Guide to Environmental Wellness

                                                                              Toni Sperlbaum                                                                                           VP of Sales and Marketing


For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “Environmental Wellness” as: How design, operations, and behaviors within the workplace can be optimized to advance human health and wellbeing.

Did you know?

  • Humans spend 90% of their time inside buildings
  • We also work 62,400 hours of our lives (assuming 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and 30 years as our timeline)
  • 80% of adults in the U.S. go through their day at least mildly dehydrated
  • Harsh, inconsistent, or glare-filled lighting over the course of 8-10 hour workdays is a prominent cause of sleep disorders and causation of headaches, affecting productivity
  • Worker performance can be lowered by 66% when distracted by office noise, while even a 4% – 6% decline in productivity can be measured when building temperatures are non-optimal
  • Having elements of greenery and nature incorporated report a 15% increase in employee well being, a 6% increase in productivity, and a 15% increase in creativity.

Because we spend so much time at work, we as HR professionals and key players in making change happen in our workspaces can have a huge effect on how these spaces impact employees’ health and wellness goals.  The goal is to remove barriers to success by amending the environment.  Some of these changes are simple, while others require planning ahead of a new construct or majorly overhauling your current buildings.

The three factors to environmental wellness include 1. Policies and Procedures, 2. Social Supports, and 3. The Built Environment.

Here is your basic guide to evaluating your facilities to help your employees be successful:

Built Environment

  • Ensure you have a kitchen or common area/break room with microwave, fridge, sink, utensils, and/or dishwasher. This will encourage employees to bring lunch instead of eating out
  • Filtered/drinkable water accessible
  • Indoor & outdoor walking paths marked (doesn’t have to be a physical path – take some steps or a measuring device and figure out mile markers, in or outdoors)
  • Bike racks
  • Basketball hoops (or similar activity) in the parking lot
  • Vending machine overhaul. Require 50% of your machines have healthy options, move unhealthy options lower while moving healthy options to eye level, or inflate prices of unhealthy options in order to make healthier foods more affordable and accessible. At least post nutrition facts about the contents on the outside of the machine so employees have the knowledge to  make better choices.
  • Indoor greenery
  • Lively and energetic paint colors on the wall
  • Allow standing desks (or better yet, use standing desks as an exciting prize to one of your wellness contests!)
  • Wellness bulletin board. A designated area to communicate all things wellness.
  • Paintwork or artwork on walls in facility. You can even have an employee art contest to highlight their talents and engage employees in voting to choose the winners to be hung.
  • Talk to maintenance about regulating temperatures and keeping air moving
  • Hopscotch boards on the floor entering meeting rooms or bathrooms. Extra steps, a quicker pulse, and unavoidably, a smile.
  • Outdoor seating area (picnic table or bench) to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and eat lunch (prevents more frequent trips to get fast food)
  • Stairwells? Make them more attractive by painting the walls (FUN, employee work, not just normal paint colors, although that will help), having music in the stairwell, or having fun facts posted about taking the stairs v. the elevator and how it’s better for your health.
  • Elevators? Put prompts outside of elevator about stair health facts (calories burned, muscles used, elevated heart rate, blood flow, etc.)
  • Bigger Overhauls – natural lighting (skylights or moving workspaces towards windows) & dedicated Well Mom lactation rooms

Policies

  • Unhealthy food laying around – must have healthy options next to a candy dish
  • Catered lunch – if the organization is catering in lunch for meetings with people larger than 4 people, healthy options must be available for a choice
  • Nicotine free campus
  • Make clear if employees can use yoga balls at their desks or if that is a hazard in your organization

Social Supports

  • Walk Well Wednesdays Club
  • Working mother groups
  • Softball/Kickball leagues
  • Biking groups
  • Saturday 5K training groups
  • Community events groups – Relay for Life, Heart Walk activities
  • Weight loss groups

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

                                                                               Christina Falahee                                                                                 Wellness Coordinator/Health Coach


During the summer, many of us are excited to spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s during these warm months we spend most of our time outdoors. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, moderation is key.

July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month which is a great way to shine a light on the effects of UV rays and spread the importance of sun safety. UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States. It can cause eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.

 Who are Most Susceptible?

  • Had skin cancer before
  • Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
  • Have freckles and burn before tanning
  • Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
  • Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases with elevation)
  • Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
  • Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
  • Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
  • Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
  • Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

 How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?

  • Seek Shade: UV light is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and it’s important to protect yourself.
  • Protect Your Skin with Clothing: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.
  • Read Your Sunscreen Labels: Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with sun protection factor (SPF) provides UVB ray protection. Values of 30 or higher are recommend. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating, even if it’s labeled “water resistant”. Be sure to check the expiration date on the sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 or 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.
  • Wear Your Sunglasses: Effective sunglasses should block glare and 99 – 100% of UV rays and have a wraparound shape to protect the eyes from all angles.
  • Routinely Check Your Skin for Any Changes: Birthmarks, new moles and marks should be consistently examined for alterations in size, shape and color or if they look and feel differently from other moles and marks on your body.