Staff wellbeing continues to be a hot topic and a major consideration for office design. Employers are continuously looking for new ways to improve the overall health and wellbeing of staff to, of course, get the best from them.
What is considered the newest issue for our health? Sitting!
Sitting is considered the new smoking for causing heart disease and cancers.* To combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle some offices adopted the sit-stand desks. Although they have been around for a while, in some fashion or another, the upward trend really began in 2016.
You may be familiar with these, or even know someone who uses one. The research suggested that sitting for long periods of time can damage your health, even if you get plenty of exercises when you’re not sitting.
Myth or Reality?
Now research into standing desks remain inconclusive, so are they really what they originally promised. In a word: no.
It was recommended to aim for 4 hours standing during the workday. In reality, the average time standing was only 30 minutes.
Initially, it was thought that standing would burn more calories per hour than sitting. But more recent studies have indicated it is only 20 more calories in an 8 -hour day than sitting. Not quite the breakthrough to tackle obesity than originally thought.
Although we should mention the benefits do include improvements to musculoskeletal issues caused by sitting for prolonged periods.
The Challenge in Modern Office Design
One thing that is clear and agreed upon by health experts: Taking frequent walking breaks, even short ones while at work, can lead to better health and help you live longer. People who were more active at work have demonstrated lower levels of stress outside of the office.
With time in the office increasing and technological advancements meaning that we don’t even need to get up to speak to other people is making it harder and harder to get 30 minutes in 5 days a week. We all know that we should be a little more active, but fads (like standing desks) come and go before it returns to how it was before and what feels more natural.
Esther Sternberg, the study author and professor at University of Arizona College of Medicine, said:
“We all know we should be increasing our activity but no matter how we try to encourage people to engage in healthy behaviour, it doesn’t work for long.
“So changing office design to encourage healthy behaviour is a passive way of getting people to be more active.”
For office designers, it presents the challenge of creating an office flow that encourages more movement, interaction and less desk time!
Although people may prefer to have a private office or cubicle, employees in open-plan offices got 12% more activity than people in cubicles or offices. This may be due to the need to walk away for private conversations, or impromptu engagement with other staff.
Open-plan offices are proving to be the better option for creating more activity, we can’t forget the design features could also affect activity levels – such as how people circulate in their offices, where meeting spaces are located and how accessible stairs and lifts are.
To promote health and wellbeing and get the most from your employees, get in touch with one of the experts.
Or have a look at our 5 factors for creating a productive work environment.