How does your environment affect your health and wellbeing?

Jun 21, 2019

Your working environment can have a direct impact on your wellbeing. From layout to lighting, or even the much-debated room temperature, here are some of the factors that can affect you.

Office layout

In most work environments, cubicles have been replaced by open plan offices in an attempt to increase collaboration among employees. But in practice open plan working hasn't always been as successful as office designers hoped, and some workers have complained it affects their privacy and leads to difficulties with concentration. Organisations with open plan offices should include private spaces and quiet rooms to compensate.

Office furniture

Musculoskeletal disorders are a major cause of absence from work. Choosing supportive office furniture may help reduce sickness absence and lead to greater job satisfaction. It is important to consider workstation ergonomics, including adjustable chairs and desks. Chairs should be able to rotate and have an adjustable height of 38 - 54cm, allowing sufficient leg space, and a backrest of 50cm to provide support.


Lighting has a significant impact on physical and psychological wellbeing. Where possible, you and your co-workers should be able to adjust the lighting level of your work environment yourselves. However, there's no substitute for natural daylight. Exposure to natural light helps regulate the production of hormones that make you feel more awake. A lack of natural light has also been linked with fatigue and eye strain.

If your office environment is short on natural daylight, there is something you or your employer could do. Having an individual desk lamp can help give you control over your immediate lighting level, and using a daylight bulb can mimic the colour of natural light. A light therapy box at your desk may also be a good solution, especially if you tend to experience low mood during the autumn and winter months.


According to Public Health England, the temperature of the working environment is important, with the ideal office temperature found to be 22 - 26C. Temperatures outside this range are associated with a reduction in performance and motivation.

Air quality

The quality of air in your workplace can have an impact on your health and wellbeing, as well as your productivity. A report by the World Green Building Council, suggests poor indoor air quality is associated with respiratory problems and infections, as well as causing tiredness and decision-making difficulties. The report also identifies studies that claim improved ventilation can boost productivity by up to 11%.

One way to improve ventilation is to open windows whenever possible. Make sure any air vents in your workplace are open and not blocked by furniture or other items. Your employer should also make sure your office's air filters are replaced regularly, and that air ducts are routinely checked and cleaned.

Ambient noise

A work environment that's too noisy can disturb workers and add to their stress levels. There may be noise caused by office equipment or sounds coming from outdoors, not to mention the sound of phones ringing and people talking. But offices that are too quiet may cause problems too, as they could make you feel too self-conscious to speak or make any noise yourself.


Having more greenery in your workspace has been found to reduce stress among workers. The benefits of having office plants are increased productivity, reduced sickness and absence, and cleaner air.

Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.