It is now widespread knowledge that working in an office can be bad for your health. Obesity, back and eye problems, depression and diabetes have all been linked with prolonged desk work. Employees are now highly health conscious and expect a workplace that supports a healthy lifestyle. Below we highlight how companies can address this by becoming healthier and more attractive places to work.
In many companies a 45-55 hour week is the norm. Yet longer working hours are generally associated with lower productivity per hour. Given the increases in productivity and income experienced by developed countries over recent decades, working long hours can often be unnecessary. Numerous organisations in Sweden are now experimenting with a six-hour working day, following in the footsteps of Toyota, which implemented this 13 years ago. Toyota has reported happier staff and lower staff turnover in its Swedish factory. Surely such short hours result in higher costs? If your employees are more focused, motivated and content, you’ll save on hiring, attract talent and be able to pay less.
A healthy diet is essential to the vitality and productivity of employees. In the UK, 57% of women and 67% of men are either overweight or obese. For time poor office workers sat at their desks all day, a daily lunch of fast food can be both tempting and dangerous. You can encourage healthy eating by offering a supplemented, nutritious canteen. Alternatively you can call on a startup such as Office Pantry, which delivers healthy snacks and tests the quality of all ingredients on the Founders’ grandmothers! Fruit For The Office is another delicious food delivery service, this fresh fruit supplier and wholesaler delivers fruit direct to your office from New Covent Garden Market every morning. The quality and variety that Fruit For The Office provides is outstanding, all fruit is packed that morning and is bursting with flavour and nutrition.
It’s common sense that sitting all day is bad for you, and recent research has found that in the long-term it can be lethal. The lack of movement slows metabolism and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It’s easy to reduce the amount of time your team spends sitting. The most obvious way is to encourage them to take regular breaks and walking meetings. Many people think that they will get more done if they take as few breaks as possible, but this is a misconception. Taking breaks to walk around refreshes your mind and body, allowing you to concentrate better when you’re working. Try a tool such as the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working for blocks of 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks. Another option is stand-up desks, which are growing in popularity. They have traditionally been expensive but Freedesk, a company launched through Kickstarter, has just started offering stand-up desks that are both practical and affordable.
According to The World Green Business Council, better lighting design can lead to a whopping 23% increase in productivity. Why is unclear, but we do know that natural light is vitally important for general health. One reason for this is that sunlight is required in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Health advisors have recently recommended that people living in Britain should take vitamin D supplements because they don’t get enough sunshine. If possible, offices should have big windows that let in lots of natural light. Alternatively, encourage your staff to have meetings and breaks outside. Good lighting design is also about artificial light. Employees often dread the powerful glow of the fluorescent lighting that is typical to offices worldwide. Whilst studies haven’t suggested that such lighting causes any health problems, intense fluorescent lighting has been shown to cause people to be more emotional. Consequently, if your office is already a high stress environment, your employees may benefit from a switch to softer lighting.
Throughout history, man has been closely intertwined with nature. This is one reason why people often feel unhappy when they’re stuck in lifeless, artificial office buildings. A love for nature is part of being human, and it is no surprise that research shows that adding a natural touch to your workplace can bring noticeable benefits. One study found that the presence of pot plants in offices reduced fatigue, stress and sickness amongst employees. Another found that the more plants employees could see, the less sick leave they took. One tip – choose plants that are easy to care for – dead plants don’t do anything for morale!
Has your company tested any of these changes? Or has it done other things to create a healthy workplace? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.