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Simple Office Changes for Healthy and Productive Staffs

By: Kevin Gardner

Your employees’ productivity relies more heavily on their environment than you probably realize. It may seem obvious that a safe work area is essential, but many simple hazards are easily overlooked, even with the best of intentions. You need to make sure your office space is efficient, but you may accidentally be setting up barriers to efficiency without even knowing it. Finally, you may not spend much time considering the aesthetics of your building, but they have a considerable effect on the quality of your team’s work, even if it’s subconscious. Here are some key factors that don’t require much money or effort, but can lead to a safer, healthier, happy staff.

Understand the Value of Sunlight
You don’t have to hold advanced science degrees to understand that humans need sunlight. Vitamin D is important for our mental and physical health. Portable offices for sale are a wonderful way to allow workers to get direct sunlight, which is of course best. However, a modular warehouse office, or even portable office booths are practical for every business. Outdoor walking areas on campus are great, but they only work during half of the year if you live and work somewhere with the full force of the seasons. Positioning employees near large, unobstructed windows is the best alternative to direct sunlight. Of course, you may not have control over your office design or floor plan. If this isn’t an option, do your best to allow staff to take breaks outside or near windows. If you have no windows, consider acquiring some blue lights for employee’s desks, especially during the winter.

Give Your Staff Variety
Nothing stifles creativity like a cubicle. Even if the nature of your company’s work is methodical and routine, workers need to be able to problem solve and “stretch their brains.” While many positions require being anchored to a desk and computer to a point, it’s important for employees to be given a little free reign to get up and move around. Beyond coffee breaks or laps around the hallways, try to conduct meetings and brainstorming sessions in open, common areas as much as possible. If there’s a way you can allow your team to use laptops or tablets securely and plug into your network at different places throughout the building, go for it!

Follow Basic Safety Protocols
Most basic workplace safety is obvious. If you work in a factory office with a more complex set of protocols, hopefully you’ve received extensive training and drilling on them. Beyond that, common sense of reporting accidents, spills, or broken glass usually covers most office issues. There are, however, two that many people working in an office booth or cube may overlook. First, personalizing your workspace is a wonderful idea, and many people like to have it smell a particular way as well. It’s best to accomplish this with either reed diffusers or free-standing air fresheners. Scented candles are a leading cause of workplace fires, and even hotplates that melt the candles from the bottoms can be problematic. The other hazard many people don’t think of is using too many power strips, even those with surge protectors. If you must plug in many electronic devices, ask for a UPS unit that will keep your devices and workplace safe in the event of a power outage or electrical surge.

Aesthetic Odds and Ends
Here are a few more simple tips to brighten up your office and make your employees healthier and happier. Try to avoid fluorescent lights as they can have energy draining effects on people. If you cannot control your overhead lighting, invest in safe, soft floor lamps. Also, having some real, live plants strategically placed will not only freshen the office’s smell, but promote the circulation of clean air. Finally, learn about office color theory and consider painting if your scheme is too dark or too aggressive.

Your business’ bottom line is, understandably, your top concern. Productivity and profitability can only be strong, however, if your staff is safe, healthy, and happy. Use these tips to help build these attributes in your office!

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.