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Designing a health office

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Article by Pauline Ferguson

If you’re designing your ultimate office, you want it to be healthy so your brilliance is enhanced, not stifled. Here are some tips to get you started.

As seen on Flying Solo: 14 Apr 12 | Pauline Ferguson

What will you be doing in your new space?

Analyse your workday and your activities. What do you actually do with your time? How much space do you need? Do you need a lot of surface area to work on or perhaps to put things on? Do you need space to meet with people?

Remember ergonomics and space when you’re thinking about your new office, because while those little offices under the stairs look cute, they’re not always practical.

“ Remember ergonomics and space when you’re thinking about your new office, because while those little offices under the stairs look cute, they’re not always practical. ”

Do you need a lot of storage or filing space? If so, remember to have closable doors to minimise dust and moisture.

Let there be light!

It's a common misconception that you need to have a darkened room when you're working with computers. The light from your screen should actually be as close as possible to the ambient light of any documents you're working on, so your eyes aren't strained by the contrast. The Australian Standard for light in an office is 320 lux (which is about the level of a well-windowed room on a sunny day), but there are other levels for different tasks and areas. You can hire a lux meter if necessary, or some lighting specialists can check these levels for you.

Nix the noise

Noise is a source of stress, which can lead to irritability, headaches, illness, and even heart issues. The Australian Standards for noise in an office is no more than 45 decibels (db). To give you a reference point, a low conversation is about 50 db, and a normal conversation is about 60 db. Here are some more facts about noise and how you can reduce it from Workers Health.

All I need is the air that I breathe...

Fresh air is very important. If your office is mechanically ventilated (closed room, air conditioner) the Standard is an exchange of 7.5 litres of fresh air per second, per person in the office.

If you find that you're sleepy, irritable, tired or your head feels fuzzy, lack of fresh air (or too much carbon dioxide) could be the problem. If taking a walk outside or opening a window improves that immediately, you need to have the air conditioner checked.

Try to have your windows away from a pollution source such as traffic - a park or garden is the best option.

(For more tips on optimising air quality in your home office, head here).

Choose natural materials

Try to keep the materials your office and furnishings are made from as natural as possible. Good options include raw wood, brick, stone (although check out granite carefully), cotton, wool and linen.

Insulation is really the only man-made product I'd recommend - and that should be recycled polyester batting. (Note that even "natural" insulation materials can have toxic additives like preservatives and flame-inhibiting chemicals).

High voltage

If you're choosing a new site for your home or office, try to locate it away from high voltage transmission lines, substations and so forth. At home, make sure your working area isn't within three metres of the electricity meter, and check that appliances like ovens, dryers and washing machines aren't on the other side of the wall behind you if they're in use a lot.

You might not be able to see electrical or electromagnetic fields, but they can still affect your health. Disturbed sleep, headaches, poor memory, and fuzzy thinking are all symptoms of electrical sensitivity.

Please share your questions and recommendations about designing a healthy office on the facebook page!

14 Apr 2012

Article/Information supplied by Pauline Ferguson

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.

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