Europe-PH News

Healthy Employee, Happy Employee: How the Right Workspace Layout Can Lessen Health Risks

June 28, 2024

ECCP Online

Europe-PH News

The average office space at its core has not changed much in terms of function -employees need desks and chairs to work on, meeting rooms, accessible bathrooms, etc. We have made strides to transition away from traditional office layouts such as isolating cubicles and dull office colors into open concepts, natural lighting, and more greenery, yet certain things have not changed. We are still (figuratively) chained to our computers throughout 8-hour workdays, which has been emphasized to pose large risks to employees’ health. Find out how businesses have been evolving to help curb this issue.

The Correlation Between Sedentary Lifestyle and Work

A sedentary lifestyle is defined as spending six hours or more sitting or lying down with a general lack of physical activity. It is considered unhealthy and attached to a number of health risks including but not limited to: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and even mental health issues. Yet sitting for more than six hours tends to be unavoidable in most white-collar jobs due to workload as well as office setup. De Cocker, et al (2015) refer to this as “occupational sitting.”

We can see the irony of being stressed from work yet becoming unhealthy due to lack of activity. However, it is undeniable. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first report on physical inactivity in 2022, Filipino youth were ranked the second most physically inactive globally based on findings all the way back in 2019. The adults weren’t all that far behind either given a staggering 68 percent of deaths in the Philippines were caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which often result from a sedentary lifestyle. Yes, even before the pandemic. We can safely assume the pandemic restrictions did little to help.

Source: WHO’s Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022 (p.8).

The average adult needs 150-300 minutes of physical activity a week to stay healthy. These youth will eventually join the workforce and whatever prevalent systems and cultures are in place at our offices will be reinforced in them. Hence, it’s important for those in management to consider what can be done to encourage physical activity in their employees throughout the workday. Employees are the lifeblood of a company, after all.

Source: WHO’s Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022 (pp.2-3).


A Designer’s Perspective

One of Trends and Concepts’ senior designers, EMP, shares his insights and process when working on an average project. “Generally, the way we design our floorplans is more of… how one location interacts with another area… having that flow,” he says. “We identify kung saan ba talaga lahat ng tao pupunta (where exactly all the people go). Where are the opportunities for collaboration?” Indeed, while some people still work from home, those of us who return to office often can’t help but miss the freedom to roam around or sit aside from a desk while we work. “After the pandemic, people are more willing to not be shackled by their tables,” the designer explains. “Some (companies) now… they don’t even have individual offices for a specific department. Literal open space.”

An open concept office space designed by Trends and Concepts.

Another common issue with a sedentary lifestyle is backpain. This can be attributed to poor posture, especially after huddling over screens for hours and hours or, the material and make of your chair. “If you were working for 8 hours straight, you would need a chair that’s able to provide you the comfort without making you too sleepy,” explains EMP. He highlights comfort and utility when choosing office furniture. “Majority of our chairs are ergonomic so, it’s more of a definition of style,” he adds. “If it’s just for a general office, usually the mid-back chairs will be enough.”

A 2023 study identified three (3) factors that encouraged physical activity among work-from-home, hybrid, and onsite office workers: office layout, social environment, and taking breaks (Jenkins, et al). This means having a workspace with pleasant surroundings and work amenities (i.e. kitchen and pantry, bathrooms, hangout areas) that are far enough for physical exercise, but close enough to be accessible. Combined with company initiatives to promote health (e.g. fun runs, healthy snacks, and stretching breaks, etc.), businesses can build healthy habits in their employees that would help them proactively overcome the typical pitfalls of a sedentary job.

An open concept office space with nearby office amenities designed by Trends and Concepts.


In Summary

Working a white-collar job often means you can’t help but sit down to work, which makes it hard to perform the recommended levels of physical activity. This occupational sitting can often lead to a sedentary lifestyle rife with health risks. An office layout conducive to physical activity together with company health programs can help to curb these risks.

If you are a member of your company’s management, we recommend you take the time to consider these when designing or renovating your workspaces. It is important to view such initiatives as investments rather than costs as the return in employee performance and retention are often well-worth it when done correctly. Remember that culture and environment are huge factors in affecting our behaviors, which we often take for granted. Plan for your workplace of tomorrow today!

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