Ten steps to improve staff engagement and health

Congratulations, you’ve decided to make your office healthier for its occupants but where do you start? We’ve put together a list of ten things you can do that can have big impacts, some of them for very little cost or buy in from the senior leadership.

Jungle Lungs

We know the Amazon is the lungs of the planet, right? Office plants hold all sorts of benefits too. They improve air quality by removing toxins and can reduce sick building syndrome. Their proximity satisfies the human need to be close to nature. Their appearance enhances the aesthetics of the office. They can even reduce noise. Acquire one plant for every person or one plant for every ten metres of office space. Don’t forget your meeting rooms, and places that can produce odours like kitchens and bathrooms. Planter boxes are also effective. Be aware that plastic pots can cause a spike in VOC levels.    

Light Right

Review your lighting levels. This can save energy as well as produce a better working environment. Ambient light, that is, light not needed for workspaces can be at an average of 215 lux. Task lighting for workspaces should be around 300 lux. How can you tell? Use a lux meter. Ask your CitySwitch Program Manager if they have one you can borrow. Tips: Measure the light at the object you need to see, for example, your keyboard.Account for glare from windows or off reflective surfaces.If you have blinds, test the light levels with the blinds open and closed to see what achieves the best lighting conditions.More light is better than not enough. 

Stay Home

Sharing is not caring when it comes to the flu. Implement a workplace policy that says people should stay home if they’re not well. If it’s minor, set up your IT systems so they can have remote access to work. If it’s more serious, they should rest. The office culture should support people to stay home when they’re sick. Coming to work sick so you appear to be a dedicated worker or because you have things to do means that you’re likely to make others sick too and may end up having to stay home anyway. It’s a costly mistake that’s made all too often. 

Mending the Vending

That vending machine is a problem. Vending machines, as convenient as they are, are bright shiny containers of fat, sugar and salt. Stock your vending machine only with food and beverages with no more than 30 grams of sugar per item. Ideally, at least half the choices have less than 15 grams of sugar per serve. Here are more tips: Provide a bowl of fruit and vegetables in the kitchen – local and seasonal if possible.Provide education and advice around nutrition labels and healthy eating.Seek the advice of a nutritionist for providing office food.Ensure there is filtered water available on every floor in a convenient place.Point your workers to nearby locations selling more nutritious food. 

All’s Well

Everyone is equal right? That means everyone should share in the benefits of a healthy building. Ensure that no-one is disadvantaged by where they sit or work. Do a search for inequality. Here are some examples of things to look for: That 75% or more of workstations are within 7.5 metres of a window with views and natural daylight.That blinds and operable windows can be accessed by anyone, not just the person sitting near them.That everyone has access to a private space for quiet and thoughtful work. 

Survey says...

The best way to establish the state of health and wellness in your office is to ask the people who work there. An occupancy survey asks workers questions about their workspace, for example, the comfort of their workstations or the temperature. Occupancy surveys also have the effect of engaging workers in the health and wellness process so it’s not something done to them, it’s done with them. Check out the CitySwitch Occupancy Survey Guide to find out which survey would suit you.        

No beige

Is your office beautiful? It should be. Aesthetics is an important quality in healthy buildings. Inject some artwork or other features that positively impact on the emotions of workers. The WELL Building Standard suggests themes that:  Stir human delightCelebrate cultureCelebrate the spiritCelebrate place 

Breathe Easy

Is there anything more important than air? We take it for granted that the air we breathe is clean but it’s not always. Volatile Organic Compounds, particulate matter, airborne mould and other nasty things can all be present in the air without us knowing.  Carbon dioxide needs to be managed so we don’t end up sleepy and stupid (which happens around 1,500 parts per million). Outdoor air is at 400 ppm and anything up to 1,000 ppm is ok inside. It’s useful to get your air tested or better yet, to install sensors that can monitor air quality but if you can’t do that, you can check all rooms have operating ventilation ducts, especially meeting rooms, enclosed offices. Kitchens, bathrooms, chemical storage rooms and print rooms should also have good air extraction to the outside.

Give a little

Be altruistic. Provide eight hours paid time for employees to volunteer for a charity. Your organisation could also match employee contributions to a registered charity annually. It will feel good, look good and be good for team bonding. 

Declare it

Set your healthy buildings goals and shout them to the world. Make the health and wellness of your office’s employees a company value and then state it publicly on your website and in your marketing. Healthy workplaces attract talent so telling everyone is a good thing but remember, this will also make your organisation accountable for following through.


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