Why Wellness Should be Key to Shaping Workplace Design

About a month ago, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a new science advisory  that states that “greater time spent in sedentary behavior is associated with all-cause and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in adults.”

The advisory, available here, shows that in the US “adults spend an average of 6 to 8 hours per day sitting, thus, sedentary behavior is highly prevalent.” Furthermore, the advisory also found that TV viewing and the workplace were the top two settings most associated with sedentary behavior, which has increased in recent years.

“Data from economic, occupational, and time use surveys suggest that sedentary behavior has increased at the population level from the 1960s. Sedentary occupations constituted ≈15% of the total US jobs in 1960, increasing to >20% by 2008. Ng and Popkin, using time use data, reported that average sedentary time increased from 26 hours per week in 1965 to 38 hours in 2009 in the United States and from 30 hours per week in 1960 to 42 hours per week in 2005 in the United Kingdom.”

Wellness has been at the front and center of workplace design this year, and Allwork.Space has also made September its Wellness themed month — and for good reason. To some extent the built environment (the workplace) can play a role in promoting sedentary behavior and discouraging health enhancing behaviors. For this reason, it’s important for workspace operators and companies alike to consider wellness and how it can play into their overall workplace layout and design.

Wellness isn’t reduced to physical activity–though physical activity can have an incidence in preventing heart conditions, diabetes mellitus morbidity, and CVD. It’s important to remember that wellness is also about mental health and overall wellbeing. “A number of cross-sectional studies have shown higher sedentary time to be inversely associated with psychological well-being and health-related quality of live and positively associated with depressive symptoms.”

Shaping Workplace Design  With a Wellness Focus

The AHA advisory claims that 3 hours of uninterrupted sitting reduces vascular function, but that, however, 5-minute bouts of light walking at regular intervals could prevent this decline. And although there’s no consensus yet on how much sedentary behavior is too much, there is sufficient evidence to show that physical activity–even light movement–can improve a person’s quality of life.

When it comes to the workplace, it’s important to create an environment that’s activity inducing and that encourages workers to sit less and move more.

Some workplace-based interventions that are seeking to discourage sedentary behavior include activity permissive workstations, like standing desks, treadmill desks, and pedalling desks; as well as the use of technology and smartphones to remind people to keep moving. These are small changes that can have a positive effect on individuals.

“In a meta-analysis of 8 interventions using activity-permissive workstations, Neuhaus et al reported a mean difference in intervention and control groups of 77 minutes per 8-hour workday, which suggests that installation of such workstations can lead to substantial reductions in sedentary time.”

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Some flexible workspaces are already adopting workplace design trends that focus on wellness. workFlow coworking encourages meditation and yoga breaks during the break day, Huckletree’s location in Shoreditch is located in a building that has a built-in cycling ramp, and many operators are now offering standing desks as one of their workstation options. Just remember, as long as your staff and members are moving, you’re headed in the right direction.