Nine Tips for a Healthier Workplace

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Article by Bob Best

JLL Office Renew

The following tips can help employers improve workplace wellness:

Photo of the Eco architecture. Building with hydroponic plants instead of windows. Ecology environment concept; Shutterstock ID 472462501; Cost Center: 7979; Job: Laurel Miltner; Other: 7979

  1. Ventilation: All buildings are required to bring in fresh air, but if you can exceed the required guidelines, you’ll reap truly remarkable productivity results. Keep outdoor air intakes away from street level and pollutants like parking garages and the building’s air exhaust. Select filters with a high MERV rating to filter outdoor and recirculated air. ASHRAE recommends MERV 8 for commercial buildings, but LEED requires MERV 13, which can even filter out bacteria.
  2. Air quality: Ventilation is a huge part of improving indoor air quality, but you can dramatically reduce indoor pollutants and VOCs just by not allowing certain materials inside. Select green office furnishings, supplies and building materials with low chemical emissions and check for pollutants like lead and asbestos. And keep humidity levels between 30-60% to limit odors.
  3. Water quality: Test water quality regularly and make sure you’re meeting the U.S. Drinking Water Standards at point-of-use—that’s out of the tap. WELL certification requires further treatment of drinking water to remove any potential impurities such as sediments, heavy metals, residual chlorine, prescription medications and other organic contaminants. From a waste perspective, leaks are a huge drain on cost (no pun intended). Upgrades and replacement water fixtures can save money in the long term and often have short payback periods.
  4. Thermal health:
    • Naturally, everyone has a different internal temperature, but you have to set the thermostat somewhere. The optimal temperature range for maximum productivity is believed to be between 68 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. You can work with your landlord to agree on reasonable temperatures in your lease (and save on energy costs when the building is empty).
      • Summer occupied: 72° F at 60% relative humidity
      • Winter occupied: 70° F
      • Summer unoccupied: 82° F
      • Winter unoccupied: 60° F

    Pay attention to employee comfort and concerns. Some areas might not be heated and cooled properly, so monitor temperature and humidity in real time so you can respond.

  5. Lighting and views: Move rooms and offices away from the building perimeter to give the most people access to daylight as possible. And reduce glare by situating workstations at a right angle to windows. Lower desk partitions and incorporate glass walls to spread more light throughout the space. Day-lit dining areas give people a good dose of daylight and a walkable, amenity-rich location will encourage them to get out and soak up more sun. Indoors, try blue-enriched light as an alternative for task lighting. It mimics daylight and has a similar effect on office workers. Green views are important, but can be supplemented in the city with plants, water features and art.
  6. Noise: We cannot eliminate noise completely, but we can do better to control it before it reaches too many ears.
    • Control noise at the source through a smarter office layout. Create “noisy zones” for the kitchen, the collaboration areas, the copier and other loud activities. Situate these away from individual desks and “quiet zones” as much as possible. These areas should have very little background noise (around 35 dBA) and include private phone rooms to buffer lengthy conversations.
    • Control noise on its path through sound masking. These systems are installed in the ceiling or under raised floors and they’re designed to add sound that drowns out human voices. Like white noise, but far less disruptive.
    • Control noise at the receiver with noise-cancelling headphones. Not our first choice, but they’re effective in a pinch.
  7. Moisture: Monitor and maintain common sources of moisture in buildings: leaks from plumbing, roofs and windows; flooding; condensation on poorly insulated walls and windows; or wet foundations. Make sure your landlord and facility manager regularly inspect the building and HVAC for evidence of dampness and be prompt in drying out affected areas. As for carpets and drywall, watch closely for signs of mold as they’re harder to dry.
  8. Dust and pests: Use high efficiency vacuums to clean filters of dust and allergens and regularly clean surfaces to limit dust and dirt buildup. Focus on preventative pest measures like sealing entry points and removing trash. And avoid pesticide use wherever possible.
  9. Safety and security: Meet all workplace safety standards, including fire safety and carbon monoxide monitoring. Make sure common areas, stairwells and parking lots are well lit. Maintain video surveillance, active patrol and formulate a holistic emergency preparedness plan that communicates with occupants. Improve access to training and establish safety performance objectives and metrics.

This article was first published by JLL Office Renew.

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