Posted on 09/28/2017

Wellness in the Workplace: From Sit-Stand to Stability Balls

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Posted in Interior Design, Space Planning

Wellness in the Workplace: From Sit-Stand to Stability Balls

Heather Mastrangeli

We’ve all heard recent talk of sitting being vilified as the new smoking — along with chatter about what to do about it. With countless studies that highlight the negative impacts of sitting for prolonged periods being released, wellness has recently been finding its way into workplaces in unexpected ways. Designers have become savvy at integrating activity and wellness into office spaces.

Standing desks have garnered lots of attention over the last few years, but options to bring health and wellness into the workplace don’t end there. The fact of the matter is that standing desks are just the beginning. Other innovative furnishing options include balance balls and backless stools, which prompt active core stability and even feature electronic nudges to move periodically. Furnishings and even fidgeting elements to keep the blood flowing are now mainstream.

Thanks to the buzz about active workspaces, there is now an impressive array of furnishings available that require active use.

Some cool elements that have worked their way into offices include:

  • Foot hammocks
  • Treadmill desks
  • Seating that requires balance:
    • Stand-alone balance balls
    • Balance balls on legs
    • Perching stools

Active workspaces benefit both employees and employers. Aside from reducing the likelihood of gaining weight and becoming diabetic, active furnishings reduce back and neck pain and improve circulation through movement and improved ergonomics. Plus, it can be argued that seating that requires core balancing includes with the potential added benefits of improved focus and productivity.

Simply standing instead of sitting is not a fix-all. If not done thoughtfully, it can create a different set of problems, including lower back pain or foot pain. Why? Because bad posture is problematic, no matter whether someone is sitting or standing. Furniture that prompts good posture is essential. In addition to sitting and standing, there is another posture option — leaning. By combining seating (such as an active stool) with a footrest, many find a nice ergonomic middle ground.

You may also want to consider converting a section of your office into a “trial-and-error” section for active furnishings, so your staff can identify what works best for them. Be sure to also include accessories that set the stage for success. For example, anti-fatigue mats can help people avoid falling into the trap of shifting their bodies into positions that eliminate one problem while creating another.

What is right for one employee is not necessarily right for another. Easing into posture changes is key. Suddenly switching from sitting all day to standing all day will inevitably be a painful transition. Have employees start by alternating between sitting and standing to determine the right balance for them.

Like any design project, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Do the legwork to find the right combination of movement, position and activity that works for your office. Have you tried any active office configurations that worked well?


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