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16 January 2019
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57 per cent of workers lack fresh air © iStock

10 May 2018 Herpreet Kaur Grewal


UK office workers spend a limited amount of time outdoors each day, putting their health and well-being at risk.


The study of 1,000 UK office workers by interior landscaping and scenting firm Ambius found that almost 40 per cent spend a maximum of just 15 minutes outside, excluding their commute to work, and an additional 22 per cent spend a maximum of 30 minutes outside. This is even less than prisoners, who require “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily”, according to UN guidelines.


On average, the British workers surveyed spend more time each a day at their desk or workstation (6.8 hours) than they do in bed (6.4 hours), relaxing at home (3.5 hours) or outdoors (37 minutes). Despite spending more time at their desks than in bed, 80 per cent said they regard a comfortable bed as very important, while only 53 per cent placed the same level of importance on having a comfortable workstation.


The NHS suggests that excessive sitting can affect the body’s metabolism, affecting how we regulate sugar, blood pressure and break down fat. Previous studies have shown that adding an element of nature or greenery to the workplace can create a positive sense of well-being among employees and improve concentration, creativity and productivity.


With office workers spending so much time at their desks, employers would be wise to explore ways to create a workplace that facilitates better health and well-being, says the study.


A lack of fresh air (57 per cent), insufficient natural light (49 per cent), and an absence of indoor plants (36 per cent) were the biggest source of frustration for employees. Introducing indoor plants (49 per cent), nicer artwork (50 per cent), and a more interesting colour scheme (54 per cent), topped the list of employees’ requests to improve their workplace. 


The study also explored the levels of personalisation in the workplace. Brits are often proud of the interiors of their homes, however, almost 60 per cent of workers do not personalise their desk to make it more inspiring or comforting.  One in five (21 per cent) said their workplace has a policy preventing personalisation, and yet half of all respondents said they feel both more productive, and less stressed when given the chance to do this.


Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at Ambius, said: “Human beings have an inherent need to connect with nature and green space. With workers spending so much time indoors, office managers need to be more aware of the impact the workplace has on well-being. Bringing elements of nature in to the workplace or enabling them to personalise their workstations has positive effects on performance, including increases in productivity, creativity and a greater sense of well-being.”