From sit-stand desks, design of staircases and office flow, the pressure is on for design agencies to nudge the workforce toward movement during the working day. Wellbeing continues as a hot topic for office design and build. Company wellness programmes that offer employees health and fitness facilities – especially in commuter cities, have been around for some time, but with the skills shortfall increasing, companies need to do all they can to attract that perfect employee. Workplaces that incorporate wellbeing into their design are not easy to find.
Although sit-stand desks have been around for a few years already, the volume of production has hit its steepest upward curve in 2016. However, only a small percentage of the workforce has access to sit-stand. Although research is inconclusive, the benefits of such desks may be more myth than reality. Researchers say that studies mostly did not deliver the four hours a day spent vertical that experts recommend we all achieve, reducing sitting on average by just 30 minutes a day.
Standing desks were also not found to aid weight loss in the way they initially hoped to do. It was concluded that if half of an 8-hour working day was spent standing, an additional 20 calories was burnt above those used on an 8-hour sitting day.
That said, sitting is hotly considered to be the new smoking! Blamed for increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes and obesity, our increasing obsession with mobile apps and email mean we don’t even have to get up to speak to a colleague any more. Health guidelines suggest we partake in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. With 8+ hours a day stationary at our desks, the gap between the ideal to which we should aspire and the reality are growing.
It is alleged that Google and Microsoft have recently invested in treadmill desks- modified treadmills that attach to work surfaces. Set at 1.5km an hour (almost stationary), the manufacturers claim users will burn 2.6 calories per minute. I’m not sure that UK workspaces are quite ready for the innovation of our American cousins in this regard!
On a positive, note, although often the improvements that sit-stand desks can make to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort such as back, neck or shoulder pain are seen as a positive bi-product of sit-stand reducing risk, as increasing volumes of sickness days come from the result of a career sat hunched 8-hours a day over a computer screen proving too much for the body, perhaps an increasing number of employers will begin to offer these desks. Other studies have also reported that sit-stand desks release stress, and of course, increase productivity.
Maybe we should all try.