The typical office environment has many electrical devices including printers, computers, fluorescent lights, cell phones, Wi-Fi, microwaves and televisions. These devices have an invisible field of energy surrounding them, known as an electromagnetic field (EMF). Some sources say this field can affect and interfere with human electrical and biochemical processes, from heart and brain function to nervous system and digestive functions, which can cause or contribute to illness. There is research that supports the practice of earthing, also known as grounding, as a potential way to reduce the effects of exposure to these electromagnetic fields.
Earthing, or grounding, in its most simplistic sense represents a method of having a system to guide potentially dangerous amounts of electricity to a safe source, such as the earth. The idea behind grounding is that electrical charges build up in human bodies with no release because people exist in environments with many electronic devices at home and in the office. Most people wear shoes constantly, walk on covered floors and never come into contact with the earth or a grounding source, so this keeps the electrical charges trapped within their bodies, causing internal inflammation and a variety of other health issues.
Potential Health Benefits
In an office environment, low employee productivity, absenteeism and illness are real costs and can measurably impact a company's success. When employees feel better, they work better and more productively. Providing outdoor break areas and educating employees on the health benefits of grounding may help them experience stress relief, better sleep, reduced pain, faster healing and less bodily inflammation.
Medical studies have cited the benefits of grounding. For example, one study in "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" showed that grounding one's body to the earth while sleeping offers benefits such as reduced cortisol, improved sleep, and reduced pain and stress.
Another study, published in "The Journal of Inflammation Research," states that grounding reduces or prevents the symptoms of inflammation, including swelling, heated skin, redness, pain and loss of function. One of the easiest ways to take advantage of earthing and gain these benefits is by kicking your shoes off and walking on a sandy beach or grassy area, or working with dirt in the garden.
Risks of Grounding
While earthing proponents recommend taking off your rubber-soled shoes to ground your body, other sources say going barefoot and avoiding rubber mats actually exposes you to the possibility of dangerous electric shock. For anyone working in an environment with a lot of ungrounded, unshielded electricity, grounding yourself could prove risky since your body would be the shortest path for electrical fields looking for a path back to the ground. If you happen to accidentally come into contact with a live wire, you'll become part of the electrical circuit, running the risk of being shocked.
The Concept in Action
One form of grounding that is already in use in the workplace is for employees working with electronics, though this form doesn't include walking barefoot outside. Grounding prevents these employees from picking up static electricity generated from walking in carpeted office environments, which could damage delicate electrical components. These employees use products such as anti-static wrist straps to prevent an accidental transfer of static electricity, known as electrostatic discharge, to sensitive electrical equipment like computers.