The key to building a healthy workplace – technology and wellness

Only a couple of weeks ago it was Mental Health Awareness Day and it’s encouraging to see the increasing importance of dealing with mental health. According to a recent study by the NHS, 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year. Although there a vast number of reasons why this is happening, one of the growing concerns is peoples’ working environments. Architects, building surveyors and all those involved in the built environment are now concentrating their efforts on building a healthy workplace where people feel happy and productive. After all, we spend around 90% of our lives indoors and how much is this affecting our health?

One of the key aspects to look at to ensure a healthy workplace is indoor air quality. With many employees often complaining about headaches or respiratory problems, it’s important to understand that indoor air quality may not just have an effect on physical health but also on cognitive performance. This can be also referred to as ‘sick building syndrome’ with the most common triggers being air pollutants, bad lighting, poor ventilation and uncomfortable temperatures. Although some of these triggers can be manageable, many of these problems can become very serious, for example, dust and particulate matter can enter into the lungs causing asthma or bronchitis.

It’s easy enough to simply suggest that employers fix all of these problems but in relatively old and poorly energy efficient buildings, this may not always be that simple. In fact, a high number of commercial properties weren’t built to concentrate on the occupants and their wellbeing.

So, what is being done to promote a healthy workplace?

Companies are now looking at the advances in technology to better understand their buildings and how they can improve them to benefit their employees. Sensors are becoming particularly popular when monitoring indoor air quality. One of the main advantages of sensors is that they monitor small areas rather than whole floors, therefore, understanding unique environments across each floor. This data is crucial, however, it’s important that this is also paired with occupants’ feedback i.e. asking your employees how each physical parameter is affecting them. Our software, arbn well, does exactly this. By using sensors deployed at high density, arbn well measures all the physical parameters previously mentioned: indoor air quality, lighting levels, thermal comfort and humidity. Our sensors are small, battery powered and non-intrusive. For more information, please book a demo to see the platform in action.

Although we not be at the level we want yet, many corporations have started to understand the importance of the health and wellbeing of their employees. After all, productivity is low when your employees aren’t performing at their highest potential. Google, for example, is commonly known for having an impressive wellness program. Within the program, employees can benefit from exercise in an enjoyable manner, such as playing ping pong and having scooters in their offices. More traditionally, they have on-site gyms, standing desks and reduced health insurance premium for their employees. In addition to exercise, Google promotes healthy eating and provides free healthy food and snacks in all of their onsite cafeterias.

Of course, Google is a multi-million pound corporation and it can afford to provide these healthy alternatives for its employees, however, even small businesses can make simple, small changes to achieve a healthy workplace. Standing desks encourage employees to get moving and this could also encourage them to move around the office more and interact with their co-workers, therefore, increasing teamwork. By simply having a small fruit bowl in the office instead of cakes and biscuits, this can promote a healthy environment.

Poor working conditions may be recognised as something of the past, however, the reality is that we have still not achieved the optimum level of human comfort. The effects may not be as extreme as in the 18th century, however, many of us are suffering from ‘sick building syndrome’ without us even realising. In order to provide a healthy workplace, companies’ priorities should lie at the importance of their employees’ health and wellbeing.

The real challenge is ensuring we can do sophisticated environmental monitoring in commercial buildings but also ensuring this relates to human preferences. Otherwise the data isn’t of much beneficial use if we can’t relate to it in typical working terms.