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Work Life Designs

Staying Healthy at Work
• Office time shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect your health.
• Take regular breaks throughout the day, stand up and stretch your legs, shoulders and arms. Take short walks.
• Consider a standing desk.
• Reduce eye strain by taking a few minutes break from the computer screen every hour. Regularly massage your eyes, too.
• Keep healthy snacks such as veggies, fruit and nuts at your desk (though beware of snaking on too much dry fruit—it has a high sugar content).
• Drink plenty of water, sip regularly throughout the day.
• Make sure to get fresh air, don’t take lunch breaks at your desk!
• Practise breathing exercises or mindful meditation.
• Personalise your workspace with photos of loved ones or inspirational quotes.
• If you feel that your mental health is suffering, talk to somebody.

The Buddha is said to have mused about the effect of our thoughts on the type of people we become, and modern science has since proved him right, as neuroscientist Candace Pert notes: “What you are thinking at any moment is changing your biochemistry”. So, it doesn’t take a rocket (or neuro) scientist to understand how behaviour can be altered by our surroundings.



The average human spends a third of their adult life at work (or worse still, half their waking hours of any given working day), so it makes perfect sense for both bosses and employees that working environments are comfortable and welcoming. According to one Gallop poll, 51 percent of workers admit to not being engaged in the workplace, while nearly a fifth admit to being actively disengaged. Contented staff are far more likely to be far more motivated and therefore more productive, and, when it comes to medical professionals, maybe even more competent too (it’s been shown that hospital designs can even influence medical outcomes).


“On the one hand, open offices breed amazing innovation,” writes Jeff Pochepan, president of office installation firm, Strong Project, for Inc. “On the other, they’re disruptive and propagate employee resentment, lower productivity, increase absenteeism, and result in higher turnover.”


A 2015 World Green Building Council (WGBC) report found that background noise can cause a drop in productivity by as much as 66 percent, while a study by financial management service Think Money concluded a third of employees are distracted for up to three hours a day, which adds up to 60 hours a month or 759 hours each year.


“Innovative workplaces shake things up,” writes Andrea Loubier, CEO of Mailbird, in Forbes. “They smash glass ceilings and break the mould of what is expected. As a result, employees in this environment adapt the same attitude.” Staff, she says, becomes more creative, with different departments sharing notes instead of “working in silos to solve problems”.


Ensure desks and meeting spaces are positioned close to windows. Plenty of natural light is essential for satisfaction and productivity, as is access to nature. This can be achieved by the inclusion of plants, interior gardens, aquariums or views of outside. Even nature-themed art works. Biophilia—the human instinct to connect with nature—increases motivation levels by up to 15 percent, and studies have shown that as little as three to five minutes contact with the natural world can boost mood massively. Plants also improve air quality, another important aspect of a healthy work environment.


Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”  Aristotle


Acoustics can be improved with features such as sound-absorbing ceiling tiles, while strategically placed white noise machines can neutralise other distractions. If space permits, cordon off dedicated quiet zones. A dip in temperature will also lead to a drop in productivity. A Cornell University study discovered raising the thermostat a few degrees will lower typing errors by up to 44 percent and increase typing output by as much as 150 percent.


Clever colour schemes are essential. Cool tones like blue, green and yellow have a calming influence that improve brain performance, while red can subconsciously rile you up—generally not a good option unless your working environment is a gym! Purchase some cord holders and clips and Velcro straps to clear and tidy cables and other clutter.


And be flexible. Invest in some couches, armchairs or beanbags for ‘non-static spaces’ so people can move around with their phones and laptops. Psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman, says that moving away from your desk with your work signals to yourself that it’s time to focus.



“Most people don’t change their workspace frequently but it’s important to keep testing your environment and trying new layouts,” Douglas Wyatt Hocking, principal architect at KPF, tells Business Insider. “Increased efficiency can come from change as opposed to repetition.”


One of the most recent, revolutionary ways of increasing motivation in the workplace has been found to be to spend less time in it, thanks to an experiment by Kiwi legal service trust Perpetual Guardian. In February 2018, the firm began trialling a four-day week, and, a year later, company founder Andrew Barnes has revealed that productivity, profits and staff retention are up, while stress levels have plummeted. The firm has even issued its own ‘white paper’, free of charge, advising others about how to implement their scheme. They’ve had interest from dozens of countries from around the world.


“I think this is an issue whose time has come,” Barnes tells Newshub. “We talk about the need for flexibility in the workplace, this is a method to give flexibility but to look after your workers.”  The secret, he says, is not about working longer, it’s about working smarter.