Designing an Office Space that Prioritizes Your Health and Well-Being
From setting up your workstation to taking walks, there are many ways office workers can create a healthier workspace.
- By Darren Sherwood
- Jun 23, 2023
Over the years, office jobs have steadily been rising. Like most people, you probably spend around eighty percent of your workday sitting.
All those hours of sitting are really bad for your health and well-being. You can face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and early death, among other things. In addition, a poorly designed office space can reduce work productivity.
In this article, we will discuss helpful tips for designing an office space that prioritizes your health and well-being, including setting up a work-friendly space with the help of ergonomic chairs and desks.
What Office Work Can Do to Your Health
Right now, you are probably sitting down while reading this article. It’s usually ideal to sit down for a few minutes. However, your body will start getting agitated when you sit down for extended periods because it is uniquely designed to move now and then.
Sitting briefly can help you recover from work-related stress or an intense workout. Then again, the office lifestyle makes you sit much more than you move around. This sedentary lifestyle causes havoc in your body. The 360 joints and around 700 skeletal muscles are not designed for sitting all day.
Your body depends on you to move around to boost blood circulation. So, what happens when you don’t move or sit in an awkward posture for hours at a time?
Is Your Backbone Affected? The central support structure of your body is the first thing to be affected. This long support system comprises joints, ligaments, muscles, cartilage discs and bones. All these parts form your musculoskeletal system, which helps you bend, twist, walk, stand and sit.
But the way we usually sit or stand affects our backbone. Office workers typically sit in a curved back position with slumped shoulders. This common office posture exerts uneven pressure on the spine. This posture ends up causing wear and tear in joints, specific ligaments and the spinal discs. Not to mention that this posture forces your muscles to stretch to accommodate the awkward curved position.
This can lead to several issues over time, such as:
- Spinal dysfunction
- Back pain
- Rounded shoulders
- Joint degeneration
Does Lung Capacity Reduce? If you continue with the hunched shape posture, you will likely force your chest cavity to shrink while sitting. This reduces the space your lungs need to expand for sufficient air intake. You end up getting less oxygen in your lungs.
Is It Possible to Gain Weight? A sedentary office lifestyle can deactivate your lipoprotein lipase. This is a special enzyme found in the walls of your blood capillaries. It helps break down the excess fat in your blood. That means sitting for a long time prevents your body from burning fat.
What About the Brain? We usually assume that we use our brains mostly when sitting down and doing stuff on the computer. But that’s not usually the case.
As we mentioned earlier, sitting for a long time reduces blood circulation and blood flow. Similarly, less oxygen gets into your bloodstream from the lungs. Your brain needs enough blood flow and oxygen to function optimally. As a result, this may lead to poor concentration levels.
Are There Any Long-Term Effects? The ill effects of poor posture while sitting or standing at work may not be short-term. Research suggests that long hours of sitting may lead to some types of heart disease and cancers. It can also contribute to liver problems, kidney issues, and diabetes.
Designing an office space prioritizing your health and well-being should be at the top of your to-do list.
How to Design Your Office Space for Improved Work Health
Here are some strategies to help you design an office space that prioritizes your health and well-being
Set Up an Ergonomic Office Space. Your current office space may not be doing your body any favors. An ergonomic office space may help improve your health and well-being at work. You may need some of the following to pull this off.
- Ergonomic office chair
- An ergonomic office desk
- Ergonomic keyboard and mouse
- A comfortable display or monitor
- Good lighting conditions
You can choose an ergonomic chair for your office space. It should have superior lumbar support and solid back support. It should be adjustable to allow your feet to touch the floor.
Settle for an office desk of a suitable height. Your legs and feet should fit comfortably under the desk. You can raise or lower your chair if your office desk is too high or too low. Similarly, you can use a footrest or a sturdy stack of books.
Most offices use a combination of ergonomic office monitors, a keyboard and a mouse. However, you may have to be more creative when using a laptop. You can use a stand or a stack of books to raise your laptop to the appropriate height. Also, you will need an external keyboard and mouse that will allow you to position yourself on the workstation properly.
Another thing that you need to factor into your ergonomic office space setup is good lighting. Good natural lighting at the office helps prevent eye straining. This helps improve energy levels and a sense of well-being.
Use Your Workstation Properly. Having an ergonomic setup isn’t enough. How you use it also matters. Here are a few things you can do:
- Set the top of your computer display (monitor/screen) to eye level.
- Keep the display arm’s length from your eyes.
- The mouse and keyboard should be closer to you and at the same height.
- Keep all frequently used items within your arm’s reach.
- Adjust the armrests to your elbow height while the elbows are bent to 90 degrees.
- Your shoulders should be low and back, and avoid reaching forward.
- Keep your knees bent to 90 degrees.
- The feet should always be supported by the floor or a footrest.
Incorporate a Sit-Stand Desk. The initial ergonomic office space with a regular office desk is a great choice. But the office space can benefit your health and well-being more with a sit-stand desk.
This unique office desk design is a reasonable adjustment for addressing occupational health concerns like lower back pain. It allows you to switch between sitting and standing positions while working. The goal is to alternate between sitting and standing at least every twenty minutes.
Some studies have found that sit-stand desks can successfully reduce the amount of sitting time. They also have a positive effect on multiple health markers. Research also shows that sit-stand desks will not harm your work performance, computer task performance, or cognitive function.
A sit-stand desk can have several health benefits, including increased physical function and respiratory calorie fitness.
Breaks and Resistance Activities. As we discussed earlier, one of the effects of too much sitting is reduced brain function, concentration and productivity.
You must take regular breaks, stand up, leave your workstation, and do something else. The goal is to take a two-minute break every half hour during your work day. Standing up and moving your joints and skeletal muscles can help reduce stress, improve your mood by eliminating feelings of irritability, increase your concentration and boost productivity.
Intermittent breaks can help you reduce your BMI, waist circumference, blood glucose levels and harmful fats. Taking breaks at work is even more beneficial for workers with weight problems.