Holistic health factors in the workplace: biophilia, ergonomics and exercise

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ABSTRACT In an attempt to advocate body-conscious design and healing work environments, this research study of holistic health in the workplace explores cognitive, social and physical well-being in four small

ABSTRACT In an attempt to advocate body-conscious design and healing work environments, this research study of holistic health in the workplace explores cognitive, social and physical well-being in four small US offices that are between 1000 and 4000 square feet and employ three to twelve employees. Holistic health, as pursued in this research, includes social health, emotional health and physical health. These three factors of holistic health have been identified and investigated in this study: biophilia: peoples' love and affiliation with other species and the natural environment; ergonomics: the relationship between the human body, movement, the immediate environment and productivity; and exercise: exertion of the body to obtain physical fitness. This research study proposes that employees and employers of these four participating workplaces desire mobility and resources in the workplace that support holistic health practices involving biophilia, ergonomics, and exercise. Literature review of holistic health and the holistic health factors of this research topic support the idea that interaction with other species can be healing, ergonomic body-conscious furniture and equipment increase productivity, limit body aches, pains and health costs; and exercise stimulates the mind and body, increasing productivity. This study has been conducted primarily with qualitative and flexible research approaches using observation, survey, interview and pedometer readings as methods for data collection. Two small corporate franchise financial institutions and two small private healthcare providers from both Arizona and Georgia participated in this study. Each office volunteered one employer and two employee participants. Of the holistic health factors considered in these four case studies, this study found that a majority of participants equally valued emotional health, social health and physical health. A majority of participants declared a preference for workplace environments with serene natural environments with outdoor spaces and interaction with other species, work environments with body-conscious furniture, equipment and workstations, as well as exercise space and equipment. As these particular workplace environments affirmed value for elements of the factors biophilia, ergonomics and exercise, all three factors are considered valueable within the workplaces of these case studies. Furthermore, factors that were said to contribute to personal productivity in participating workplaces were found as well as sacrifices that participants stated they would be willing to make in order to implement their preferred work environment(s). In addition, this study recorded and calculated average miles walked by participants in each workplace as well as existing incentives and descriptions of ideal work environments. Implications of this research study involve interior design, industrial design and fashion design that can accommodate the desires of the four participating workplaces. Major design implications involve accommodating these particular workplaces to provide personnel with opportunities for holistic health in working environments. More specific implications of office related design involve providing access to natural environments, body-conscious equipment and spaces, as well as opportunities for exercise and social interaction. These elements of the factors biophilia, ergonomics and exercise were found to be said to contribute to cognitive, social and physical health.