Today’s office is getting increasingly more comfortable, but could that be a bad thing? Look around most workplaces across the world and you’ll find countless chairs, sofas, stools and other relaxing seating areas. Harmless, right? Not exactly.
Sitting for long stretches of time daily has potential dangers. For example, the average American sits 13 hours a day and sleeps 8 hours—that’s a total of 21 hours of being sedentary, making it a serious cause for concern. It’s especially concerning for employees whose heavy workloads essentially tether them to desks.
Various studies find that being sedentary for extended intervals (more than 6 hours a day) could increase risks for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and could possibly shorten a person’s lifespan. Even for individuals who lead active lifestyles, activity alone isn’t enough to offset the alarming risks of excessive sitting.
“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena said in a release. “There are many important factors we don’t understand about sedentary time yet. The types of studies available identify trends but don’t prove cause and effect. We don’t have information about how much sedentary behavior is bad for health—the best advice at this time is to ‘sit less and move more.’”
“Research shows the strong connection between movement and learning. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain which stimulates cognitive functions such as memory recall and problem-solving abilities.”
Basically, research indicates that there’s a link between the amount of time spent sitting, disease and premature death. In fact, some researchers believe that sedentary behavior is comparable to the hazards of cigarette smoking, thus the rise of the cautionary saying, “sitting is the new smoking.”
"Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more
treacherous than parachuting, James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo
Clinic, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We are sitting ourselves to death.
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting.”
If that startling information makes you stand up and take notice, good. So, what’s the
Companies that want to attract and retain top talent must find ways to keep employees
satisfied and healthy. Health setbacks stemming from sitting too much can lead to increased sick days and impaired on-the-job performance. Overall, if employees aren’t well, it can have a negative impact on a company’s production and bottom line. To support and maintain a happy, efficient and healthy work environment—and to maintain a competitive edge in the market—businesses and developers need to design spaces that encourage employees to get up and start moving.
From promoting walking meetings to offering stand-sit desks to installing ping-pong tables, landlord and occupiers need to implement structures and practices that are conducive to a more active workplace. Many developers and employers are catching on to the growing active workplace trend. Based on CBRE’s 2017 Asia Pacific Occupier research, around 30 percent of occupiers surveyed currently run wellness programs, while a further 30 percent indicated a strong desire to introduce one soon. An increasing number of employers are also offering on-site yoga, aerobic and cycling classes, strength-training and more, often within corporate fitness facilities, unused conference rooms and other large indoor and outdoor spaces. Incentives like these that counter the ill effects of sedentary work encourage employees to get up and move throughout the day.
“The point we try to drive is that it’s about creating a balance,” says Damla Gerhart, senior managing director at CBRE Workplace. “Research shows the strong connection between movement and learning. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain which stimulates cognitive functions such as memory recall and problem-solving abilities. In addition, studies have shown how physical activity enables creativity and happiness.”
While comfortable amenities like lounge rooms with cushy couches and complimentary snacks are nice, employees will be grateful to their employers for making their health and wellness a top priority. An active workforce is a healthier, more productive workforce—and a more productive workforce strengthens bonds between building occupiers, tenants and talent.
“In organizations where people are expected to think strategically, innovate and get along with their colleagues, having a workplace that promotes movement makes logical sense,” says Gerhart. “The spectrum of how companies can do this varies from having an onsite fitness center to sit-stand desks to the entire layout of the office.”