Healthy Offices: Creating Workspaces that Promote Wellbeing
by Innovation Lighthouse on 13/06/2019
Last updated on 14/06/2019
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as a diagnosable medical condition, characterized as workplace stress that is not properly managed. This news item framed the basis for discussion facilitated by Innovation Lighthouse about healthy office environments at the Provada real estate conference in Amsterdam (June 4 – 6, 2019).
Interested in creating a healthier office environment for your employees, but don’t know where to start? Below are some recommendations based on the healthy office discussion session
1. To create a healthier office environment, focus on improving the following for employees:
All of these are interrelated and will contribute to an employee’s stress levels, productivity and absenteeism.
2. The easiest way to get started is by implementing low-tech or no-tech interventions for healthier offices. Below are examples of interventions and innovations implemented in the offices of the session participants:
schedule meetings for only 15 minutes or 45 minutes
hold weekly yoga and/or meditation sessions for staff members
create an employee ‘health committee’ with representatives from different departments to organize sessions and events related to health and wellness (note: they need a budget!)
have the option for desk bikes instead of chairs
analyse employee working styles, e.g., to determine the best times to focus, the best time to have meetings, in order to improve productivity and reduce stress
implement biophilic (natural) elements into office spaces, including real plants (see the results of our living lab on this topic)
3. When implementing healthy office interventions, be aware of the following challenges:
Beware of the ‘manager effect’ – employees may be reluctant to participate in healthier behaviours (e.g., a midday yoga session) if they think it will be badly perceived by their manager or if their manager does not participate. Managers need to lead by example for a healthy office environment.
Some employees will need help to adapt to changes – even changes that create a healthier environment! You can help the adjustment by explaining why changes are taking place and responding to feedback. Only changing one small part of the office can also be effective – piloting healthy office innovations can introduce new concepts to employees, start a conversation and show them what the future of healthy working looks like.
What’s the business case? You might need to answer this question to justify making bigger changes to the office environment. Numerous studies have shown that improving employee physical and mental health leads to higher productivity, lower turnover, and lower absenteeism and sick days – all of which have a positive economic impact.
Want to know more about the impacts of healthy office interventions?