How Fish Tanks Represent Office Buildings

We’re all familiar with the ecology of a fish tank. It has to be kept in a certain state of maintenance and hygiene or the fish in it won’t do so well. Especially with saltwater fish, the maintenance for them is very tricky. This is because the open ocean is such a complex environment that it’s difficult to replicate all of the environmental factors to keep the fish healthy.

What we’ve only discovered in recent years is that office buildings also have a complex ecology all to themselves, and this affects the workers! Just like fish have to live in a fish tank, white collar workers spend the majority of their time in an office building. It took decades of looking at Workman’s Comp claims to notice that the office building itself is an important health impact. Building materials and chemicals can aggravate allergies. Poor ventilation can lead to respiratory problems. Even poor or harsh lighting, or lack of adequate sunlight, can cause depression in those with photo-sensitive conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

At least one office building in New England has led the way in healthy office building design. They innovated with indirect lighting to reduce glare, reduced chemicals so the air is cleaner, filtered water to remove harsh chlorine, and even accommodations for healthy eating. The most-vaunted stand-up desks, a recent fad, are featured as well, along with open-floor designs to encourage mobility.

The results are not only healthier employees, but more productive workers as well. A growing amount of research is finding that workers who spend their day in a building with a healthy environment built in are less tired, more alert, and even sleep better at night. So yes, an office building is like a fish tank, with a complex environment that affects the health of the occupants. Just don’t, you know, tap on the glass; it makes them restless.

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