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Sick Building Syndrome - It is Just Poor Management


John Knights

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A report published in the British Medical Journal indicates that ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ – previously thought to have been caused by poor air quality and airborne bacteria, has been wrongly named. Mai Stafford, senior research fellow in epidemiology at University College London and lead author on the study, said: “The only area of the physical environment that had a significant effect on health was in control over the desk space. If employees could choose what lighting and heat they worked in, they were less likely to report symptoms. It shows that employers need to consider job stress above an audit of physical properties.”

The Health & Safety Executive has identified a range of ‘SBS’ symptoms, which may occur at a higher incidence rate within one particular building and for no readily identifiable reason. The symptoms include eye, nose and throat irritation, rashes, headaches, dry, sore throat, hoarseness and wheezing, itching, nausea and dizziness.

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) carried out a review on ‘SBS’ and concluded that, despite considerable research, it had not proved possible to identify specific causes of SBS. They singled out some contributory factors, including inadequate ventilation, lack of air movement, low humidity, poor lighting, airborne pollution and low morale and general dissatisfaction with work and/or the environment.

The Daily Telegraph commented that a report found that public sector workers were more prone to the condition than private sector workers – the Inland Revenue actually demolished a 19-storey building in Bootle, Merseyside, after half of its 2000 staff had fallen sick! But the new study of 4,000 Civil Service workers in 44 offices suggests that the only cure could be through better management.

John Knights, LeaderShape, said: “Creating a good workplace isn’t just about sorting out the air conditioning! - bright and healthy working conditions will help boost morale, but it’s the overall business environment that has the biggest impact on staff. If people generally feel appreciated, satisfied and well treated at work, they are less likely to experience stress and all the health symptoms that go with it.”

Comment on this article? Please contact John Knights at LeaderShape on +44 (0)870 990 5576.

About the Author

John Knights a Co-founder and Chairman of LeaderShape Ltd. “My purpose in business is to help leaders develop leadership excellence.” He is an experienced Coach, Mentor and Facilitator of individuals (especially CEOs and Senior Managers), teams and peer groups. His business experience encompasses a broad range of senior management responsibilities in international corporate environments in the U.S.A., Europe, U.K. and Asia. To boost your leadership skills and understanding, please call: +44 (0)870 990 5576 or visit

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-10-09 11:54:20 in Employee Articles

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