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Is your office design increasing your employees’ risk of long-term illness?

This month, Evoke Projects will post a series of articles to help you manage your Workplace Health & Safety risks. This month’s 4 topics will be:

  • Using office ergonomics to reduce the risk of injury
  • Staying up-to-date with WHS requirements
  • Is your office design increasing your employees’ risk of long-term illness?
  • WHS considerations for office refurbishments

This week is the third article in the series, Is your office design increasing your employees’ risk of long-term illness?

Chronic illness is a growing problem in the Australian workplace. It has been estimated that a third of the Australian population has one or more chronic diseases, * with heart disease, cancer, musculoskeletal pain and depression amongst the most common illnesses.

Office design can actually contribute to these problems, here we look at some of the common risk factors and how you can avoid them in your office.

Space planning to avoid prolonged sitting

Prolonged sitting in the office has been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor circulation, colon cancer, breast cancer, back and neck pain. Comcare have published a poster called The Dangers of Prolonged Sitting. It warns workers that they face a 40% increased risk of death in the next three years if they sit for more than 11 hours a day. Scary indeed.

Now that the risks have been identified, it is arguable that an employers’ WHS duty of care extends to examining the office interior design for potential to reduce sedentary time in the workplace.

Evoke Projects works with clients on office space planning and these are just a few of the ideas that we discuss:

  • Include stand-up desks in your office furniture budget.
  • Examine workplace processes for opportunities to add movement, e.g. a central filing room will encourage people to walk around the office. Find ways to prompt every worker to stand up at 30-minute intervals.
  • Move printers out of cubicles and into a team hub.
  • Install water stations and start a 6-cup-a-day health drive.
  • Add a stretching exercise chart and a place for workers to stretch out.
  • If employees take the elevator to visit their colleagues, and you are refurbishing your office, consider adding an internal staircase to the office design. (Fire exits are not popular shortcuts so don’t rely on those.)
  • If you have elevators, consider programming them to stop every second floor to encourage stair use.

As well as changing your office design, think outside the box:

  • A fifteen-minute walk could be scheduled as a team-brainstorming meeting.
  • Consider the volume of emails sent—could some of the messages be delivered in person?
  • Could you have a rule that all phone calls are to be made standing up?

Ergonomic office furniture takes care of the body

Ergonomic office furniture and its potential to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace have already been covered in an earlier Evoke Projects’ blog. Click here to read Using office ergonomics to reduce the risk of injury.

Holistic office design can reduce stress

High levels of stress at work can lead to depression. Holistic office design considers the whole person’s interaction at work including their physical, mental and social interaction. It takes into account noise factors, lighting, heating and cooling, office furniture, interior design, colours, workflow, filing and processes, resources available, and space use, particularly for collaboration and teamwork.

Evoke Projects specialises in holistic office design and refurbishments. We also provide customised furniture and stand-up desks to help alleviate the risks of prolonged sitting. Please contact us on 1300 720 692 for more information.

* Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

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