What Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To Know: Your Office May Be Making You Sick

There’s a reason people hate Mondays.

After two days of freedom, romping in the great outdoors, enjoying the sights from the windows in your house and not having to wear a parka to survive the sub-zero temperatures you endure at your 9-to-5, you have to return to the Arctic cave known as your office.

We’re not sure which is worse: The high cubicle walls that isolate you from any human contact, the flickering fluorescent lights that provide about as much light as a jar full of fireflies, the constant drone of the air conditioner, or the frigid temperatures.

If you ask us, working in a traditional, old-school office can be downright depressing.

Turns out, we’re not alone.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Johan Lehrer, several scientists have conducted studies recently about how workspaces affect mood, thoughts and health.

Researchers at Ohio State University divided a group of office workers into two segments: those in an old office building with low ceilings and loud ACs, and those in a newer building with skylights and an open floor-plan. By tracking things like emotional well-being, heart rate and stress levels, researchers found that the employees in the old building were more stressed, putting them at a greater risk of heart disease.

But there’s hope. If you’re stuck in an office that hasn’t joined the 21st century, share the following list of ways to redesign the office for the benefit of everyone’s health (make sure to note that most of these suggestions are backed by scientific research):


  • Let the sunshine in. In a study from the European Society of Cardiology, workers expressed positive feelings when they were exposed to natural light. Consider lower cubicle walls to allow more access to sunlight from exterior windows.
  • Create wide-open spaces. In the same study, workers felt that air quality was better in offices with open floor plans vs. those with high dividing walls.
  • Turn down the volume. The study also found that workers in the old office were exposed to more low-frequency mechanical noise, which added to the stress. To remedy this, offices can invest in better noise-dampening acoustics and consider moving loud machines farther from workspaces.
  • Go blue. A study by the Institute of Research and Construction found that the color blue improved creativity because it reminded people of open skies (and endless possibilities?) Even if your boss doesn’t rush to add skylights to your building, you can help boost your mood and imagination by adding blue accents to your workspace. Conversely, steer clear of red, which makes people think of danger.


  • Plant a plant. Feng Shui design principles suggest that including plant life in your workspace can help boost creativity and also filter toxins out of the air. If you have a brown thumb, make sure to take a break periodically and go outside for a stroll to enjoy nature.First photo courtesy of Jnyemb on Flickr
    Second photo courtesy of SixtiesBritain on Flickr