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4 Pieces of Office Furniture to Improve Health and Wellness

Posted on Oct 31, 2016, by Mike Brown

With the average office worker spending more than five and a half hours sitting at their desks each day, it’s no surprise that it’s affecting our health. Research shows that an extremely sedentary lifestyle can lead to serious health problems, such as obesity and heart disease.

To that end, there’s a growing demand for designers to create office spaces and specify office furniture that will help to improve their clients’ health and wellness. Today I’m sharing 4 pieces of office furniture that offer myriad health benefits, to inspire your next project with a health-conscious client.

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Featured image: ACL Services, Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN. Design firm: SSDG.

1) Exercise Balls

Some organizations are keen to keep their employees sitting down (because that’s perceived to be the posture in which they can do their most productive work). Therefore, furniture designers are increasingly coming up with seating options that require ‘active sitting’ – such as exercise balls in chairs.

By sitting on an unstable base, workers will be forced to engage their core muscles in order to maintain their balance. They will also be more likely to move around and change their position during the day, activating different muscles each time they move.

However, replacing a regular desk chair with an exercise ball doesn’t reduce the amount of time workers spend sitting down. Furthermore, an exercise ball doesn’t offer the same level of back support as an ergonomic desk chair does, and in people prone to back problems, could actually result in increased back pain.

2) Balance Board

Much like an exercise ball requires ‘active sitting’, a balance board requires the user to engage in ‘active standing’. However, if your clients are concerned about a loss of productivity when introducing elements of standing working, specifying a balance board at every desk is probably a step too far – the employee will have to focus on staying balanced, taking their attention away from their work.

However, one or two in the office breakout area might appeal, offering a change in posture and incorporating additional movement into informal meetings, or brainstorming sessions.

3) Treadmill Desk

On paper, a treadmill desk seems like the perfect solution to the sitting epidemic. The idea is that employees walk at a slow speed on the treadmill while they carry out simple tasks that won’t be affected by movement – such as phone calls or reading emails.

But while a treadmill desk will help to get your clients’ employees to be more active, there are several trade-offs to consider.

A treadmill will greatly increase the amount of space required for each desk, and employees won’t be able to do all of their daily work on the treadmill, meaning that at some point they’ll need access to a standard, seated desk. Additionally, a treadmill generates quite a lot of noise, which will distract other workers, particularly if your clients have an open-plan office. So though it can be a great option for employees looking to be as active as possible, it isn’t without its downsides.

4) Sit-to-Stand Desk

A sit-to-stand desk is another option for your clients who want to encourage their employees to spend less time sitting down at work. Adjustable-height desks allow workers to move between sitting and standing at various times throughout the day.

It’s the transition between postures that’s most important as it increases movement levels throughout the day, which offers significant health and wellness benefits. A whole day standing is just as bad for you as a whole day sitting down – in both postures you’re inactive.

But having the freedom to alter your posture throughout the day, changing from sitting to standing as you like, means that employees will have fewer aches and pains from spending too long in one position. Additionally, varying their posture throughout the day can provide an unexpected productivity boost.

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Mike Brown

Written by Mike Brown