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Is Your Office Missing Out on Active Design?

Associations Now February 9, 2017


Incorporate these five design changes in your office to get staff members moving more and making better nutrition decisions.

By Emily Bratcher


How much do you move at the office?

Do you shrug off your coat, fill your mug with your favorite Keurig flavor, and plop down in your plush swivel chair for eight hours of computer work, getting up only to take trips to the restroom, the conference room for meetings, and the kitchen for lunch and coffee refills?

Or are you the type that bikes to work, hits the gym at lunch, schedules walking meetings, and bounces on a stability ball when at your desk? Or are you like me and make dramatic shifts between exercise and motionlessness, depending on how much sleep the kids allowed the night before?

No matter which description fits your behavior, one thing is true: Your movement patterns at home will likely mirror your movement patterns at work. This means that even if your association has an amazing workplace wellness program, a state-of-the-art gym, and the C-suite leading by example, many staff members will simply not take advantage of it.

“People that come from a sedentary lifestyle are just simply more likely to keep that sedentary lifestyle in the workplace,” said Jonathan Webb, VP of Workplace Strategies at KI, a furniture solutions company.

But what if you could get staff members moving more and making better health decisions subconsciously? That's the idea behind active design, which Webb defines as “pragmatic strategies that allow us to design a workplace that inherently promotes movement throughout the day.”

Here are a few long- and short-term strategies associations can incorporate:

Make them walk for it.  Webb suggested associations create walking paths around their offices, which encourage movement, but if space or resources curb this idea, consider stealing employees' individual trashcans. Swap them with larger receptacles in various areas throughout the office. This will coax them to get up and walk when they want to toss or recycle something.

Encourage stair climbing.  According to Webb, designers are now making the staircase the focal of new offices, even incorporating seating areas halfway up that are “intently designed so people will be more apt to use them.” But even if you can't afford to redesign your office now, consider posting a friendly reminder like this near the elevators: “You'll burn X amount of calories by taking the stairs.”

Exploit your daylight.  If you can, tear down those tall cubicle walls and let the light from your office's windows flood into your employees' workspaces, which will not only reduce the association's need for artificial light but also help regulate circadian rhythms of your staff and boost their productivity. A quick fix for democratizing the natural light is to create a common area in the office that all staff can benefit from.

Create different workstations.  Similar to a college campus where students are walking to and from classes and studying in the cafeteria, common rooms, the library, and more, Webb thinks that offices should offer a variety of workstations or communal areas that employees can use. [For some association-specific examples of these type of office spaces, check out “Moving In, Moving Up” in the latest issue of Associations Now.]

Fund healthy snacks.  Give your employees a visual of healthy snacks, by getting a glass door refrigerator and stocking it with fruits and veggies that are visible from the outside, Webb said. But if a new fridge isn't in the budget, keep it low cost by purchasing a few new glass bowls and colanders that you can pile high with healthy choices.

How's the movement in your office? What do you think about active design? 

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