How The Offices Of The Future Will Do Wonders For Your Health
One days soon, cubicles and florescent lights will seem like something from the dark ages. An office revolution is about to happen and your body will reap the benefits.
Most heart attacks occur between 6 a.m. and noon on Monday morning, according to the cardiology journal Heart. There’s a reason for that. Many people simply dread the thought of going into work, especially if work is in an office. On a purely physical level, sitting under florescent lighting, hunched over a desk for nine hours, staring at a computer screen, breathing in recycled air, without a blade of grass in sight can be soul destroying and physically debilitating over a long period of time. Now companies are cottoning on. Leading the way are tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple who have taken initiatives with their offices to completely rethink the conventional cubicle style system of office work. And that’s just the beginning. A workplace revolution is afoot.
Leigh Stringer, author of the book, The Healthy Workplace says an increased attention to wellness in the office is immediately reflected in productivity.
“Paying attention to health increases share price,” he told workdesign.com. “Several studies are out now that compare companies that invest in employee health and healthy workplaces are outperforming the S&P 500.
The benchmarks of health are air, light, water, nourishment, comfort, fitness and mind. Developers are attempting to incorporate these aspects into their new office spaces with ergonomic chairs, standing desks, sound insulation, windows, plants and water features also help to connect humans with nature by bringing the outside in. The minutiae is being held under a microscope — air filters, toxic cleaning products, flooring — all are re-examined in the offices of tomorrow.
Current stats are alarming. Unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees, according to Circadian, a publication of workforce solution company. Forbes reported that The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed 94,000 workers across 14 major occupations in the U.S. Of the 77 percent of workers who fit the survey’s definition of having a chronic health condition (asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity), the total annual costs related to lost productivity totaled $84 billion.
Stringer says that “companies that invest in health and well-being of their employees are seeing higher retention rates and lower recruiting costs. Buildings promoted as “healthy” are showing higher absorption rates.” A UK government white paper published in 2011 showed that when employees took part in wellness initiatives, absenteeism was reduced by 20%, according to Bisnow.
Stephen Marks, a partner in the UK’s Trowers & Hamlins’ real estate practice said that for developers, wellness is the new buzz word and is taken more seriously by them than the office occupants. He pointed to The Edge building in Amsterdam, the cleanest, greenest building in the world, and CBRE’s building in Los Angeles, the first building to ever achieve WELL Building Certification. Marks said that in the EU by 2023, it will be possible for tenants to legally terminate leases in buildings with less than a G rating.
Stringer said that offices that don’t possess standing desks and spa like water features can still start to make small changes. These could include putting up photos of real people — office workers getting awards, being involved in company led community initiatives, using conference rooms for communal activities such as meditation or simply eating together can make a difference. Having ready available healthy food is important too. Scents help as well. In Japan, the Takasago Corporation carried out research into how smells affect the accuracy of typists. It found 54 percent made fewer errors when they could smell lemon, 33 percent fewer with jasmine, and 20 percent fewer with lavender.
However, to truly see how offices may look in the future, Silicon Valley holds the key. The rendering of the new Apple building, called Campus 2 will make conventional office spaces appear pre-historic.
“When Apple Campus 2 is finished, 80 percent of the site will be green space,” Lisa Jackson, VP of Environmental Initiatives said in the company’s promotional video. The circular design and glass walls means that everyone will have a window office and the abundance of trees outside means that sitting in the office will be like working outside in nature.
Stefan Behling, one of the Foster and Partners architects working on the project, described the new facility as “one of the most environmentally sustainable projects on this scale anywhere in the world.” It will run entirely on renewable energy, drawing from on-site fuel cell plants and rooftop photovoltaic arrays. Natural ventilation and radiant cooling mean that the spaceship won’t need air conditioning for some 70 percent of the year.
The bar has truly been set.