Healthy Office vs. Unhealthy Office: 5 Metrics to Measure Your Workspace’s Quality

measure workplace productivity

The Washington Post recently published an online infographic showing many of the myriad ways in which modern offices – places were professionals are spending a far greater amount of their time than before – are unhealthy.

From air quality to lighting, the infographic touched on many important factors in office design; factors that, for the most part, were largely ignored by architects just two decades ago.

In this blog post, we’ll look at five of the factors discussed in the infographic and see how they can be used as metrics for you, and your business, to think about how your office could become healthier, more focused and more productive.


Lighting has long been ignored in office design, particularly in the later decades of the 20th century. Revolutionary architecture and building techniques made lighting – once a focus or architecture and planning – something far too often ignored.

Today, we’ve come to realize that the fluorescent lights that we once thought of as being unparalleled are actually more bad than good. Since they emit light that isn’t part of the natural spectrum, they can reduce alertness and disrupt nightly sleep.

The difference between healthy and unhealthy office lighting is simple: a healthy office allows natural light to travel further than just a few feet past the windows, while an unhealthy office is lit primarily with unhealthy fluorescent lighting.


Do you remember the wild looking ergonomic chairs that became a favorite of high-tech offices in the late 1990s? Despite their unusual appearance, the chairs were on the money – ergonomics, movement and posture are all hugely important.

Today’s workplaces often focus far too much on sitting. They’re built for seated and stationary work, forcing workers into uncomfortable positions that damage posture and reduce health.

Healthy workplaces, on the other hand, prioritize movement and flexibility. They’re built for sitting and standing workers, with easily accessible stairs and atriums that encourage walking to the next floor instead of taking the elevator.


Everyone’s aware of air pollution and water pollution, but few of us are aware of a form of pollution that, while not as damaging for the planet as air or water, has an absolutely disastrous effect on our productivity.

Noise pollution makes focus and concentration almost impossible, and it’s sadly a common problem in modern offices. From ringing cellphones to noisy printers, an incredible number of aural distractions exist in many modern offices.

The best offices use a combination of open and closed spaces to contain noise only to areas in which it’s essential. An open office area with strict noise controls, with a series of closed rooms for phone calls and meetings, offers a good compromise.


Is your office unbearably drab? Many offices built in the late 20th century use drab, plain color schemes. From beige to gray, the colors and shades used in their décor rob of you of energy and make being productive and focused almost impossible.

While bland color schemes can rob you of the will to be productive and focused, an office that’s too visually cluttered can rob you of the ability to be productive. Strike the right balance between visual clutter and simplicity for optimum productivity.

What do the most effective office color schemes all have in common? For the most part, they focus on naturally occurring colors – blue, green, brown and other colors that appear in nature – to create a relaxing yet highly focused environment.

Air Quality

How breathable is the air in your office? Many offices, particularly those built during the postwar boom, have poor air quality because of a combination of limited natural light and poor interior layouts.

The condition is known as “sick building syndrome,” and it’s largely reserved to big commercial developments built in the 60s, 70s and 80s. From dirty carpets to paint that just doesn’t create breathable air, these buildings often make you feel uneasy.

Today, the best buildings tend to be those designed and constructed – or, when it comes to old buildings, renovated – in the last decade. Modern buildings use more efficient air conditioning that ensures good air circulation and healthy air quality.

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