Want a Healthier Workplace? Make “Sedentary” a Bad Word

Want a happier, healthier, more productive workplace? Get moving.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 80 million U.S. adults are clinically obese. While that statistic is troubling enough from a cultural perspective, it should hold particular concerns for employers. After all, obesity has been linked to everything fromdepression to chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension. And workers facing health struggles put a strain on their companies not just in terms of productivity, team morale, and efficiency, but also increased healthcare costs.

What’s the solution to this epidemic? Jason McCann, CEO at VARIDESK, believes moving to active workspaces can help chip away at the negative outcomes of a sedentary society. From his organization’s own experience, the health of workers ties directly into the health of the workplace. As a result, many emerging leaders are proactively incorporating activity into jobs to enable employees to function and perform better.

“Simply put, static office setups are dated,” McCann notes. “Employees are no longer willing to resign themselves to finite spaces and stationary walls. They demand movement, flexibility, simplicity, and a greater step toward collaboration and successful work-life balance without the office environment hindering progress.”

Enter the Active Workspace

Want another reason to switch up your office space and make it more streamlined and pro-movement? An article in The Economist details the myriad negative effects of cubicles and similarly, cramped office spaces — among them, increased the spread of infection, lower productivity, and a reduced sense of well-being. In other words, employees suffer when they feel walled in by their spaces.

On a more positive note, plenty of reports have shown active workspaces improve attention, increase individual cognitive function, and heighten overall productivity. What’s not to like for any business that wants to contend in a competitive marketplace?

Of course, an active workspace can’t be achieved by just purchasing a few standing desks and hoping workers get the hint. The steps necessary to fostering a bustling, active workplace culture are more holistic.

1. Promote an atmosphere that makes movement a no-brainer.

Why should Jamal walk down the hallway to talk to Caitlyn instead of pinging her on Slack? Perhaps the answer lies in the corporate layout and design. Smart architects are developing plans that make moving around a natural activity, not an effort.

Centralized staircases and break rooms may seem like little changes, but they add up to people moving around more. And if Jamal’s already standing up for a 10-minute meeting with his team, he’s less likely to want to sit and use his mobile device to connect with a teammate.

2. Incorporate flexibility into the daily routine.

Too many workplaces follow a static model where workers literally sit at the same place for hours upon hours. Yet not all tasks are conducive to being stuck in a cubby or anchored to a desk.

A fluid, adaptable workspace that can flex with individual and group needs removes the barriers to activity. For example, multifunctional rooms with movable walls, lights, and furnishings ensure everyone can handle responsibilities in environments best suited for effectiveness.

3. Bring a sense of simplicity to workplace movement.

The fastest way to bring about an active workspace may be to think “simple.” Rearranging furniture shouldn’t require hours of arduous labor; a meeting room should spin into a series of individual standing desks within minutes.

Employees shouldn’t have to wait to enjoy the possibilities that come with an active, healthy working atmosphere. In essence, they should get so accustomed to the ease of movement on the job that they don’t think twice about it.

4. Get everyone moving with opportunities for collaboration and balance.

Your best bet for getting everyone on board with activity is to establish a dynamic culture. As you adopt movement-oriented changes, be sure everyone understands how they can benefit from the shifts in office practice. Encourage all upper management to “walk the walk,” as well as celebrating creativity and team progress.

Most employees want to be productive. Give them an energetic space to do the best work of their lives, and you’ll see a direct impact on personal health, turnover rates, and your bottom line.

All employees deserve a workplace that allows them to achieve their — and the company’s — goals with a minimum of stress and a maximum of teamwork. Though you might not realize it, you could play a pivotal role in improving the long-term lives of those on your payroll. All it takes is a little activity and some interior design innovation.

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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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