Simple Design Changes Can Boost Employee Health 3

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
liked this article
Green Building Council Australia – 300 X 250 (new ad)
walking meeting
FavoriteLoadingsave article

Stand-up desks are the single biggest trend that office design clients are asking for in my architecture and interior design practice.

People have read all the articles warning that sitting is the new smoking when it comes to health risks. As a result, there is a growing number of fully height adjustable desks and desk-attachments, like VARIDESK, to create flexible sit-stand workstations that allow workers to easily shift between sitting and standing over the course of a day.

But what if you are not ready or financially able to replace existing office furniture with standing workstations or adjustable sit-stand desks?

The great news is that there are some really simple strategies we can use when designing a new or renovated office to encourage standing and movement – all without completely blowing the budget.

1. Think about stand-up work zones

Instead of individual standing workstations or adjustable sit-stand desks, consider installing a shared standing desk that can be used for short periods of time. Generally, it is recommended that people adopt a mix of sitting and standing throughout the workday so this is a good way to provide flexibility.

Important considerations: Will your data infrastructure cope with this approach? Do your team members use desktop computers or portable laptops? Can phones be redirected easily if people are working at locations away from their usual desk? Is there ample space for people to layout documents as required?

2. Meet up and stand up

If your office has multiple meeting rooms or breakout spaces, can some of these be dedicated standing rooms? By encouraging people to hold short meetings (say under 30 minutes) in standing rooms rather than around a table, you can increase productivity and provide an opportunity for the health benefits of standing up to be experienced.

Important considerations: Will people need to use laptops in meetings? If they will need to take notes, whether digitally or handwritten, what surfaces are available for them to comfortably and safely work on?

3. Portable standing desks

If your staff uses laptop computers, you could consider having a shared supply of some of the portable standing desks that are emerging on the market. Portable standing desks are a convenient option also if your employees regularly work off-site, for example at client locations, or travel, so you can continue to provide an ergonomically optimal work environment even in locations away from the office.

Important considerations: How long will it take to set up a workstation with a portable standing desk? Is the set-up time too long for short or variable stints of standing up work periods? Will people share the portable standing desks effectively or will they end up being monopolised by a select few?

4. Walk and talk

Does your work environment require long periods of time on the phone for some people? If so, you could supply them with wireless headsets and encourage the practice of standing up to take and make phone calls. This simple change can increase periods of standing without having to invest in all new infrastructure. Some headsets have a considerable range so team members can also walk around the office while speaking if they are not required to make notes at the same time.

Important considerations: Think about the nature of the phone calls employees are making and whether they need to access computers at the same time or make physical notes. Also, if they walk around while talking, will they disturb other team members?

Encouraging standing in the workplace is an important step that can help employee health. However, standing all day is not for everyone and the infrastructure changes required to provide everyone with standing desks can be prohibitive for many businesses. Engaging an experienced office design consultant can help you to come up with creative solutions for your business to create opportunities for movement and practical, cost effective changes to allow staff the freedom to choose different working styles.

FavoriteLoadingsave article


 characters available
*Please refer to our comment policy before submitting
  1. Paul

    Great stuff. I hope this'll be considered in our office. Not only that it boosts health, it saves space thereby creating a good sense of mental relaxation and might save money too.

  2. Barry

    Great insights – simple changes that if implemented en masses in workplaces throughout Australia could significantly reduce the economic burden of healthcare costs.

  3. Tim Massie

    As someone who suffers from scoliosis, I am somewhat hesitant to embrace the idea of stand-up only meetings as standing for too long gives me a sore back. In planning for offices, before embracing this technology, it is important to take into consideration that there would be people who for varying reasons need to sit.

    Also, being a very tall person, I would find it awkward to participate in meetings of any length with those who are not so tall and thus have to look up in order to speak to me (and me looking down to have to speak to them). Meetings which are sit down in nature at least put all participants on an even level and scale.

    That said, sitting down can result in lack of attention and reduced concentration and thus can impede meeting productivity, and standing up would encourage meetings to be short.

    For these reasons, there are pros and cons, but I would not rush headlong into the stand up meeting without thinking of the consequences.