Designing Healthier Workspaces

By Olivia Kuhlemeier | Design Associate

On a day to day basis, it can be a challenge to try to balance your work life, personal life, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. With a desk job, you can, unfortunately, spend up to 8-9 hours of your day sitting which involves many health risks. The following are some tips to try and promote a healthy lifestyle while at the office:

1) Incorporate a Sit-to-Stand Desk

This is a desk that allows you to stand up and work comfortably. This is a good way to change up your daily routine between sitting and standing at your desk.

Standing up at your desk helps to lower your risk of weight gain and may help lower your blood sugar levels. Standing up, especially for an hour or so after lunch, can help you burn more calories compared to sitting. You are also lowering your risk of heart disease. An intense workout for an hour cannot make up for sitting for 8 hours a day.

Standing desks help to relieve back pain and help to improve your mood, energy levels, and boost productivity. One of the most common complaints from office workers is chronic back pain. By standing up, you can improve and help alleviate your back and neck pain from sitting for long periods of time. Standing can also help lower your stress levels and relieve feelings of fatigue.


2) Using a Stability Ball Instead of a Traditional Chair

If your company does not offer standing desks, you can still mix up your sitting routine with a stability ball. The stability ball will help you burn more calories by ensuring you hold your core tight. The longer you are sitting on the ball, the more calories you will burn.

Sitting on the stability ball will help you to focus on maintaining good posture, making it impossible to slouch, such as you could in a traditional chair.

While a stability ball will not alleviate all your back pain, it will help take the edge off from what you usually feel from sitting at your desk, as stability balls will help you tone your core muscles. You can also take small breaks throughout the day and use the ball for some quick exercises at your desk to change up your routine as well.


3) Incorporating Natural Light

  • Having access to natural lighting in the office is at the top of the list of requests for an office environment.
  • More natural light means more Vitamin D. Vitamin D also plays an important part in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Vitamin D helps to fight depression, diabetes, and chronic pain. This leads to greater productivity as employees are more willing to be present in a workplace they find pleasing and healthy. Workers will feel more engaged with their environment and more likely to stay focused.
  • Being exposed to natural light throughout the day will help you sleep better and longer at night. Natural lighting supports your inherent circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, which makes you less likely to doze off at your desk while at work. Having better sleeping patterns can lead to overall better health. This includes taking fewer sick days, and fewer complaints of headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. It’s time to get rid of the fluorescent lighting and exchange them for windows!


4) Create Outdoor Areas

When we are outside, we tend to feel refreshed, calm, and happy. We as humans have a biological connection to nature. Connecting with nature is essential to our well-being and our ability to be productive. Trying to bring the outside into the office is beneficial, but it does not compare to the actual thing. The following are several benefits of spending time outside:

Increased Happiness: Our attitudes and moods tend to shift into a more positive mindset when we are outside. Being in nature can also help to lower our levels of depression and any anxiety we may feel throughout our day.

More Energetic: Being outside in nature can help you feel more alive and purposeful. Instead of going for another cup of coffee to seek energy, try spending a few minutes outside and breathe in the natural air.

Improved Memory: Spending time outside can help to improve your short-term memory. By walking outside or looking at pictures of nature can lead to better attention spans, therefore helping to improve your memory.

Stress Relief: The outdoors can help lower your stress levels throughout the day. By having lower stress levels, this can help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.


*Westfield Campus. West Des Moines, IA. Designed by Alissa Nelson – Design Manager – Spark Design.

5) Create Collaboration Spaces

Incorporating collaboration spaces in the office can have many benefits, including:

Teamwork: Collaboration encourages teamwork, rather than competition. These types of spaces give employees the chance to work together and strategize in small settings. It may create more comfortable settings for introverts, which could lead to more efficient ways to achieve company goals and objectives.

Healthier Work Environment: Collaboration spaces help to bring employees in different areas of the company together. This can encourage interaction between people with different backgrounds and industries, helping create new perspectives to your work. New friendships and work relationships are fostered, while the creation of these relationships leads to lower levels of stress and depression while boosting your overall mood at work.


6) Improve Blood Circulation

Having good circulation throughout the day is important for your health. Below are some healthy tips to incorporate to your daily routine while at work in order to boost your circulation:

Walking Breaks: Taking several short walking breaks throughout the day can be beneficial to your health. Whether it’s walking over your lunch hour or just a short walk between meetings, every bit helps. Taking a walk can also help to give your mind a break, which will help to encourage your creativity and give you a mental boost for the rest of your day. For even more benefit, try walking outside.

Taking the Stairs: Most of us are faced with the choice of taking the stairs or the elevator to get to our desk. Take the stairs. It will help get your heart rate up and get you more steps for the day.

Fitness Center: It is becoming more common for office buildings to have their own fitness centers, making it very easy to use before or after work. If your schedule does not allow for that, take advantage of it over your lunch hour. You can have a good sweat, shower in the locker room, and then you are refreshed for the second half of your day. Riding the stationary bike or walking slowly on the treadmill are also effective ways of completing reading work while staying active.

Drink Water: Many people do not realize that they’re not drinking enough water throughout the day. Dehydration can cause severe tiredness, headaches, weight gain, high blood pressure, and kidney complications. Other signs of dehydration include dry mouth, tiredness, infrequent urination, headaches, confusion, and lack of concentration. These effects can lead to sick days or lack of productivity while at work. It is important for companies to provide employees with easily-accessible water. This could include providing water bottles or tumblers and having water coolers readily available.

*Fitness Center. Westfield Campus. West Des Moines, IA. Designed by Olivia Kuhlemeier – Design Associate – Spark Design.

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