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The importance of being committed to the health of employees

With health and wellbeing critically affecting today’s society, economy and quality of life, it is important that employers understand the importance of being committed to the health of employees. Here, Mark Bauer, environment specialist at Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses how employers can create a healthy, hygienic and comfortable working environment, which in turn could help to lower absenteeism and improve employee’s productivity, satisfaction and engagement

In today’s world, the average person spends around 80 – 90 per cent of their time indoors and, as surprising as this may sound, this is actually estimated to increase. As such, there is now a growing focus on the quality of our indoor environments.

With more than two and half million people made ill by their job every year and 28 million working days lost due to sickness caused or made worse by work, employers are looking more closely at how they can change the design of their offices to positively impact their employees.

Good office design has already been proven to have a positive impact. By making a few simple changes to an office design – you could improve certain aspects of your business.

THE OFFICE LAYOUT
According to HOK, activity-based work settings are increasing in popularity, as the working day becomes more complex and unpredictable. Therefore single, all-purpose workstations are often less suitable for the workplace and instead a variety of purpose built areas for specific activities are required, such as impromptu meeting and break out areas.

When reviewing working practices, employers can identify what type of space best suits day-to-day tasks across different departments. Activity based spaces can be supported by clever flooring design.

LIGHTING
Employees encounter a huge variety of different visual stimuli in the course of daily office work and the right lighting is crucial in the process. Indeed, people take 80 per cent of all information via their visual sense. Light affects almost all vital processes in the human body and impacts people’s performance, health, safety and sense of wellbeing. As such, the more light a workspace experiences, the more employees will benefit from an improved and healthier working environment.

Natural daylight is a must in a workspace, therefore employers should try and make as much natural light accessible to employees in order to help battle illness and depression. If this is not possible, then fluorescent and white lights should be installed instead of yellow-tinted lights.

To maximise any form of lighting within a building, whether that is natural or artificial lighting, employers should look to install floor coverings that have a high Light Reflectance Value rating. High LRV rated floor coverings will allow additional light, to reflect off the floor and brighten the space efficiently.

ACOUSTICS
Reducing noise pollution is essential to promoting the wellbeing and comfort of people working or learning in a building. Noise in an office can be caused by a variety of things, such as people talking, printers, telephones or even brain storming sessions – all of which will impair an employee’s concentration. As such, it is important that an acoustic floor covering is installed to diffuse excess sound to an acceptable level.

Floor coverings can help in two ways: impact sound reduction and reducing in-room impact noise.

In-room impact noise is the comparative measurement of the contribution that different floor coverings can make to reduce ambient noise generated
in a room or circulation space. High ambient noise levels can have a significant detrimental effect in an office environment, so it is critical that the noise is reduced in order to maintain productive and happy employees.

NATURE
Go Green! Working with the power of nature can deliver an enormous sense of wellbeing and engagement for those employees that have access to it in some shape or form. Some studies have proven that having the natural world present in an office can help reduce employee stress and tension, lessen depression, help stave off feelings of anger and hostility amongst workers and even reduce fatigue . A recent study actually found that looking at nature for just 40 seconds can improve attention and reduce errors.

One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to introduce nature into an office is to have plants on windowsills, book shelves and even workstations. However, employers can go one step further and install floor coverings that capture the beauty of the natural world, such as reclaimed wood and natural stone aesthetics – which are rising in popularity across all sectors.

ALLERGIES
Approximately 235 million people suffer from asthma and workplace conditions, such as exposure to fumes, gases or dust, are responsible for 11 per cent of asthma cases worldwide.

There are a number of steps that employers can take to minimise risks and reduce allergens in the workplace: good ventilation and clean air; regularly serviced heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and the installation of Allergy UK approved floor coverings.

Forbo’s Flotex and Marmoleum collections have been awarded the prestigious “Seal of Approval” from Allergy UK.

These simple changes can contribute to creating a healthy, hygienic and comfortable working environment for employees. When it comes to refurbishing or designing a new office, employers should liaise with a reputable flooring manufacturer in order to maximise the health and well-being of the individuals using the space through the flooring design.

About Sarah OBeirne

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