A Two-Part Series: Healthy Office Atmosphere, Healthy Employees

This two-part series on a healthy office atmosphere covers three ways in which your company can positively impact your employees at work. In part one of two, the article delves into the impact standing desks have on employee activity levels and how bringing plants into your office affects psychological engagement and memory retention. It’s pretty well known that high-stress situations lead to decreased task accuracy. It is also true that an office designed to enhance employees’ quality of life will ultimately support better engagement and focus at work. If your company’s goal is to create an environment where your employees do a better job in less time, then consider these simple changes.

Start by trying something like standing desks

The BBC, Dr. John Buckley, and a team of researchers from the University of Chester conducted a simple experiment with a group of 10 people. The group was asked to stand for at least 3 hours a day for 1 week while researchers measured and compared days when the volunteers stood and days when they sat. They found that standing caused the volunteers to have a much higher heart rate, leading to many more calories being burned over a year versus sitting.

CHG Healthcare has implemented this concept at every desk and in every office at its new headquarters in Salt Lake City. Prior to implementation, CHG conducted 3 years of research to determine how effective implementing standing desks company-wide would be. The research revealed a growing number of requests from employees for standing desks, and in a few spaces where standing desks were being tested, about 2/3 of those employees were using the adjustable-height feature.

CHG’s employees move workstations quite frequently, so this decision was integral to ensuring that any employee who wants a standing desk already has one. “With positive feedback across the board, we’re finding ourselves ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive market for talent as most companies haven’t implemented standing desks for all workstations in their space,” said Bobby Stevens, Director of Real Estate & Project Management at CHG Healthcare.

If your company is considering making the switch, keep in mind that while standing desks can help your employees sit less and move more during the day, being on one’s feet all day may also be problematic. The ideal setup has an adjustable workstation height that allows them to use a chair when needed, keeps the computer monitor at eye level, and keeps their arms bent at 90 degrees to reach the keyboard.

Consider adding plants

Bringing nature into your office can be great from a psychological perspective. Dr. Chris Knight from Exeter University and psychologists from 4 universities in Australia, Britain, and the Netherlands, have been studying the issue for 10 years. The study reveals how a splash of greenery can substantially improve employee performance on memory retention and other basic tests.

Vista Outdoor’s corporate headquarters in Farmington, UT, showcases this concept of bringing plant life into the workplace beautifully. The building, which was designed by Salt Lake City-based Method Studio, uses locally-sourced natural materials and includes a living wall with live plants in the main lobby atrium.

"As an outdoor recreation company, it was important that we incorporated the outdoors into our building design," said Vista Outdoor CEO Mark DeYoung. "We wanted our employees and our guests to see and be inspired by our company's mission embodied in our headquarters."

If you want to implement this concept in your workspace, consider choosing green, leafy plants over cacti as studies show leafy plants help create a more relaxed feeling. Avoid strongly scented plants and opt for plants that help improve air quality in your office. Such plants include garden mums, spider plants, weeping figs, peace lilies, snake plants, and bamboo palms all of which have been linked to removal of certain pollutants.

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