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Is open-plan office space really healthier?

Is open-plan office space really healthier?

There’s no shortage of opinion on open-plan workspace and whether it’s conducive to the productivity, happiness and wellbeing of those using it.

Our last blog covered this very subject, advising on how to design effective open-plan space that works for everyone, so when we spotted a new research piece on the health benefits of open-plan space, we were interested in the results.

Health benefits of open-plan space

The University of Arizona studied 231 employees working at four offices, all of whom wore heart sensors and activity monitors for three consecutive days and nights. Hourly questionnaires were completed on smartphones, with participants reporting on how they were feeling. At the end of the study they also completed a survey to assess stress levels.

Those working in open-plan offices were found to be 20 per cent more physically active than those in cubicles, and 32 per cent more active than those in private offices.

Encouraging movement within the office

The results are certainly interesting and raise a question not as frequently asked – are open-plan offices healthier than the alternative?

Does open-plan space really lead to higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of stress? And is it uniform across gender, age and physical ability?

Esther Sternberg, professor at University of Arizona College of Medicine, said of the findings: “We all know we should be increasing our activity but no matter how we try to encourage people to engage in healthy behaviour, it doesn’t work for long. So changing office design to encourage healthy behaviour is a passive way of getting people to be more active.”

Designing healthier workspace

The findings of the study highlighted the role played by design, furniture and fittings in creating a healthier working environment.

In the healthy office, variety of space is key; workspace that is configured to encourage conversation – check out our blog on the value of the accidental collision for more on this. Successful open-plan space is also flexible and comfortable, with a variety of furniture that meets everyone’s needs and encourages more frequent movement around an office.

The space between services such as printers, photocopiers, lifts and amenities will all have a significant impact on movement throughout the day.

With awareness growing around the dangers of remaining seated for extended periods, this latest research will be welcome evidence of the benefit of well-designed open-plan space.

If you’re looking for an experienced office fit-out contractor, give Aztec a call. With more than 30 years’ experience delivering office fit out and refurbishment projects you’ll be in safe hands.


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