For a team to be healthy and productive, their office environment doesn’t just have to be aesthetically ‘pleasant,’ it has to be health and safety checked to be a legally compliant space too. This includes providing your office – and by extension your staff with adequate facilities that befits the size of their team.
The legal aspect of what an employer is required to provide an office team with, in terms of facilities, is grounded in the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations Act of 1992. This piece of UK legislation has set the benchmark for what UK businesses need to provide in their workspaces for it to be a health and safety compliant space.
1. Private and well-stocked toilets
Starting with the (not necessarily pleasant), but the crucial subject of toilets; the number of restroom facilities an employer has to provide their staff with depends on the size of the workforce in question. The compliant conditions for these workspace loos are:
- Good lighting
- Good ventilation
- Drying facilities (either a machine or towels are compulsory)
- Hot and cold running water
Toilet spaces can be created and allocated for men and women separately. However, if this is not possible, (and in light of supporting transgender and gender-neutral workers’ rights), mixed-use toilets are becoming the norm, but they must be in separate lockable rooms and not in ‘stalls’. This way the privacy and dignity of all employees, regardless of their identities, are equally protected.
The minimum requirements based on team size (for mixed-use or women only toilets)
- 1-5 employees – one toilet and one washbasin
- 6-25 employees – two toilets and washbasins
- 26-50 employees – three toilets and washbasins
- 51-75 employees – four toilets and washbasins
- 76-100 employees – five toilets and washbasins
2. Changing rooms
If your staff undertake work where they are dealing with hazardous chemicals, work in potentially unhygienic conditions or perform physically exerting tasks – then you need to provide them with adequate changing facilities.
These include creating showering areas and allocating private changing spaces for men and women separately, including providing them with space to dry and store their clothes. This is especially important if staff wear different uniforms to perform certain tasks and need to change often.
3. A food and drink area
Does your office have a communal water supply, such as a drinking fountain? Well, you should, as you’re legally obliged to provide your staff with easily accessible and drinkable water.
What to do about it
You can opt for a water dispenser ( if you don’t have traditional kitchen facilities that include hot and cold running water taps). Employers must also offer a kettle for staff to make hot drinks and a microwave in order for them to heat up meals. There also needs to be allocated space for them to eat their meals if there is no seated kitchen or canteen area in the workspace.
4. Supportive furniture
The most obvious point here is office chairs. Do they provide your staff with the level of adequate back support they need or are they constantly getting up and stretching or fidgeting uncomfortably in their seats?
The tools you can buy…
Budget permitting, investing in back support cushions or even laptop/computer stands to ensure staff aren’t hunching over their devices when working are good steps to take. Making these changes can increase employee comfort, and therefore productivity – and avoid the time-wasting that comes with dealing with discomfort.
5. Good lighting
Not only is lighting essential for employee health and safety when moving around the office. Lack of quality lighting can impair employee health and productivity and cause things like eye strain and headaches. Ensure your office has as much natural light coming into it as possible.
The ‘power’ of warm lighting
When it comes to electronic light, ensure your office is bright and warmly lit. The more synthetic lighting follows natural cycles, the more comfortable and productive employees will be, (as we’re designed to follow and respond to natural light cycles). Ineffectual and harsh lighting can increase levels of employee fatigue.
6. Rest spaces for pregnant (or nursing) employees
Employers are legally obliged to provide these members of staff with a private area in which they can rest if needed.
7. Inclusive spaces for disabled staff
Under the Equality Act of 2010, employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments‘ to their workplace in order to fully support the integration, safety and productivity of any and all disabled workers in their business.
This includes providing them with disabled toilet facilities, installing ramps to enable them to move in, out and around the office safely, to adjusting their desk-space and widening the entrance areas to the office building.
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