A new study evaluating the health and wellness impacts of the use of standing desks in the workplace finds that adjustable workstations are linked to increased worker productivity, improved mental concentration, and improved overall health.
The study, funded by the American Society of Interior Designers Foundation’s (ASIDF) Transform Grant, sought to determine the impact of adjustable workstations on employee health and wellness, perceived stress, and sedentary behavior, and to track the sustainability of the observed behavioral changes over a one-year period. Research was led by Elizabeth Garland, M.D., M.S., associate professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Center for Active Design, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, global architecture and design firm Perkins and Will, and Steelcase.
“We are excited to share the results of this study, demonstrating that a simple adjustment to the workplace can effectively improve health behaviors both in the office setting and beyond,” stated Dr. Elizabeth Garland.
Researchers evaluated behavioral changes in office workers who received adjustable workstations that allowed them to shift between standing and sitting, and compared their behavior to that of workers with traditional desks. Half of the participants, randomly selected from one floor of Perkins and Will’s Atlanta office, received Steelcase adjustable workstations, while participants on other floors maintained traditional desks. Polling and questionnaires measured sedentary behavior, perceived stress, and ongoing behavioral changes before installation and at three months, six months, and 12 months.
Compared with participants using traditional desks, participants who received the adjustable workstations reported significantly less sitting three months and six months after installation. After twelve months, 88 percent of participants who received the adjustable workstations reported that they were convenient to use; 65 percent reported increased productivity; and 65 percent indicated that they positively impacted their health outside of the workplace. Participants with adjustable workstations also reported better concentration and would recommend them for their worksite.
“This study found adjustable workstations beneficial in reducing sedentary behavior both in and outside of the workplace. In addition, these behavioral changes were sustained over time and were associated with more energy, less muscle pain, and more awareness of standing posture. When considering total worker health, employers would be smart to include options for adjustable workstations,” said Dr. Garland.
The full executive summary, including a review of the methodology and implications derived from the research is available on the asid.org Resource Center. Additionally, a webinar outlining the findings of the research is available on the ASID Academy.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai led the research; Steelcase provided the adjustable workstations; Perkins and Will volunteered a site to conduct the research; and Center for Active Design coordinated project partners.
“Each organization and member of the research team brought unique and valuable experience to the formulation and development of the study,” said James Brewer of Steelcase.
“Our diverse team of researchers and practitioners was important to effectively execute this research project, and facilitated the faster translation of the results into our practice,” says John Haymaker, director of research at Perkins and Will.
“Continuing research in office environments is vital to ensuring decision makers are equipped with the knowledge to implement optimal building design and operations that promote health for their employees, clients, and/or tenants,” said Joanna Frank, executive director, Center for Active Design.
The ASID Foundation supports innovative research and education that articulates knowledge and collective intelligences about how interior design impacts human behavior. The annual Transform Grant, made possible through the support of the Donghia Foundation, funds evidence-based research projects that investigate the impact of interior design on the human experience.
“The research from this study will broaden interior design knowledge and has the potential to improve well-being in the workplace and beyond,” said Patrick Schmidt, FASID, Chair, ASID Foundation Board of Trustees.