Wellbeing in workspace design – the sitting question

Back in June we wrote a piece about standing more at work in this blog and it seems the interest in the influence of workspace design on wellbeing is only growing.  We recently attending a Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors event on the topic which featured a talk from Tim Hunter on what works in getting people to stand up and move around more at work.

Tim presented some interesting research, mostly being done in Australia, which linked sitting not just to wellbeing but also to mortality!  Some of the research seems to suggest that for a healthier lifestyle the traditionally recommended periods of exercise are not enough if we are largely sedentary the rest of the time.  Regular low level movement is valuable in improving health.


Perhaps not quite the right approach!

The first keystone for getting this to work is how to embed and value wellbeing in the organisational culture and this has to stem from the top of a company. Leaders have to live this and show that they get and value the productivity gains.  It can’t be seen as a management fad but as a genuine investment in staff.

The next question is then how to get people to actually change behaviour, stand-up and move about.  There seems to be relatively little research into what works and what doesn’t with lots of anecdotal stories about.  For example, there are a multitude of software devices that will remind you to stop and take a break, from the gentle nudge to locking your PC.  These can all undoubtedly play a role but they won’t solve the problem on their own.

There is also a growing movement for sit/stand workstations with more cost efficient products arriving on the market which help people to adapt their existing desk rather than needing new furniture.  Some of these products still appear to be short on usability as one of the factors is allowing people to move relatively quickly between sitting and standing work, which some of these products don’t achieve.  There is certainly a strong role for looking at new approaches to the design and specification of furniture in workspace design.

But we feel the more effective approach is a holistic one integrating all of these ideas into the design of the workspace along with the wider management strategy.  This requires thinking and analysis of the links between people, equipment and work areas.  This can help develop layout designs, furniture designs and features that support movement as part of work tasks.  It can help the design team to  consider different work settings or areas for different tasks.  It might even spark an idea for a different way of working, benefiting productivity at the same time as contributing to improved wellbeing.

The value comes from placing wellbeing as a key objective of a workspace project and therefore embedding it throughout the design thinking and solutions developed.

David is Managing Director at CCD

David is our Managing Director with over 19 years practice as a Human Factors specialist in design projects. He has delivered projects across sectors including rail, oil & gas, airports, utilities and the emergency services. He has worked with clients such as Network Rail, Siemens, easyJet, WSP, Metropolitan Police, National Express, TfL and HS2.


David Watts

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