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How Your Office Space Impacts Employee Well-Being

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Industrial Office Area (drawing) – 3d illustrationGETTY

In the last 20 years, the modern office has gone through a number of evolutions. The early 2000s saw the death of cubicle farms and the rise of open floorplans, and 2015 brought waves of ping pong and foosball tables to offices everywhere. While office trends come and go, one thing that does not change is the impact that the office environment has on employee health and wellbeing.

A quality workspace design leads to a less stressful and more productive atmosphere. It’s essential that employers take the physical work environment of their employees into consideration. Employees need to feel comfortable and calm in their physical work settings to produce their best work.

According to the Fellowes Workplace Wellness Trend Report, employees also want to work in a healthy environment. Here are some findings from the survey:

  • An overwhelming majority (87%) of workers would like their current employer to offer healthier workspace benefits, with options ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stands, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.
  • Interestingly, employees of younger companies are less likely (34%) to be turned down when asking for in-office benefits like sit-stand desks, than employees at established companies (42%).
  • 93% of workers in the tech industry said they would stay longer at a company who would offer healthier workspace benefits, with options ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stands, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating.

One company, ROOM, is addressing the growing need for privacy in the workplace with their phone booth, a sound-proofed, ventilated, powered booth that can give employees a place to take a video call or get some uninterrupted time to focus on work.

“We spend almost a third of our lives in the office, and in order to find and retain top talent, it’s essential for companies to foster an environment that empowers people with the right space to work, think and collaborate naturally. Seventy percent of offices today are open plan, and the open plan layout can be fantastic. But it really needs to be implemented correctly with employee productivity and happiness in mind. From offering private rooms to take a call and quiet spaces for meditation to fun, comfortable areas that foster collaboration, it’s imperative to think about building office spaces with different environments to maximize employee wellbeing. At ROOM, we’re setting a new standard for the workplace, and we believe that our phone booth offers the perfect starting place for teams of all sizes to create a happier, healthier, and more productive work environment,” says Morten Meisner-Jensen, Co-Founder of ROOM.

Office design is such a valuable business investment; there’s even an international organization that has established requirements to create productive and comfortable indoor environments. The WELL Building Standard™ (WELL) is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness. Administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBITM), and certified by Green Business Certification Inc., the WELL Building Standard is the first standard that focuses on human health and wellbeing into design, construction and operations of buildings. According to the IWBITM, workplace design that considers air quality, lighting, views onto nature and the general layout of the interior can significantly impact on health, satisfaction, wellbeing and staff productivity.

The Well Building StandardINTERNATIONAL WELL BUILDING INSTITUTE

The WELL Building Standard focuses on seven concepts of building performance: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. Even if you have no immediate plans (or the budget!) to become WELL Certified, companies can still utilize the principles to help create a healthier environment. Let’s dive in deeper and see how you can bring these concepts to your company:

Air

The quality of air within an office can have a significant impact on your employees’ health and in turn productivity. Research carried out by the World Green Building Council recorded an 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation and a reduction in pollutants. Here are a few ways you can impact the air quality:

  • Implement a no-smoking policy
  • Develop green cleaning protocols and keep office clutter-free
  • Install air filtration systems
  • Maintain a healthy level of humidity
  • Add some office plants
  • Open windows

Water

Our brains are 73% water, so water consumption helps improve sleep quality and energy levels, as well as our ability to focus, our clarity of mind, and our awareness and alertness. This, in turn, helps us become more productive at work. Here are a few ways you can help your employees increase their water intake:

  • Provide safe drinking water
  • Install a water cooler
  • Educate employees about the benefits of drinking water
  • Host water challenges

Nourishment

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” and this saying might be especially true in the workplace. What your employees eat fuels and powers their days at the office. If you want your employees to feel energized, focused, and productive, you’ll want them eating a nutritious, balanced diet that supplies them with the nourishment their bodies need to succeed. Encourage better eating habits and food culture with these tips:

  • Improve the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Limit access to processed foods
  • Label food clearly for food allergies
  • Improve access to good hand washing facilities
  • Make nutritional information available
  • Promote healthy food options over advertising unhealthy ones
  • Foster mindful eating – create dedicated eating spaces

Light

study conducted by the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell showed that employees seated within 10 feet of a window reported an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms. Here are a few ways to rethink your office lighting design:

  • Consider adding skylights
  • Control glare
  • Maximize natural lighting
  • Move big, bulky furniture that blocks sunlight 
  • Replace flickering lights
  • Layer different types of lighting in a workspace, such as ambient and task lighting

Fitness

Our bodies were made to move, not sit all day. Employees who lead an active lifestyle are likely to be more productive. Because exercise increases the blood flow to the brain, employees will get a boost of energy and alertness. This can also sharpen their concentration and decision-making skill. A few ways to encourage movement at work include offering:

  • Open and accessible stairways
  • Shower facilities
  • Bicycle storage
  • Adjustable workstations
  • Space for physical activity

Comfort

The office should be a place of comfort. The use of correct ergonomics can lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity, and reduce the severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are the most frequently cited causes of lost work time. A few ways to create distraction-free, comfortable environments include:

  • Ergonomically crafted work areas with the ability to alternate from sitting to standing positions
  • Provide employees with different areas to work during their day
  • Limit sound from building systems and create quiet zones
  • Create breakout areas, hot desking and informal meeting areas, and creative spaces for brainstorming

Mind

The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace study showed that people who work in spaces with natural features reported 15% higher levels of overall wellbeing. Furthermore, the respondents expressed feeling 6% more productive and 15% more creative at work. If the interior design of an office considers the occupants such as creating both breakout space and social space, improvements are found in concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Optimize employees’ emotional health through these strategies:

  • Create collaborative spaces, as well as areas to relax and de-stress
  • Add greenery: potted plants, living walls or flower gardens
  • Design outdoor spaces (rooftop patio or staff garden)
  • Offer flexibility – give options for where and how employees want to work

The research shows how workplace design positively influences health, wellbeing, employee satisfaction, and performance. There is huge potential for improving and making a positive impact on employee wellbeing through human-centered design. By simply offering employees areas to recharge and taking their comfort into consideration, you can easily make subtle changes to improve the physical environment at your office.

 

Alan Kohll is the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness. Follow TotalWellness onLinkedIn and Twitter.

I have been working in the corporate wellness space for over 20 years. I am the founder and president of TotalWellness, a national corporate health and wellness services provider. Throughout my years at TotalWellness, I’ve developed a true passion for and expertise in all t…

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The era of circadian lighting in health care is dawning

The era of circadian lighting in health care is dawning

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA

The Medical Behavioral Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was an unusual concept from the start. The first of its kind in the nation, it would be a special place for kids with medical problems who also had underlying behavioral conditions such as depression, anxiety, and autism.

That called for a special design. Although there’s no doubt that this is a hospital, the obvious decorative features of the unit — the subtle but cheery colors, the stylized nature art — are soft and soothing, neither depressing nor overly stimulating.

What’s not so obvious is the light. It puts CHOP at the forefront of a new trend — circadian lighting — that is picking up steam in health-care settings and, to a lesser degree so far, schools, high-tech workplaces, and warehouses.

 

The idea is to tune indoor lights to mimic the brightness and color spectrum of the sun as it changes during the day. Think bright, bluish light in the morning that gradually grows more amber at dusk and ultimately gets as dark as is possible to get in a medical environment. There’s growing evidence that proper light exposure can help keep our circadian rhythms the body’s internal, 24-hour clock in sync with the sun. That can improve sleep, mood, and metabolic function. It’s particularly important in hospitals and nursing facilities, where illness, long exposure to dim artificial light, and frequent wakening at night can cause disrupted sleep and behavior problems.

 

The trend toward circadian lighting is made possible by LED lights, which make it far easier to control color and intensity than fluorescent lights do. Such systems are still more expensive than older lights, but prices are coming down, said representatives of lighting companies.

Sagine Simon, nurse manager of the CHOP unit, which opened in January 2017, was excited when she learned the hospital’s design experts were interested in trying circadian lighting. “This is an innovative unit, so we thought, ‘Why not?'” she said.

Douglas Carney, an architect who is senior vice president for real estate, design, construction and facilities at CHOP, was intrigued by the idea that a physical factor could create a more “supportive environment” for patients. Members of his team, he said, like to be the “same kind of thought leaders in our areas of expertise as the clinicians in their areas of expertise.”

 

A key proponent of good lighting’s health value is Mariana Figueiro, director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whose research figured in CHOP’s design. She said a well-functioning circadian rhythm is associated with better immune functioning and sleep, plus lower stress. When their circadian systems are out of whack, people are at higher risk for diabetes, obesity, cancer, and mood disorders. Patients hospitalized for more than two or three days can run into trouble because, without proper light exposure, biological clocks shift a few minutes each day. Hospitals and nursing homes typically have too little light during the day and too much at night. General anesthesia, she said, is very disruptive of circadian rhythms. Bright morning light helps “entrain” the circadian system, she said.

 

Her research with nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementias has found that exposure to bright light in the morning improved scores on measures of sleep quality, behavior, and mood. One study that tried circadian lighting with dementia patients living at home found that caregivers also slept better.

Figueiro also worked with Mount Sinai Hospital to improve lighting for stem-cell transplant patients. The intervention had “very positive” effects on depression, fatigue, and sleep quality.

 

William Redd, a Mount Sinai psychologist who is involved in that light research, worries that enthusiasm for circadian lighting may have gotten ahead of the science, but is himself enthusiastic. “I personally believe that this has gigantic potential,” he said. The stem-cell unit is a good place to test light, he said, because patients are there at least two weeks.

 

Representatives of lighting companies that have worked with health-care facilities — Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Acuity Brands Lighting Inc., and Ketra, a Lutron company — said interest in circadian lighting has taken off recently, but only a few health organizations have actually installed lights, usually in a pilot program.

“People are dipping their toe in the water in a lot of places,” said Sandra Stashik, director of strategic specification development for Acuity. It is in discussions with schools about classroom lighting, a university that wants to test circadian lighting in a laboratory, and a company that operates infusion centers.

She thinks circadian lighting will eventually become the norm. “It’ll just become a natural thing we do,” she said.

 

Kate Wickham, vice president of connected indoor lighting systems for Signify, said her company has seen “huge interest” in the last 18 months to two years. Signify, she said, has seven pilot projects with health-care providers. The company is also talking with people who operate office space, warehouses, and hotels. One warehouse project is measuring whether circadian lighting affects productivity, fatigue, and worker error.

“I love the fact that it’s something that can promote a healing environment that is noninvasive,” Wickham said.

 

Tom Hamilton, vice president of solutions and services for Ketra, said his company was involved in providing circadian lighting in common areas of a dementia unit in Florida. Another recent project in a senior facility in Virginia included resident rooms.

 

Lorenzo Albala, a former student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University who is now a medical resident, is among a group from Jefferson developing a cheaper alternative to full circadian lighting programs that has attracted start-up funding. It is a night light that comes on slowly when hospital employees enter a patient room at night. Circalux uses a type of light that allows nurses to see but should not disrupt circadian rhythms. The company is still fine-tuning the concept, but Albala said nurses are giving the product high ratings.

Lighting GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY

Mary Alcaraz, an engineer and senior project manager at CHOP, was in charge of creating the Medical Behavioral Unit’s lighting. She recently showed off her work in the unit, an area already blessed with natural light from skylights. During the day, hallways, and other common areas were much brighter than typical offices or hospitals. Patient rooms were divided into separate lighting zones for patients, family and staff, especially valuable at night. At night, the light at the nurses’ station has more of the red part of the light spectrum, which is stimulating, Alcaraz said, without affecting circadian rhythms.

 

Although the color tone of the light changes, it does not look obviously blue, yellow, or red. What is noticeable is that it is gentler and more pleasant than much office lighting.

From left to right, Mary Alcaraz, senior project manager; Stephanie Doupnik, co-medical director; and Sagine Simon, nurse manager, in a common area of the Medical Behavioral Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
STACEY BURLING

From left to right, Mary Alcaraz, senior project manager; Stephanie Doupnik, co-medical director; and Sagine Simon, nurse manager, in a common area of the Medical Behavioral Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Citing privacy concerns, CHOP did not allow a reporter to talk to patients or family. But in two rooms that could be observed, the lights were low, a sign that allowing patients to turn down the lights if they choose may work against the potential health benefits of brighter light.

Children also can control a light bar over their beds that can change into a rainbow of colors just for fun — a “positive distraction,” Alcaraz said.

 

CHOP has not formally studied the impact of lighting changes on patients or staff. But Simon said the lighting seems to improve patient sleep-wake cycles. She finds that walking into the unit “perks you up.”

Stephanie Doupnik, a pediatrician who is the unit’s co-medical director, said she doesn’t miss natural sunlight as much as when she worked in other places. Most people seem to like the lights. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a complaint about the lighting,” she said. “I think that’s actually a remarkable thing.”

Continue reading The era of circadian lighting in health care is dawning

Greenbuild 2018: Tunable White Lights Can Improve Health and Well-being

11/15/2018 | BY RACHEL KATS

Whether in an office, hospital or your living room, light and color temperature impact everything from our wake-sleep cycle to our general health and well-being.

The advent of LED lighting gave us the ability to better control light, and as the technology has improved products like tunable white lights are gaining popularity because of their:

  • Efficacy
  • Versatility
  • Health, financial and aesthetic benefits

“The demand for tunable white light continues to strengthen and we’re taking human-centric lighting to the next level with these products,” says Jared Morello, Wattstopper product marketing manager at Legrand, who showcased the Blanco lighting solution at the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

Circadian Rhythm Management

Lighting controls

Tunable white lighting allows for adjustments to the intensity and color quality, allowing us to mimic natural light, which can evoke human biological responses. Research has shown office workers who receive a robust dose of circadian-effective lightexperience better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress than those who spend their days in dim or low light levels.

“What studies have shown is that you really don’t want that cool light late in the day, instead you want to have warm light, that’s better for circadian rhythm. If you use that cool light late in the day that could suppress your melatonin production and that’s what impacts your circadian rhythm and that’s what impacts your sleep,” says Pete Shannin, CFA, vice president and general manager of Skylight and Daylighting Systems at Sunoptics from Acuity Brands, which also showcased at Greenbuild.

[Related: Facts and Fiction of Tunable Lighting]

Both Legrand and Sunoptics offer products that are integrated and combine a tunable white light solution with other controls and technological features.

“We have a timer switch that will run on an automatic schedule in the background, if you want to mimic a sunrise, midday, sunset schedule, this would do that automatically,” Morello says. “It can do schedules based on time of day or an astrological event, so you could say, start the schedule an hour after sunrise, instead of saying 7 a.m. for instance. And then if want to make changes throughout the day, or not run an automatic schedule.”

Productivity

Many spaces aren’t designed to have the exact same activity going on throughout the day, white tunable light allows you to adjust lighting to complement the activity occurring in that space at any given time to improve performance and productivity.

[On topic: Harvesting Natural Lighting]

“Think of a classroom, let’s say you want your kids relaxed, well you wouldn’t be able to have them relaxed under that really bright, cool light. By bringing it down more and maybe dimming, it gets to be a more relaxing environment,” Shannin explains. “Versus let’s say, for test taking when you want them to be alert you can make that light cooler and that, therefore will have them perform better.”   

Function and Design

Practically speaking, many white tunable light products offer not only health benefits, but also a functional and aesthetic solution. Because these products are integrated into other components, like control systems, they can cut down on clutter, installation time and cost. 

“The unique thing about Blanco and Wattstopper is that the controls are imbedded in the fixtures above, which means you can simply plug the fixtures via Cap 5 into our control system and they auto commission themselves. So, there’s no additional onsite programming or dialing into the fixture space, saving the installer or the integrator a lot of time and money,” says Morello.

Sustainability and Savings

Sunoptics designs and manufactures prismatic skylights that harness the power of the sun to maximize the cost-effective energy savings of daylighting. Additionally, the integration of multiple components also allows for fewer materials being used, providing a more sustainable option.

“You’re not going to use as much material, you don’t have to use the extra steel and the shroud to create a luminar,” Shannin says. “You can get rid of all that steel because all the LED components are in this skylight.”

Janelle Penny, senior writer for BUILDINGS, contributed to this article from the 2018 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

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The beauty and benefits of tinted glass

Tinted glass helps to regulate a building’s temperature as it is designed to absorb energy from the visible light spectrum.

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NOVEMBER 06, 2018 |

 

The design applications of glass are as limitless as the imagination. Glass coatings and colors can be applied primarily for aesthetic purposes, yet the performance benefits are an added – sometimes necessary – bonus. Tinted glass is one type that satisfies both of these considerations, enhancing the appearance of a building façade while improving its solar performance. From the exterior, tinted glass is distinctive, reflective, and can make a statement when applied to the majority of a building envelope, or if it is contrasted with other façade materials. Tinted glass can be used to form a curtainwall, and is most often used in commercial applications, offices, and other large facilities. It is ideal for storefronts, atria, skylights, and also interior designs.

Performance-wise, tinted glass helps to regulate a building’s temperature as it is designed to absorb energy from the visible light spectrum. It has the capability to reduce glare, and offer unobstructed views when looking from the inside out. Since tinted glass can be specified in a range of colors, it also has the ability to make an additional aesthetic statement on top of these performance capabilities. Popular colors for tinted glass include bronze, greys, blues, and greens, and can be specified from leading glass manufacturers like AGC Glass North America, whose tinted glass product, Solarshield®, is crafted using the float glass process. This results in a perfectly flat, smooth, glass surface.

 

 

In keeping with modern demands and trends, AGC Glass is now enhancing its line of offerings to include Majestic Gray, a subtle, soft grey glass that lends itself to myriad applications, providing solar protection, and a unique look that works in tandem with other building materials.  In fact, one concern with most tinted glass products is that they offer a pronounced contrast from other elements of the building façade. This can work to the architect’s advantage if they want to make the glass stand out as part of their design. However, if they require a more muted façade where all elements unite, then Majestic Grey can offer an advantageous design solution.

As construction and design trends shift away from all-glass facades, a solution like Majestic Grey can be ideal for use with other materials. Because of its unobtrusive, subtle hue, this light grey glass can complement stone, tile, steel, metal plate, and other products to work in harmony. Additionally, it is a versatile, light grey glass from the world’s largest glass manufacturer, offering 65% visible light transmission for plentiful natural light – a necessity for many contemporary structures and one that satisfies the overarching focus on wellness and access to the outdoors.

The unification of performance and aesthetics is entirely possible with products like Majestic Grey, and such glass can be a means to achieve superior light transmittance, top aesthetics, and be current with contemporary design trends.

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Harvesting Natural Light for Interiors

Humans weren’t made to live without natural light. While there are many ways humans evolved that society has moved away from, studies continue to show that exposure to natural light has increased benefits. It’s no wonder that buildings around the world are choosing to find more ways of bringing natural light into interiors

UNDERSTANDING CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

The benefits of natural light have been studied for more than a decade, but the findings are now being utilized across the board in architecture and design—particularly in offices where artificially lit cubicles are on the way out.

In particular, studies have shown that natural light:

  • Increases productivity
  • Increases mood
  • Creates healthier and better sleep

The reasons primarily have to do with one’s circadian rhythm.

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CIRCADIAN RHYTHM DEFINITION

Circadian rhythm is the body’s natural cycle throughout the day. Similar processes are found in most living things, and are affected by external factors, including light and temperature.

The color of natural light changes throughout the day due to the location of the sun in the sky and the density of the atmosphere. In the morning, sunlight is more blue while the sun’s evening hue contains more orange tones.

Recently, this has changed the ways in which technology appears. Studies found that the blue tone of the artificial light that comes from screens has a “wake-up” effect on the brain, leading to sleeping troubles for those who use any of the many screen-baring products that have come into the home in recent years. In response, many tablet and smartphone manufacturers added a feature that changes the tone to orange after a certain time to help the brain start to wind down at the end of the day.

FANTINI HEADQUARTERS, PELLA, ITALY

In the last year, luxury bathroom fixture brand Fantini has opened a new hotel, redesigned its lakeside manufacturing facility and renovated its headquarters in Pella, Italy. Each building features an abundance of natural lighting, including massive floor-to-ceiling windows on the southeast side of the headquarters, and large-scale windows along the northwest wall.

With natural light and stunning views of Lake Orta, a common concern is that employees will spend more time daydreaming and staring out of the window than getting work done, but for Daniela Fantini, CEO, the productivity and increased mood in the office makes it worthwhile. In fact, any time spent staring out the windows has lead the team to more creative solutions.

The access to natural light isn’t only for those with creative jobs, however. The manufacturing facilities next door to the headquarters features plenty of natural light as well.

OODI LIBRARY, HELSINKI

Up north in Finland, natural light is as important a feature as any other when constructing a building. With the long, dark nights that the country is subjected to throughout much of the year, double-paned glass and skylights abound. Beginning with Alvar Aalto’s designs in the 1960s, it has become common for artificial light to be installed within the crevices of skylights to lessen the intensity of lighting change from day to night.

Helsinki’s Oodi Library is scheduled to open November 2018. Included in the monolith is a public space on the first floor that will host events and conventions, and an entire second floor designed to accommodate smaller groups in need of collaborative rooms or meeting spaces. The third floor will house the library stacks.

Glass is used throughout the building to allow natural light into the interior. On the second floor, many of the meeting rooms are constructed with glass walls so that light can penetrate even the most interior rooms.

The third floor is designed with nearly 360-degree views from the floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall, and recessed skylights are built in every few feet. Even on dark days, the design allows as much natural light as possible for patrons.

TD BANK, TORONTO

When TD Bank’s Toronto headquarters were being designed with international firm HOK, they came across a unique situation. Once most of the skyscraper’s floors were constructed, TD Bank officials decided to switch gears to allow the last floor to integrate WELL standards, including giving their employees access to natural light. Because the original floors weren’t built using WELL standards, the building could act as a case study on itself.

Natural light is among the core features of WELL, which also includes open workspaces with access to daylight and views, ambient lighting that supports circadian rhythm and shading to reduce solar glare.

The employees who utilize the meeting spaces on this WELL-focused floor report more productive sessions than those taking place elsewhere in the building.

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Ceiling Decor: Yeah, It’s a Thing Now

Consider the large, uninterrupted blank canvas that is your ceiling. Now channel your inner Michelangelo. That’s right, this “fifth wall,” as interior designers are calling it, can make a sty-lish impact when decorated in hues or patterns that complement a room’s furnishings.

Continue reading Ceiling Decor: Yeah, It’s a Thing Now

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