How the layout of your office could be affecting your health

Posted by
Moya Crockett
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It all comes down to how much you move.

Given that we spend much of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that many scientists and psychologists have dedicated their careers to finding out how to make work a more positive and healthier experience. In recent months, studies have appeared that investigate the dangers of overtime, pinpoint why you might dislike the ‘nice person’ in the office, and explore the unexpected side effects of receiving a rude work email. Knowledge is power – and the more we know about how we’re affected by our work environment, the more we can try to improve it.

Now, new research has highlighted how the layout of an office can influence workers’ health. According to the study, published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, people who work in open-plan offices tend to be significantly less stressed and more active than those who work in cubicles or have their own private office.

Interestingly, the benefits of working in an open-plan office continued even after the employees had left work for the day. The researchers found that workers in open-plan offices were 32% more active during the working day than those in private offices, and 20% more active than those in cubicles.

Workers who were more physically active in the office in turn had 14% less physiological stress outside of the office, compared to those who were more sedentary at work. 

The study was led by Dr Esther Sternberg of the University of Arizona’s Institute on Place, Wellbeing and Performance. “This research highlights how office design, driven by office workstation type, could be an important health promoting factor,” she said.

This doesn’t necessarily prove once and for all that open-plan offices are better than those with cubicles or private workspaces. Previous research has shown that open-plan spaces are much more distracting than private offices – something that can lead to increased environmental stress, and reduce workers’ ability to collaborate. 

Another study published earlier this year found that open-plan offices are associated with lower productivity and employees’ job satisfaction.

Regardless of the kind of office you work in, it’s clear that it’s important to keep active during the day for your own health and happiness. For three simple ways to combat the health risks of sitting at a desk all day, click here

Images: Getty Images