Open plan offices increase employee physical activity and lower stress

Open plan offices increase employee physical activity and lower stress

Sternberg and her colleagues tried to find an association between office layouts and stress levels of 231 U.S. government employees.

The extra physical activity by such workers was also linked to to lower physiological stress - measured by heart monitors - when they were outside the office. According to a 2015 report that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published, workplace-related illnesses cost the US economy more than $225 billion a year.

The study was published on Monday in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

After evaluating the stress levels of 231 people who work in federal offices, the study found that people who work in open office seating had less daytime stress and greater daytime activity levels compared to those who work in private offices or cubicles.

For three days and two nights, the researchers monitored the workers' activity and heart rates via wearable sensors, and quizzed the employees about their mood with regular questions to their smartphones. At the end of the study they filled in a survey to assess their stress levels. Beyond the differences they spotted with office desk arrangements, the researchers found that stress levels were highest in older and heavier workers. Significantly, workers who were more physically active at office had 14% less physiological stress after working hours as compared to those with less physical activity at work.

Workers in open-plan offices are more active and less stressed than those with desks in cubicles or private offices, research suggests.

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This is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause.

And they add: "Given the importance of physical activity to health, the fact that office workstation type may influence how much people move at work should not be overlooked in the health field".

The authors said that open plan offices may lead to increased physical activity by encouraging "interaction and mobility, including movement to spaces designed for unplanned meetings and phone calls, when available".

"If we can figure out how to design offices to allow people to be more active, that will result in better health and lower stress, so educating people about that is really important", Sternberg said.

Employees in more open plan workplaces are also more likely to be involved in physical activity - which has its own ramifications on a person's health - researchers said. Others still had their own offices.

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