The Fit Office Transforming Desk Jobs into Dynamic Workspaces

The Fit Office Transforming Desk Jobs into Dynamic Workspaces

Transforming traditional sedentary office environments into dynamic workspaces can significantly enhance employee health and productivity through fitness-focused design and ergonomic furniture.

Insufficient physical activity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, as reported by the World Health Organization. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity and many more conditions. In the US, around 36 percent of adults do not take part in any leisure-time physical activity and over 80 percent of jobs are predominantly sedentary. There is a critical need for effective workplace physical activity strategies. Turning sedentary offices into fit, dynamic ones is not just a way to boost employee productivity and create a vibrant culture. It is a vital way of saving lives and keeping staff healthy and happy.

Prioritizing Fitness Design

Simply providing workers with information on the need for physical activity is insufficient if they are spending long days at the office and have few opportunities for movement and exercise. A dynamic workspace therefore begins with optimal design. Currently, architects and designers are facilitating healthier environments in corporate workspaces with new features such as in-office gyms and outdoor green spaces for yoga and other holistic practices. They are also knocking down opaque walls and replacing them with glass walls that enable floods of natural light to make their way into all corners of offices. They are also strategically placing rooms such as kitchens and items such as trash cans in places that require staff to walk.

Training Spaces

Investing in training spaces, where staff can receive dedicated fitness advice from professionals, can go a long way toward battling the effects of sedentarism. It is also a wise way to reduce injuries and ensuing sick leave and absences. Fitness is particularly vital for contractors and those working on building sites or carrying out manual labor, since research shows that these employees are at a greater risk of physical injury than other workers. Think about the everyday movements made by contractors. These include frequent bending, lifting heavy items and engaging in repetitive motions. Bespoke training that focuses on technique, the strengthening of key muscle groups and posture can help reduce injury rates.

Embracing Ergonomic Furniture

Employees can benefit from using sit-standing desks and alternating frequently between sitting and standing positions. Research has found that these desks help improve stress, well-being, vigor and pain in the lower extremities. Sitting for many hours straight is linked to a slower metabolism and a reduced ability to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar and to break down body fats. Other types of equipment that can help battle sedentarism include treadmill desks (which allow workers to walk while working), balancing boards (to enhance core strength, balance and posture), under-desk ellipticals (to strengthen leg muscles and promote circulation) and adjustable dumbbells (for use during breaks). The provision of equipment is simply one step of the puzzle, of course. Employers can help by scheduling fitness breaks, during which employees are encouraged to take part in circuit training workouts or go for a brief walk or run.

Case Studies

The extent to which optimal design can boost fitness can be gleaned through successful case studies such as that found in a Bangkok office designed by the architectural firm Onion. The office is accented with built-in fitness equipment throughout, including ceiling-hung monkey bars, a mini-boxing gym space and gymnastic loops to boost balance. The company Roche Diagnostics, meanwhile, has converted a small space into an office gym, installing a 10-meter-long ceiling steel grid with TRX straps, boxing bags and more. This grid offers workers the chance to build muscle and strength. Yet another case study has seen an office in Milan fitted with a green courtyard infill, atrium and roof terrace, which invites employees to walk, breathe fresh air and take a mental health break. Studies have shown that simply being in a green space for as little as 10 or 20 minutes a day can significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Having chronically high levels of this hormone is linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Employers have a big role to play in ensuring workers are fit. Considering the fact that office jobs force employees to sit for hours on end, workers should be provided with dedicated spaces for exercise. They should also be given equipment that will help them alternate between sitting and standing positions and be given the opportunity to head outside for a breather.

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