Open Plan Offices Better for Health
A US study has found that people who work in open plan offices do more physical activity during the day, and are less stressed at work and at home.
The study looked at the link between office environments and set-up, and workplace-related stress and levels of exercise.
The study, the results of which have been published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was carried out by researchers from the University of Arizona, the US General Services administration and Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
The researchers looked at office workers in government buildings in the US who worked in a range of different environments and set-ups. Their workstations were grouped into three categories: private offices; cubicles (with high-walled partitions); and open bench seating (with no or low partitions between desks).
There were 231 government employees involved, in four office buildings. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire on a smartphone that asked about their mood at regular intervals. They wore heart and physical activity monitors for three days and two nights.
The results showed that workers in an open bench (open plan) set up were 31.8% more physically active at work than those who worked in private offices; and 20.2% more active than those who worked in cubicles.
In relation to stress, people who worked in an open plan office perceived themselves to have less stress during office hours then people who worked in cubicles – an average of 9.1% lower. The results from the heart sensors also indicated that they were less stressed outside of the office as well.
Impact on health
The research suggests that office design could have a role in health promotion.
One suggestion from the researchers on why people are more physically active when they are in open plan offices is that such offices tend to have places where workers have to go in order to attend meetings, have one-to-one chats or to make phone calls, and so they have to move around more.
Esther Sternberg, Director of the University of Arizona Institute on Place and Wellbeing said: “In terms of impact on health, this increase in physical activity is important. It is well within the range that would have an impact health.
“If we can figure out how to design offices to allow people to be more active, that will result in better health and lower stress.”
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