For health­ier work­ers

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By JEANNINE STEIN

IS where you work mak­ing you sick? A new study finds that em­ploy­ees who move from build­ings with poor indoor en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity to more health­ful “green” build­ings may reap some ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing less ab­sen­teeism and higher pro­duc­tiv­ity.

The green build­ing move­ment isn’t just concerned with con­struct­ing build­ings that are more en­ergy ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble – they’re sup­posed to im­prove indoor sur­round­ings as well, mak­ing them more health­ful and pleas­ant for those who work there, via light­ing, ven­ti­la­tion, acous­tics and er­gonomic de­sign.

Re­searchers from Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity did two case stud­ies eval­u­at­ing the phys­i­cal and mental health sta­tus of peo­ple who moved from tra­di­tional to green of­fice build­ings. One sce­nario in­volved 56 peo­ple and the other 207, and em­ploy­ees were asked through sur­veys about ab­sen­teeism from work in both types of build­ings for asthma, al­ler­gies, de­pres­sion and stress­re­lated con­di­tions. They were also asked about pro­duc­tiv­ity in the two set­tings.

Both green build­ings re­ceived high rat­ings from Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign, a green build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Be­ing ab­sent from work for asthma, al­ler­gies, de­pres­sion and stress de­creased fol­low­ing the move into the green build­ings; for ex­am­ple, hours ab­sent from work due to asthma and al­ler­gies was on av­er­age 1.12 per month in con­ven­tional build­ings and 0.49 in green build­ings.

The av­er­age num­ber of work hours af­fected by ill­ness per month also de­clined af­ter the move. Pro­duc­tiv­ity im­proved.

Us­ing the num­bers, re­searchers es­ti­mated that bet­ter health and higher pro­duc­tiv­ity could trans­late into more work hours per year. Re­searchers plan to do ad­di­tional re­search at other sites as well as fol­low these em­ploy­ees to as­sess changes in health and pro­duc­tiv­ity and to make sure that the re­sults aren’t due to the Hawthorne ef­fect, a phe­nom­e­non in which peo­ple change the be­hav­iour that’s be­ing eval­u­ated be­cause they know they’re be­ing stud­ied. The study ap­pears in the Septem­ber is­sue of the

Amer­i­can Jour­nal Of Pub­lic Health. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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