In a previous blog post, Lisa Morrison, Lawrence Group workplace designer, shared her experiences with a radical idea dubbed “the standing meeting.” After struggling to find a place for a “normal” sit down meeting due to conference room demand, her team decided to move counter-culturally and stand for the meeting. They had a quicker, more productive meeting and enjoyed the change.
This idea of incorporating movement into design is not so new. People have begun to realize that we sit a lot, and that it might not be so good for your health. If you think about it, we do spend a lot of time seated. As an office worker, your typical day probably looks something like this: You commute to work, seated. You sit at your desk, seated. You go to lunch and sit. Back to your desk, sit, attend a meeting, sit, drive home, sit. And, if you just feel worn out after a long day, relax and watch some Netflix, while you sit.
Sitting really isn’t the problem though. The extended periods of sitting, creating a lack of movement in your day, is the real problem. One of my favorite coaches, Dr. Kelly Starrett, mobility expert and personal trainer, says that the best position to be in is the next position. Basically, we should always be in motion. Our bodies were made for it. Here are some ways that we as designers can encourage more movement and activity with our designs.
1. Encourage an alternative commute. Now, we really can’t change your commute, but we can encourage people to do something different. First, consider the location of your building. Locating near a public transit route and within a walkable neighborhood can make alternative commutes such as walking or biking more achievable. By providing facilities for bicycle parking, showers, lockers, etc., in a workplace there are limited barriers to riding your bike to and from work. This could mean a bike parking area to lock up your bike outside, or even better, inside to protect them from the elements. More than half of Americans, 55%, say they would like to walk/ride rather than drive more throughout the day either for exercise or to get to specific places. (http://brspoll.com/uploads/files/walkingrelease.pdf)
2. Showcase the stair not the elevator. When designing, we often consider the stair for code purposes only, tucked in the back corner and used only in emergencies. The elevator is the main means of transportation between floors. In buildings of two to four floors, occupants will often feel more compelled to take the stairs knowing that the task is not overly daunting and would be faster than waiting for the elevator. Not true for skyscrapers.
- LEED v4 Pilot Credit 78 Design for Active Occupants gives credits for design considerations that encourage users to take the stairs.
- Providing at least 50% of tenant floors access to a “primary stair”
- Locating the stair within proximity to the lobby edge
- Making the stair visible before the elevator
- Providing generous width to this stair over the code minimums
- Highlight Circulation Paths: Making circulation paths more stimulating visually/aesthetically helps to encourage movement throughout the day. Adding visual stimulation such as artwork, views, and amenities along the circulation paths makes movement more enjoyable by allowing the mind to wonder instead of focusing on the end destination.
3. Provide Workstation Options –If you’re like me, sitting all day is tough to do. I need to move. I get up and walk around, do some stretches, then return to my seat. I would love the option to work standing up or sitting down. When choosing furniture, consider a blend of heights. Standing or variable height workstations facilitate standing meetings, conversations, etc.
4. Outdoor Walking Amenities/Site Destinations – Adding an outdoor amenity or destination helps in welcoming visitors and encourages passing through or to these items. This could be a water feature, a plaza, a garden, outdoor walking path, or just as simple as a bench or cluster of table and chairs. A walking path trail is a nice addition to any outdoor space.
5. Incentivize – Engaged/healthy employees often participate in extracurricular activities focused around fitness. Consider supplementing the cost of programs like gym memberships to show as an owner/employer that you are devoted to their health and well-being.
6. Provide a Dedicated Activity Space – Sometimes people can’t make it to the gym and would prefer to participate in activities with their coworkers. Providing a dedicated space for recreational activities and fitness facilitates movement in the design. WELL design also gives credit for dedicating such a space for exercise over 200 square feet.