Is Your Office Killing You?

The work place of today is generally a safe environment for the majority of employees. Health and Safety is taken seriously and the well-being of employees is covered comprehensively by legislation making your job as safe as possible.

And yet a recent study carried out by the University of Arizona and the Baylor College of Medicine has established that your office design has a direct impact on how much you move in a working day and how high your stress levels are.

If we revisit the medical claims that a sedentary lifestyle is shortening our lives and couple this with a work space that does nothing to encourage movement then the rather dramatic title of this post begin to make sense.

The study concentrated on examining how workers moved during a typical day in three different working environments: private offices (a separate room), cubicles (desks separated by high-walled partitions) and open bench seating arrangements with workers out in the open and next to fellow employees.

Flying in the face of the current opposition to the open plan office, the study demonstrated that workers in the open bench seating set-up were 32% more physically active at work than those in private offices, and 20% more active than those in cubicles.

The research also demonstrated the link between movement at work and corresponding stress levels after work, with those who were more physically active during the day experiencing 14% less physiological stress after they left the office compared to the workers with less physical activity.

So should we be tearing down the office walls and the office partitions to get our workforce more active?

Well, not yet - the researchers concluded that the largest contributory factor to the open bench workers increased mobility was their desire to seek out private quiet spaces for breaks. The intensity of working in such an open environment with no barriers between you and your co-workers means that you are far more likely to get up and walk away from your work station than if you have the privacy and self-regulating noise levels of your own private office.

What is key to this study is how much office design impacts upon the well-being of your staff, both physically and psychologically and therefore how important it is to ensure that you have the best commercial design for your company's needs.





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