Health insurance is on the mind of every employer. With insurers lowering premiums for companies that promote employee fitness, we’ve said goodbye to the “Mad Men” days of workplace cigarettes and whisky, and hello to employer-sponsored FitBits, gym memberships, corporate team sports and adventure retreats. But not everyone can fit a daily workout into the time demands of work and family. Can employers do more?
Advocates of “active office” design say yes, absolutely. By incorporating design elements like interconnecting stairs, indoor/outdoor circulation paths, and strategically-placed activity areas, businesses can get their employees moving around without pulling time out of their schedules.
Designing an active office from the ground up, however, may not be practical for every business. Nevertheless there are ways to shift from traditional design to active design just by changing your existing office layout. Milliken recommends separating heads-down work areas from break facilities, and making conference areas a destination. Researchers found that increasing distance from team members beyond 80 feet reduces collaboration, unless there’s a clear line of sight; if collaborators can see each other, they will walk to speak to other team members. Expert Emily Cooper recommends simple tricks like talking to co-workers instead of emailing, or installing an old-fashioned wall phone so people stand to converse.
Your choice of furnishings will also enhance activity. Height-adjustable workstations burn more than 450 extra calories per week, according to a University of Iowa study. Adaptive furnishings, like these reconfigurable workstations from Swiftspace, let you rearrange focal areas to promote activity; for example, you can reconfigure distant workstations into a conference area so meeting participants walk a maximum distance. Once the meeting is over, the conference furnishings become workstations once again, or they are stored compactly until they’re needed for another purpose.
Health experts say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Active office design is a smart business strategy. Talk to a design consultant about the ways you can move toward an active office.
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