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How a Positive Physical Environment Improves Employee Well-being

Employee well-being is a key aspect of creating a productive healthcare workplace. Let’s talk about how exactly a positive physical environment improves employee well-being and overall performance.

Improving employee well-being creates happier and healthier employees who are more likely to want to remain with the company. If you want to save your business money, it makes sense to focus on employee well-being. One important aspect of employee well-being is the physical environment. Studies have shown that the physical environment of the healthcare facility, as well as the employee’s own workspace, can directly affect employee well-being. If the physical environment is uncomfortable, cramped, or difficult to move around in, employee well-being will be impacted.

On the other hand, if the physical environment is inviting, spacious and easy to move around in, employee well-being will improve. Healthcare managers who focus on improving the physical environment of the healthcare unit space report that employee well-being can dramatically shift for the better.

Here are the four most important factors to consider when planning a healthy physical environment to improve employee well-being.

Fresh Air

Employee well-being suffers when employees have to breathe stale air all day long. Many healthcare environments do not allow windows to be opened. While this makes sense from one point of view, it also means that healthcare providers are not being exposed to fresh air on a regular basis. Make sure that you encourage your employees to stand up and walk outside to get some fresh air. Paradoxically, smokers in the healthcare facility may actually suffer from lack of fresh air less, since they periodically go outside to smoke. Non-smokers should remind themselves to get fresh air, either by setting an alarm or by rewarding themselves after finishing a specific task.

Natural Light

While it may not be possible to assign every healthcare provider across from or next to the window, all employees should at least have a view of a window. They should be able to see natural daylight and preferably a pleasant view (although this depends on the healthcare facility’s location). Employee well-being can plummet when employees work in artificial light with no access to windows. It gets even worse when the employees have to strain their eyes to complete a certain task due to inadequate lighting.


Nobody likes to be watched all the time. Employees who sit too close to others in the workstations complain that they feel cramped. Healthcare providers should be able to have a conversation in a normal tone of voice without getting a feeling that everyone is listening to them. They should also be able to work on their computer charting in privacy. A sense of privacy helps healthcare providers maintain their dignity and feel respected. This is extremely important to employee well-being.

Personal Control

Many healthcare facilities have stringent rules regarding the types of items employees may or may not place on their workstations. While employees should be discouraged from cluttering up their workspace or placing inappropriate items in public view, a complete lack of control over the environment can have a negative effect on employee well-being. People who are not allowed to personalize their workspace tend to feel less relaxed and to express less loyalty to their employer.

These four factors all contribute to employee well-being. If you are in charge of implementing physical changes in your workplace, start by focusing on what you can change right away. For example, if your workplace is dark and cramped, you can at least put up attractive dividers in the workstations to allow privacy, and you can use full-spectrum light bulbs to simulate natural light. You can also put some potted plants around the unit.

Make sure that you track employee well-being before and after you make any changes. Sometimes, healthcare managers are reluctant to set aside funding for physical changes in the workstation if they are unconvinced that employee well-being will actually be improved. By tracking the improvements in employee well-being, you can lay the ground for costlier improvements in the future.

If you address all of the four factors mentioned above, you should see concrete evidence of improved employee well-being in the following six areas:

1. Greater overall job satisfaction.

2. Fewer sick calls.

3. Less on-the-job stress.

4. A boost in productivity.

5. A reduction in staff turnover.

6. Higher commitment to the company.

Employee well-being is not just another buzzword. Improving the physical environment where your employees work is a smart business move that will benefit your bottom line. If you want happy, healthy employees who are loyal to the company and are consistently productive, focus on improving employee well-being through a positive physical environment.

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