Cornell University Ergonomics Web


Alan Hedge

Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, NYS College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, MVR Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401, U.S.A.


The office is rapidly becoming the workplace of the majority of workers. Research is reviewed which shows that a variety of factors in this apparently comfortable working environment may adversely affect the health and productivity of the modern office worker. This review covers studies of the health effects of office lighting, especially the effects of fluorescent lighting. It also covers studies of indoor air quality in offices, especially investigations of the sick building syndrome. Problems associated with office technology, particularly VDTs, are mentioned but research on these is not extensively reviewed. Previous models of office evaluation research are briefly described and, based on these and other empirical studies, a systems model of office environments is presented which encompasses the complex, multi-factorial nature of environmental influences on office workers` health. This model describes offices as three interlocked subsystems: environment, building, and work. Worker's health may, in certain circumstances, be directly affected by any or all of these subsystems. However, it is argued that the adverse effects of office environments more typically are manifested indirectly via mediating cognitive processes which influence levels of stress and decisions about individual well-being.