Lindsey Head is a Project Designer at Fusion Design Consultants Inc. In this latest blog post she shares with us some important insights about health and wellness in the workplace, and the furniture trends that are evolving as a result of this revolution.
Physical activity within the office setting has greatly increased in popularity in recent years, making corporate spaces healthier and more engaging. Fusion has seen an increasing demand for workout spaces and fitness centers, employee showers, wellness rooms, and a variety of workstation options that encourage a healthy workforce and a seamless transition between work and life. In fact, when I started working as an intern, Fusion got onboard by holding an office wide ‘Fit-Bit’ challenge, encouraging us all to be more active and to take our personal health seriously. By providing employees with these benefits, a company can improve morale, productivity, and prevent sickness all through good design and practices. However, some of these trends have faced some resistance.
Sit-To-Stand desks have quickly become one of the most prominent trends in today’s corporate design industry. What originated in Europe has slowly crept its way into almost every influential furniture manufacturer’s lines in America. But many clients are hesitant due to a host of misconceptions. Often, designers are met with clients attempting to balance and compare the pros and cons of sit-to-stand desks. Some common questions we face include: Will our employees really want to stand all day? How much does sitting really impact a person’s health? Why do they all have a very similar design aesthetic? Why are they more expensive than their sedentary counterpart?
One of the most common misconceptions we hear is the idea that “standing is better than sitting and walking is better than standing.” This idea is somewhat true, but many people believe that means they are expected to replace sitting, with standing for 8 hours per day as soon as they are given the opportunity to do so. However, this is not recommended, and may actually cause more physical harm than good, leaving your body achy and uncomfortable. Rather, the goal is to increase the ratio of time spent sitting to time spent standing over a long stretch of time, slowly building up the muscles that haven’t seen as much use. Standing throughout the workday is very beneficial, but moving is better, and the more a person changes positions, the healthier they will be (Delfino 32-33). In fact, it's been proven that as soon as a person sits down, “enzymes that break down fat drop 90%, Calorie burning drops to 1 per minute, electric activity in the leg muscles shuts off, and after two hours, good cholesterol drops to 20%" (Delfino 32-33). Many people are also convinced that regularly visiting a gym for an hour or two daily will counteract all of the damage done to their body after a long seated work day, but this isn’t accurate. The more a person moves, the healthier they will be, even if they’re simply shifting positions.
Thankfully, the demand for sit-to-stand desks has grown immensely, allowing for a greater variety of design aesthetics within the marketplace. The design world has also seen an increase in accessories and ancillary furniture to meet this need for an increasingly active work place, such as bar stools in place of task chairs. These allow companies to diversify their office spaces and give employees the opportunity to choose their seating style, whether it’s benching, standing, perching, or lounging - all without stretching the budget or breaking the bank.
Fusion designers recently visited one of Boston's Corporate furniture showrooms, which pushes the boundaries of active work environments way beyond the sit-to-stand trend. They now have a plethora of work options that employees choose for themselves on a daily basis, in a collaborative, shared space. During the tour, we viewed one option that drastically changed my personal opinion of sit-to-stand, and how it can be achieved in a cost effective and aesthetically pleasing way. One area of the showroom displayed a permanent standing height counter, paired with height adjustable stools. This concept leaves all of the height adjustment up to the chair, allowing the desk to have an appealing aesthetic without the need for the mechanical systems that tend to raise the price tag. The caddy to the left simply slides over the table top, connects to a power feed for charging capabilities, and is secured with a few connectors. Additional pieces like a caddy or recharge station have been introduced to enhance the experience and provide convenience at work stations throughout the space.
In many ways, clients are generally tentative about following a trend that could phase out over time, like mullet hair cuts or 90's shoulder pads. Much of the time, design is about pushing boundaries, and no one can be sure if something will stand the test of time. The difference here, is that as this influential Sit-To-Stand trend grows, the research is doing the work for us. We can already see the benefits of this trend in the corporate environment, physically, emotionally and financially, which prove that this movement will last. As it gains more popularity, the market for active workplaces will continue to expand and allow high quality design to gain variety and affordability. So, I ask you, will you sit or stand for the occasion?
Fusion Design Consultants Inc. is a Boston based Interior Architecture firm that specializes in workplace interiors. Our design solutions are backed by research and we provide furniture specification services.
Delfino, Steve. Ethonomics. Mt. Laurel, New Jersey: Teknion, 2015. Print. Pages 32 – 33.