet. Her research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is expected to shorten the lives of as many people as smoking. The office environment plays a key role when it comes to healthy employees and profitable businesses.

“We have a great opportunity to influence modern-day offices by choosing the right construction materials and making sure buildings have an effective climate system. We also allow plenty of space for windows. It’s extremely important to let in natural light. We sleep better, perform better at work and have more energy for taking exercise,” explains Anna-Lena Carlstedt, business developer at Fabege.

She feels that an increasing number of companies are opting to include space for physical activity in offices.

“Some big companies are installing gyms, yoga rooms or quiet rooms for meditation. But even small companies that perhaps aren’t able to offer an entire gym are screening off an activity area with yoga mats or other equipment to encourage movement. The recommendation is that we should get up every 20 minutes and have a stretch, get the body moving, have a walk around the office or do some movements.”

There is also a growing range of furniture that encourages movement during the working day.

“Lots of people are buying flexible furniture, such as ergonomic chairs and standing desks. Standing and walking meetings are becoming increasingly common. Some employees have a treadmill in front of the computer so they can walk slowly while they work. It makes sense – healthier, happier employees improve profitability.”

There’s also greater awareness around choosing environmentally certified furnishings, wall paint and other materials that don’t contain toxins.

“On the whole, our tenants make their own decisions about the design of their offices, but we work a lot with environmental certification and we’re keen to ensure that our properties are good for people’s health. We always use environmentally certified wall paint and encourage our tenants to choose organic materials for furniture, rugs and curtains.”

Mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing, and the working environment can make a difference in this area too.

“We also need to think about employees’ emotional health, so it’s important to have meeting places at the office and allow space for social areas, but also to create spaces where employees can spend time apart from others and be by themselves.”

In essence, a carefully thought out office environment creates conditions for healthy employees and profitable businesses.

“If we create a place that’s pleasant to spend time in and attractive, it has a huge impact on our wellbeing; we feel better and more positive.”

Fact file
How to build an office that improves health:

  • Good ventilation
  • Eco-friendly materials
  • Plenty of natural light
  • Gym/activity spaces
  • Social spaces/quiet rooms
Created: 19 May 2017

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