Workplace Environment

What It Is

The workplace environment encompasses a number of different elements that are important for employee productivity and safety. Key among these are employee exposure to natural light, employee computer time, and safety code adherence.

Why It Matters

Natural Light – Using natural light in lighting your work space has numerous benefits. First and foremost, it enables you to use less artificial light, thereby reducing your energy needs and your carbon footprint. By extension, it lowers your energy bills. And somewhat surprisingly, employees who work in natural light have been demonstrated to be significantly more productive than those who work in artificially lit spaces. One study even details how, in a WalMart store where one half of the store was lit naturally (via skylight) and the other half was lit artificially, sales of items in the naturally lit spaces were considerably higher than those of items in artificially lit spaces.

Computer Time – Limiting employee computer time helps avoid the well-documented musculoskeletal disorders that can result from computer overuse.

Safety Code Adherence – Adhering to state and federal safety code requirements can keep you and your employees safe while also helping your business avoid costly fines and litigation that can result from not keeping your workspace up to code. ┬áThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a Quick Start guide as an introduction to key health and safety topics.

Getting Started

Adhering to relevant state and federal safety codes is a critical first step. Find out more about regulations in your area by following the links in the Resources section.

Going Further

Find ways for employees to complete work while simultaneously limiting computer time. Can employees make phone calls rather than send emails? Can you apportion work such that no one employee is required to spend too much time at a computer?

Position workstations close to windows, skylights and other sources of natural light. Make certain that employees have proper protection from glare, but also try leaving the overhead lights off so that employees can work in the natural light.

Advanced Steps

When renovating your office space or choosing new real estate, see what type of natural light you can achieve. Remember that capital investments in this area may pay off in 5-6 years in terms of energy bills, but may pay themselves off much sooner than that in increased employee productivity.

Resources

U.S. Dep’t of Energy / Rocky Mountain Institute study on the productivity effects of natural light

The Center for Disease Control discusses ergonomics

The Journal of Accountancy discusses the economics of ergonomics

U.S. Dep’t of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Association covers federal safety requirements


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