Workspace Design that Can Help Fight Obesity

There’s no doubt the workplace is evolving; walls are coming down, green is coming in, and furniture is tackling comfort, aesthetics, and practicality. All for the sake of creating an environment that is more human. Think of it as the UX of interior design.

Indeed, there’s been increased awareness on how our environments (indoor and outdoor) can greatly influence our overall wellbeing–our mood, our health, even our habits. Needless to say, the better a person feels, the better he or she will perform in work and personal matters.

One particular issue that many have been trying to address with workplace design is how to increase physical activity. Most workers spend a significant chunk of their day sitting down and indoors; hunching over their computers, slouching on chairs (I’m doing both of these as I write). It’s no wonder back pains are among the top complaints of workers. But, that’s not the worst of it–the worst of it is that it’s an exceedingly inactive lifestyle.

There’s a program (WELL Building Standard) that’s seeking to change the truth of this matter and fight the growing rates of obesity. In an interview for Workplaces Magazine, Paul Scialla, founder of the International WELL Building Institute, commented how, “Several features of the WELL Building Standard in particular can help contribute to lower obesity rates.” Among these features, Scialla mentions how workspaces should incorporate active workstations and standing desks, as well as providing healthy snacks to workers.

Emphasizing the amount of time that people spend in the workplace, he believes that promoting healthy practices in the workspace helps individuals develop healthy habits that will “become a natural behavior outside of the workplace.” The standard doesn’t only promote a more active lifestyle, but it also addresses other health and wellness factors like nutrition, fitness, mood, and sleep patterns.

While not all flexible workspace operators are eligible for the WELL Building Standard as they’re not located within certified buildings, they can get some inspiration to improve their workspace’s UX and their members’ wellbeing by taking a look at the seven concepts on which the WELL Standard is based on:

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Air: Optimize indoor air quality by removing airborne contaminants and by purifying air (filters, AC systems, etc).

Water: Improve water filtration treatment and systems, and placing water sources in strategic places that will encourage members to stay hydrated.

Nourishment: Provide healthy snacks and nutritional information so that members are conscious about what they’re eating and their food choices.

Light: The WELL website states that proper light can minimize disruption to the body’s circadian rhythm. Include windows that allow for natural light to come in, LED light bulbs that don’t overheat, find the proper illumination requirements for each area of your space.

Fitness: Implement design techniques that encourage physical activity and constant movement (like stairs or reminders on the walls for people to take a break and move around). You can also include standing or fitness desks.

Comfort: Find ways in which to reduce noise levels, make sure you can control the indoor temperature, and decorate with colors and artifacts that aren’t distracting or that clash with the rest of the space.

Mind: Encourage communication and make sure your members have a space where they can sit down, relax, and take a break from their tasks at hand.

Though workplace design alone cannot help cure obesity, it can be a first stepping stone to help people lead healthier and more wholesome lives. We’re creatures of habit, and developing healthy habits where we spend most of our time is a great way to make sure these habits are followed-through at all times, regardless of where we are.

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