After 30 years of concern, is it possible that sick building syndrome doesn't exist? That's the question raised by researchers at University College London, who just completed a study of more than 4,000 workers in 44 British workplaces.
The study, which was published in a recent issue of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, concluded that SBS-like symptoms presented by workers--which can range from fatigue and rashes to acute respiratory ailments--were more directly linked to psychosocial factors such as feeling overloaded with work and unsupported by colleagues. Environmental factors such as high levels of airborne bacteria, inhaled dust, and relative humidity do correlate to greater instances of employee illness, researchers found, but not as much as job stress and bad managers do.
The study's authors found that fewer symptoms were reported when employers gave their workers greater autonomy on the job, as well as more direct control over temperature, airflow, and lighting. "If you want to create a successful workplace, you can't do it simply by ensuring that there are no hazardous levels of contaminants," says Cornell University's Alan Hedge, who has studied workplace maladies.
"SBS is a completely fictitious term," he adds. "You have to focus on issues that relate to the stress and satisfaction of your employees."