Sometimes, the only healthy office is a new office. In their start-up phases, enterprises often have to find work spaces quickly that are cheap with a lot of space in the hopes of rapid expansion. After their first 100 days, many of those startups find their environment is having a negative impact on employee health, resulting in more sick days and lost productivity as a result.
When finding a new space, there are some “warning” signs that you should be very wary of, but there are also some positive “warming” signs that you should look for to protect employee health and wellness. Most of these warning and warming signs are found in the mundane details that aren’t part of a property’s curb appeal.
A newly-converted post-industrial loft with exposed-brick walls can be every high-tech company’s dream! But, before you fall in love with the wide open spaces and high ceilings, take a look at what’s under your feet.
WARNING SIGNS: Concrete floors or fresh carpeting.
- The impact of walking on concrete floors can put a strain on backs and joints. Employees who might have arthritis, as well as other bone or muscles issues, might find their work days very uncomfortable.
- New carpeting and padding is also a warning sign for employees who have allergies or chemical sensitivities. Depending on the materials used in the carpeting, padding and adhesives, off-gassing and dust-collection can be issues.
WARMING SIGNS: Wooden floors that are scuffed or slightly distressed.
- Wooden floors are warmer and easier on the joints than concrete, and signs of mild distress show that the varnish or other treatment is older and that chemical exposure won’t be an issue for employees with chemical sensitivity and allergy issues.
- If you walk into a newly renovated space, be sure to ask what materials were used to build or replace walls.
WARNING SIGNS: Drywall or MDF structures often don’t have the structural integrity companies need to hang smart boards, large flat screen monitors for conference calls and training, or even substantial artwork. Certain types of paint and wall paper adhesives can also aggravate allergies and chemical sensitivities.
WARMING SIGNS: Brick, stone, steel columns and word work framing. Strong materials, whether natural or manmade ensure structural integrity, are less likely to provoke reactions and will safeguard employee health.
Ventilation, Heating & Cooling
“Sick building syndrome” is caused when there is a poor exchange of fresh and stale air in office buildings. Fatigue and reduced ability to concentrate are just two of the complaints common to high rise office workers who are exposed to these sick spaces.
WARNING SIGNS: Employees in other offices look pale or exhausted. Property managers and real estate agents are unable, or unwilling to discuss indoor air quality reports, air filtration systems or heating and cooling systems or maintenance.
WARMING SIGNS: LEED certification, which means strict IAQ (indoor air quality) testing has been conducted and the building’s stale air can be flushed out and replaced with fresh air.
WARMING SIGNS: Windows that open.
Good lighting design in the form of window placement and their coverings, overhead sources and the ability to install flexible desktop or work station personal lighting protects your employees from eye-strain, headaches and other sensory issues.
WARNING SIGNS: Fluorescent lighting of any kind.
WARMING SIGNS: LED lights, well placed windows with coverings that can be raised or lowered for best natural light exposure. Studies show that natural light, especially in the late-afternoon and during the colder months, is a boost to productivity and employee happiness. Multiple outlets for employees to control their own desktop or workstation lighting are also a good sign.
Goal: More Warming Signs than Warning Signs for Wellness
To maximize employee wellness in your new office space, make sure it has more warming signs that warning signs. Your employees just might be taking fewer sick days and being more productive in the future.