A workplace wellness program is only as good as the work environment employees are in daily. In recent years, employers have been re-designing their office spaces as a part of their overall wellness plans – and not just for aesthetics.
Research supports the idea that investing in the physical office environment is a worthwhile approach to cutting the costs of employee illness and lost productivity. Studies have found that air quality and lighting can have significant effects on brain function and productivity. Workplaces can be designed to counter some of these problems. For instance, circadian lighting systems can follow the patterns of natural light over the course of a day. Installing air filtration systems and and purchasing rugs, furniture and paint that don’t contain chemicals like formaldehyde can improve employees’ well-being and productivity. Providing natural ventilation, views of nature, and greenery in the workplace have also been shown to lift employees’ moods and increase productivity. Natural lighting, art and music can be used to create attractive and calming environments.
Designing a work space that encourages movement is also important. In traditional offices, escalators are in a central location, making them the easiest and quickest option. The stairs, on the other hand, are often on the outer hallways and used mostly as emergency exits. Some companies have taken steps to move staircases to more central locations, making them as convenient as escalators and elevators. One company in New York, utilized a novel technology that placed sensors in the stairs to record the number of trips employees take during the day. Every time an employee takes the stairs, a drop of water is added to an electronic waterfall display. The more times the stairs are taken, the bigger the waterfall gets.
Other employers are adding innovative designs such as tree houses, outdoor roof spaces and sleep pods. Microsoft built treehouses for workers at its Washington headquarters. The meeting rooms combine fresh air with beautiful views. The company points to the professional benefits of working in nature – greater creativity, focus and happiness. Facebook has a nine-acre roof garden with walking trails and outdoor spaces for employees to work in, while Google’s London office is equipped with sleep pods where employees can take a nap and recharge.
Providing environments that support employee well-being can inspire employees to make more positive choices regarding their lifestyle. Some changes can be simple and inexpensive to make but can make a big difference in employee health and productivity.