Kinetic Furniture: a Long Walk to Nowhere?
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In recent years, as employers have fought double-digit increases in health premiums while simultaneously trying to squeeze maximum productivity out of their workers, a hot trend in office design has given new meaning to the term “multitasking.” So-called “kinetic office furniture” — treadmill desks — lets workers burn calories while performing traditionally sedentary activities.

Kinetic furniture is showing up in more workplaces as employers buy into evidence that sedentary work is bad for workers’ health and their output. In some Silicon Valley firms, kinetic furniture has achieved iconic status, signifying the type of techie who refuses to plop down on a Goodwill sofa amid empty Skittles packages to write code.

Ergonomics experts, however, aren’t so sure. A recent study suggests that increased activity does not necessarily lead to heightened productivity. In fact, there appears to be a trade-off that employers should factor into any decision to purchase kinetic office furniture.

The study focused on treadmill desks, which feature a conventional computer monitor and keyboard instead of the digital biometric display usually found on exercise treadmills. In the study, workers walking at a slow rate on the treadmill were asked to type words that appeared on the screen before them. A control group sitting at regular desks performed the same task. The treadmill walkers made more mistakes and typed more slowly than the control group.

Researchers also gave the workers cognitive tasks to perform while walking, trying to memorize a series of words and perform math problems. The seated workers outscored the walkers even more significantly on these tests.

Study critics have noted that cognition usually improves after exercise, not necessarily during. Still, it appears that employers should perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether treadmill desks are a step in the right direction.

Content originally published online by The HR Specialist, August 15, 2015.

Part II: A New Formula for How Long We Should Spend Sitting & Standing in a Workday

By Sumathi Reddy

Other research aims to find ways to mitigate the adverse effects of too much sitting. A curious study, published last week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at fidgeting. The researchers examined data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, which has followed a large group of women for about 20 years. Nearly 13,000 of the women were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much they fidget. Among women who were rated as the most sedentary, those who fidgeted a lot had the same risk of dying as those who weren’t especially sedentary. But women who didn’t fidget had an increased risk for mortality.

Janet Cade, professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Leeds, in England, and senior author of the paper, said the study found an association between the two factors and didn’t prove causality.

“In order to get benefits from nonsedentary behavior maybe you don’t have to go out and run a marathon,” Dr. Cade said. “Maybe you can do small amounts of movement and that would give you some benefit.”

Various studies have shown that even regular exercise won’t compensate for the negative effects from sitting too much during the day. Sitting causes physiological changes in the body, and may trigger some genetic factors that are linked to inflammation and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, said Dr. Buckley, of the University of Chester. In contrast, standing activates muscles so excess amounts of blood glucose don’t hang around in the bloodstream and are instead absorbed in the muscles, he said.

Standing burns one-half to one calorie more a minute than sitting. In four hours, that represents as many as 240 additional calories burned. Sitting more than an hour lowers the levels of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which causes calories to be sent to fat stores rather than to muscle, Dr. Hedge said.
The effects of prolonged sitting on blood flow were examined in a recent small study involving 11 young men published in the journal Experimental Physiology. After six hours of sitting, the vasculature function in one of the leg’s main arteries was reduced by more than 50%, but was restored after 10 minutes of walking, said Jaume Padilla, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri in Columbia and senior author of the study.

“More research is needed to determine if reduced vascular function with prolonged sitting leads to long-term vascular complications,” said Dr. Padilla.
Scientists also are studying how to induce people to sit less. An article published online in the journal Health Psychology Review last week reviewed various studies looking at 38 possible interventions to get people out of their chairs. Among those that worked: educating people about the benefits of less sitting time; restructuring work environments, such as adding standing or adjustable desks; setting goals for the amount of time spent sitting; recording sitting times; and creating cues or alerts for people when they need to stand, said Benjamin Gardner, senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College in London and first author of the article.

The majority of interventions that didn’t work were aimed at getting people to do more physical activity, Dr. Gardner said. “We need interventions that are designed specifically to break up sitting as well as interventions that try to get people to move about more,” he said.

Michael Jensen, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who specializes in obesity and diabetes, uses various ways to reduce daily sitting time that he also recommends to his patients. When he has meetings with just one or two people he finds a place where they can walk together instead of sitting. And he tells his patients who are parents to use their children’s athletic events as a time to be on their feet. “There’s no reason you have to sit and watch those games,” Dr. Jensen said.

Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2015.

A New Formula for How Long We Should Spend Sitting & Standing in a Workday

By Sumathi Reddy

New research is helping medical experts devise formulas for how long a typical office worker should spend sitting and standing.

Studies have found that sedentary behavior, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Some ergonomics experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.

“The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day,” said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. “Sitting all day and standing all day are both bad for you,” he said.

For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes, Dr. Hedge recommends, based on a review of studies that he has presented at corporate seminars and expects to publish. He says standing for more than 10 minutes tends to cause people to lean, which can lead to back problems and other musculoskeletal issues.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year published guidelines for sitting from an international panel of experts, including Dr. Hedge. The panel recommends a combined two to four hours of standing and light activity spread throughout the workday. And research from NASA has found that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day while at work is an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle density, Dr. Hedge says.

“The current scientific evidence shows that when people have occupations in which they are on their feet for more than two hours a day, there seems to be a reduction in the risk of developing key chronic diseases,” said John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester in England and lead author of the published guidelines.

Check back next week for information about other research focused on mitigating the adverse effects of too much sitting.

Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2015.

How the Physical Environment Influences Work
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Architect Clive Wilkinson, a recognized leader in workplace design, is responsible for some of the most creative office spaces in the world. With a thoroughly modern approach to the way we work, his firm has created spaces for Google, Twentieth Century Fox Digital and countless other business leaders using everything from hanging pod chairs to bean bags and breakfast bars.

At the annual Workplace/Work Life conference, Wilkinson spoke about how the way we work — and our ability to be productive — is shaped by our environment. “Offices are becoming more like homes as lifestyle becomes increasingly important and companies compete for talent,” he explains. “Our world is now ideas driven and our environment needs to be energetic, inspiring and even provocative. Employers also want people to stay longer at work and making the space awesome certainly helps.”

If you are considering making a dedicated space to work at home, he says the best place to start is with a separate work area. “Separation from the family is highly desirable,” he says. “Work is a different state of mind from family concerns, which can be very disruptive. A separate studio is cool.”

For optimum productivity, he says a well-lit, well-ventilated work area is ideal. “We all need constant connection and engagement with nature and the world outside so good views, light and air are vital to our sense of well-being,” Wilkinson says. “Plants are restorative too.”

The need for a separate space at home is different to commercial offices, which Wilkinson says are veering towards open-plan design. “The driving reason to go to work is to collaborate and therefore most of the space should be configured to support that,” he says.

In commercial office spaces, he says there is now a stronger push towards keeping workers moving and less sedentary. “It’s a major concern in planning work space,” Wilkinson says. “People need to move around during the day to stay alert and healthy. We like to emphasize staircases over elevators and to locate amenities to drive people to move around.” But whether your office is a bus ride away or just at the end of the hallway, Wilkinson is a strong believer in well-designed workspaces.

“All people respond to their physical environment in a powerful way,” he says. “It could be very hard to do productive work in a messy home or it could be hard to do creative work in a formal office environment. We need to be mindful of what enables us to get into that state of flow.”

Content originally published in The Daily Telegraph, August 22, 2015.

How  Plug 'N' Play Offices Have Impacted Design Culture
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While the tech field has undoubtedly changed the way in which we interact with our world, there is one field that has undergone a complete transformation in the last two years: the pre-built office. Eschewing the traditional blank-canvas method of leasing retail space, commercial landlords are turning to finished office spaces specifically for start-ups that would rather lease an office where set-up isn’t needed.

“They don’t want to do anything beyond installing furniture, telephones, and computers,” said Daniel Montroy, designer with Montroy Andersen DeMarco Architects. “They want their new space to be plug ‘n’ play.”

The presence of plug ‘n’ play spaces in commercial architecture is already widespread. The challenge of such spaces is that they must appeal to everyone. To satisfy whichever company may eventually settle into the space—particularly those in the “TAMI” industries: technology, advertising, media, and information services—it must incorporate ideal market positioning, technology, workplace organization, and aesthetic.

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“These projects call for much more than design abilities… The designer has to think like a leasing agent and asset manager, and suggest the most beneficial solutions to the landlord—the best use of the budget, the most promising tenant segment to the target, the upgrades that will increase rent rolls.”

With so many start-up companies embracing less traditional workspaces, creating plug ‘n’ play offices can be costly. “They all want an open collaborative workspace with a loft aesthetic,” explained Montroy. While ductwork and mechanical systems could previously be hidden under a dropped ceiling, today’s open-ceiling buildings require that architects work alongside engineers to ensure that the exposed mechanical layout meshes harmoniously with interior elements.

According to CBRE’s Laura Bruno, real estate property manager of 180 Madison Avenue, this extra cost could be good for business. “The trend of the quality pre-built is here to stay,” she said, adding that it’s become something that tenants are learning to expect. In her experience, the market is currently split 50-50 between companies looking for a blank canvas versus a finished office space, suggesting the future may lead to a more holistic design approach.

Content originally published in Interiors & Sources, June 1, 2015.

Why Collaborating Online Is Sometimes Better than Face-to-Face

As published in the Harvard Business Review, online collaboration is not necessary a “second-best substitute for face-to-face work.” Instead, online communication can complement the collaboration process, offering its own perks and benefits.

Online collaboration not only helps bridge teams across different time zones and distances, it also facilitates speedy and efficient communication: “By solving time problems it creates the benefit of 24/7 production cycles; by solving distance problems it enables newly diverse teams; and by solving communication problems it lets us work together in ways that tap into a broader set of skills and capacities.”

To explore the perks and benefits of online collaboration, check out HBR’s article.

You May Have Good Reason for Feeling Cold at Work

It turns out that women are cold in offices for a good reason. Kingma and Lichtenbelt report that, “Indoor climate regulations are based on an empirical thermal comfort model that was developed in the 1960s… Standard values for one of its primary variables – metabolic rate – are based on an average male, and may overestimate female metabolic rate by up to 35%… This may cause buildings to be intrinsically non-energy efficient in providing comfort to females.”

The study makes a case for using occupants’ actual metabolic rates instead. “If you have a more accurate view of the thermal demand of the people inside, then you can design the building so that you are wasting a lot less energy, and that means the carbon dioxide emission is less.”

Currently, many office temperatures are set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that’s comfortable for most men. However, many women would be comfortable at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The solution to this discrepancy may be providing people with the opportunity to control the temperature at their own workspace or to relocate easily to spaces in their workplace with different temperatures.

Not only are Kingma and Lichtenbelt urging an end to the Great Arctic Office Conspiracy for comfort’s sake, they also conclude that buildings with a “reduce[d] gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” have the added benefit of helping combat global warming.

Content based on the study, “Energy Consumption in Buildings and Female Thermal Demand,” by Boris Kingma and Wouter Lichtenbelt published in the Nature Climate Change journal.

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Innovant recently completed the installation of a television network’s corporate headquarters in New York City. Splashes of color and a mix of materials were applied to Innovant’s award-winning adjustable height bench. These aesthetic flourishes complement the surrounding environment for this creative client. Check out other installations on Innovant’s new Featured Installations webpage.

How Flexibility Supports Function in the Modern Workplace

Inspired by the dystopian world depicted in the pages of the Divergent literary series, Citi’s Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of HR Susan Catalano, modeled her group’s offices after the fictional books.

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Image via HBR.

In order to foster collaboration and autonomy in Citi HR’s new workplace, the floorplan was segmented into “neighborhoods - a compensation neighborhood, a learning and development neighborhood, etc. — to help individuals feel they ‘owned’ their space, even though no one has a designated workspace and no one has a private office,” Catalano explains. This pilot concept – of assigning employees areas instead of actual seats – encouraged a sense of belonging, while also enabling a healthy sense of identity.

The concept also addressed two practical problems facing Citi: First, people had been scattered in different offices throughout the metropolitan area, creating a fractured feeling. Second, an internal study showed that some offices - like most workplaces - were underutilized because of travel, vacation, illness and flexible working arrangements.

In a HBR article, Why Citi Got Rid of Assigned Desks, the authors offer a comprehensive summary of the results of this flexible workplace concept, the challenges faced and lessons learned. By consolidating 150 workspaces for 200 people into a single office, Citi saved millions of dollars in overhead costs. In turn, they were able to invest more dollars into making the space functional, eco–friendly and pleasant for employees. Another significant benefit is employee innovation through new social interactions. Read more valuable takeaways from this project here.

5 Trends Shaping the Future

by Stephanie Clemons

The interior design industry is undergoing tremendous change at the moment. These developments are likely to have a substantial impact on how design is practiced three to five years from now… The American Society of Interior Designers released its 2015 Industry Outlook report, which includes information on a number of developing trends that are shaping the practice of interior design. The following are five that industry insiders are seeing as among the fastest moving at present:

The Changing Client. The nature of the designer-client relationship is continuing to change and at a faster rate. This is having a profound effect on both how designers practice and the services they provide. In the residential sector especially, clients are seeking a more participatory relationship with their designer, wanting to be more directly involved in design and purchasing decisions. In the commercial sector, clients are more frequently engaging designers as consultants or advisers, while outsourcing the implementation and installation of their designs to contractors, vendors, and computer graphics firms. At the same time, designers are increasingly serving as advocates for the benefits of good design, explaining to clients and the public how design can make spaces healthier, more functional, and more supportive of the activities for which they are built.

Healthy Behaviors. A profound change in recent years has been the shift within the built environment toward occupant well-being. The recently launched WELL Building Standard establishes for the first time performance requirements in seven areas relevant to occupant health—air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. Using evidence-based design, urban planners, builders, and designers are creating spaces that promote wellness and healthy behaviors. We are also seeing more widespread recognition of the importance of biophilia and its impact on health and well-being.

Higher Sustainability Standards. One of the most transformative trends affecting interior design now and for at least the next few years is the rising bar of sustainability standards. The USGBC is currently rolling out updated standards, LEED v4, that will require architects, interior designers, and even property managers responsible for building performance to further minimize environmental footprints. Governments, too, are setting higher standards for energy and water conservation. New “smart building” systems are improving monitoring in all areas of the building. The definition of sustainability is expanding, too, to include occupant health and wellness, and social responsibility.

Holistic Design. The urgency to solve today’s complex building and design problems is making an interdisciplinary approach more important than ever. The design silo is being replaced with a systems thinking methodology that looks at the building as an interconnected, interactive whole. As disciplines become more specialized and continue to merge, we must have the various practitioners at the table—designers, mechanical and structural engineers, architects, facility managers, and more—to develop more holistic solutions.

Emerging Technologies. Technological innovation is transforming our profession, both how we design and what we design. Newer visualization and building information tools, such as 3D printing, BIM, and Revit, have taken planning and rendering to a whole new level. With the advent of the Internet of Everything, spaces will be teeming with “smart” devices that will control and monitor every aspect of its use. Advances in robotics are increasing the speed of construction, helping to reduce injuries and making possible the use of new building materials and methods.

Design is changing, and the future promises exciting possibilities for the profession.

Originally published in Interiors & Sources, July 1, 2015.

3 Reasons Open Plan Offices Are Better After All

By Jim Belosic

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The open office concept has been around for awhile, but lately has come under fire. Apparently having no walls, no doors, and shared workspaces undermines what the concept was designed to achieve: communication and flow of ideas amongst employees… Despite what some organizational psychologists and productivity experts say, the open concept can make a team more cohesive, especially if it’s adopted by the senior staff and CEO.

It can also give leaders a better picture of what’s going on at the company. Those are just two reasons I’m leaving my company’s mostly open concept setup as it is. And it’s also the reason that I, the CEO, sit at the desk that’s usually reserved for the receptionist, right next to the front door. Yep, just like Pam from “The Office.”

Here are three reasons leaders should consider sitting in the middle of the action:

1. You’re tuned in to the office vibe.

If you sit in the same vicinity as your team, you’ll hear more of what they’re discussing–good and bad. It’s not like you need to function like some sort of NSA operative, but if you’re aware of people’s concerns, you have an opportunity to weigh in and offer guidance when it’s needed. When people need to meet privately with each other or with you, just make sure they have a place to do so with doors.

2. You’re more approachable.

I’ve never had the pleasure of working in a cubicle, or in an “old-fashioned” office. That said, I envision a corporate setup as being very compartmentalized and the kind of place where the staff don’t feel comfortable talking to the executives.

Setting up my desk near the front door and, coincidentally, next to the kitchen, means people are walking by all the time; anyone can ask me anything at pretty much any time. I can just say “go ahead” and what needs to get done, gets done. Yes, this can affect productivity. To get around that, you might adopt a policy that when people need to work undisturbed they’re free to work from home. And at the office, make sure everyone has a pair of headphones. When headphones are on, the rule is “Do not disturb.“

3. It improves interoffice communication.

Tools like HipChat and Slack make interoffice communication quick and easy, but it’s also nice to hear people actually talking to one another, which happens naturally in an open office.

As my company grows–we now have 17 people in our main office and three people who work remotely–space is becoming an issue. I’ve looked at a few spaces that have tons of character–like beautiful old Victorian houses that have been converted to offices–but I’m reluctant to move into a building where we could all go days without seeing each other. I’m not entirely sure yet how we’ll deal with the office space issue as we add more staff, but finding a place where we can still work in an open environment is a priority.

Content originally published on Inc, September 19, 2014.

3 Office Habits to Make & 4 To Break

Staying healthy at work can be quite a challenge, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm. Here are 3 ways to boost your workplace wellness and 4 habits that are negatively effecting it.

Healthy Habits to Make:

1. Drink more water

Coffee is the energy-boosting drink of choice at most offices. Did you know that water also has energizing benefits? Keep a pint of water by your desk at all times and drink frequently. Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of dehydration. Stay hydrated and stay stimulated.

2. Pop a piece of gum

Gum can do more than just freshen your breath; it also boosts cognitive performance and increases energy. Researchers suggest that chewing gum enhances performance due to “mastication-induced arousal,” meaning that just the act of chewing wakes us up and keeps us focused.

3. Clean your desk at the end of the day

Your creative process can be messy, but your desk doesn’t have to be. Allot 10 minutes every evening to clean up your desk, put away any errant papers, tidy all of your cables, and toss your trash. The next morning you’ll arrive to a more peaceful working environment.

Unhealthy Habits to Break:

1. Arriving late to the office

Arriving late gets your day off to a hurried, stressful start. Instead, try to arrive 30 minutes early so you can deliberately set your priorities and settle in before the office chaos crescendos.

2. Keeping a mile-long to-do list

Nothing feels quite as satisfying as checking items off your to-do list. Conversely, nothing feels quite as daunting as seeing that you have a torrent of tasks left to complete. Instead of making a protracted list of to-dos, start your day by identifying your one Most Important Task (MIT). Your MIT should always be specific and achievable. This simple act will give you a sense of purpose as you go about your workday.

3. Always saying yes

Most people feel over-committed and overworked in the office. This leads to stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Get out of the habit of saying yes to obligations that don’t make sense for you. It can feel difficult to say no to your co-workers, but think of it in terms of opportunity costs. Economist Tim Harford explains it this way, “everytime we say ‘yes’ to a request, we are also saying ‘no’ to anything else we might accomplish with the time. It pays to take a moment to think about what those things might be.”

4. Sitting in your office chair

Your office chair is seriously draining your office energy and creativity. This spring, do yourself a favor and replace your office chair with an upright seat. Doing so will keep your body and mind engaged, boosting productivity and performance.

Content found online at Focal, May 19, 2015.

Can better trading floor environments mitigate stress?
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A team from Gensler conducted secondary research to identify opportunities for design to improve the health and well-being of traders, addressing issues of stress and poor decision-making often associated with today’s trading environments. The goal was to explore the neurological and biological considerations relevant to the financial workplace, alongside progressive ergonomic, technological, and design strategies relevant to creating healthier and more effective trading environments.

This study stemmed from the following factors. Financial trading ranks among the most high-pressure and stressful knowledge worker occupations. With success or failure hinging on the traders’ ability to instantaneously process, analyze, and react to multiple and increasingly fast-paced streams of information, debilitating stress and high burnout rates have become all but endemic for traders, a startling state for a profession where most workers are only in their 20s or 30s.

A typical trader’s workday begins long before market opening with research and preparation, and extends long after closing, recapping the day’s efforts and planning for the next. While the market is open, turnaround times for trades are often measured in seconds or even milliseconds, with traders performing a delicate balancing act between risk taking and risk avoidance. One wrong decision or even an incorrect keystroke can spell disaster.

But change is on the horizon. The financial crisis still looms large over Wall Street, causing firms to question industry and company norms. With clients seeking change, Gensler’s research project is a critical step in helping trading firm clients redefine both their workplace and, in turn, their work culture.

By understanding the current physical characteristics of trading floors and the potential to map behavior and space, financial firms can redesign these environments to mitigate stress, shape positive behavior, and break the risk cycle. The potential rewards are profound. It is not just the health and well-being of traders at stake, but in many ways the health of financial markets themselves.

Gensler discovered that while the technology and increasingly high-pressure processes of trading have changed drastically in the digital age, the trading floor itself has seen little workplace design innovation. In contrast to the dramatic changes in other corporate workplaces, trading floors remain defined by dense, unvarying linear layouts more akin to a factory or production floor. These layouts ignore the potential benefits of more progressive workplace strategies characterized by openness and collaborative spaces, support of focus, and variety of work settings.

To begin the research, Gensler identified broad areas in which the physical trading floor environment might help improve the employee experience. From that initial list, three topics revealed themselves as having the strongest potential for positive impact: control, sensory stimuli, and behavioral ergonomics. Additional factors to consider include acoustics, amenities, density, indoor air quality, lighting, lines of sight, mobility, and temperature/humidity.

With this in mind, Gensler drew the following conclusions. Control of the physical environment may mitigate risk-seeking behavior. Traders are prime candidates for “control illusions” in their daily practices. They are prone to seek and over-estimate their control of the market—the greater this feeling of control, the worse their performance. We are exploring the possibility that familiarity and certainty within the immediate work environment may reduce the need to control the uncontrollable.

Curate sensory stimuli to minimize stress, rather than amplify it. The quality of light and sound cause physical reactions that affect performance and cognitive state. Prolonged exposure to fluorescent lighting in the absence of natural light is associated with dampened moods, a particular problem for traders working long hours. Views and sight-lines also impact experience, especially when providing connections to nature.

Consider posture carefully. Proper posture has been shown to improve cognitive function, emotional disposition, and decision-making. Open or expansive postures may even improve confidence and minimize errors. This improved confidence does come with a caveat—open postures are also associated with increased levels of risk and dishonesty.

Originally published in Gensler’s Design Thinking section, 2015. 

A 2-Minute Walk May Counter the Harms of Sitting

by Gretchen Reynolds

With evidence mounting that sitting for long stretches of time is unhealthy, many of us naturally wonder how best to respond. Should we stand up, or is merely standing insufficient? Must we also stroll or jog or do jumping jacks?

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A new study offers some helpful perspective, suggesting that even a few minutes per hour of moving instead of remaining in a chair might substantially reduce the harms of oversitting.

As most of us have heard by now, long bouts of sitting can increase someone’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and premature death. These risks remain elevated even if someone exercises but then spends most of the rest of his or her waking hours in a chair.

In a representative and sobering study being published next month in Diabetologia, scientists found that every hour that overweight adults spent watching television, which is a handy way to measure sitting time at home, increased their risk of becoming diabetic by 3.4 percent. Most of the participants were watching nearly three hours a day.

But despite such health concerns, simply advising people to abandon their chairs and stand all day is impractical. Many of us who have experimented with standing or treadmill desks have discovered that they can have their own deleterious impacts on typing accuracy, general productivity and our lower backs.

So what reasonable steps could and should people take throughout the day to reduce sitting time?

To help to answer that question, researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and other institutions recently turned to the immense trove of data available in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which annually asks a cross section of Americans about how they eat, exercise, feel and generally conduct their lives.

Recently, as part of the data collection process, some participants have begun wearing monitors that objectively track their movement patterns. (Otherwise, the data relies on people’s recall of activities, which can be unreliable.)

The researchers gathered monitor data for 3,626 adult men and women, most of whom reported being generally healthy at the start of the study period.

Using standard activity measurements, the researchers then divided each of these participant’s days into minutes spent sitting; participating in low-intensity activity (since the monitors couldn’t pick up changes in posture, but only in bodily movements, they couldn’t measure standing per se); engaging in light-intensity activities, such as strolling around a room; or doing moderate to intense activities, such as jogging.

Most of the participants spent most of each day sitting.

The scientists then checked death records for three or four years after the survey, to determine how many of the participants had passed away during that time.

They used the resulting numbers to statistically determine participants’ overall risk of premature death and what role sitting or not sitting had played in that risk, as well as the relative importance of what someone did instead of sitting.

In other words, the scientists wanted to see whether standing, walking or jogging in lieu of sitting was best at extending lifespans.

What they found was unexpected. A low-intensity activity like standing, by itself, had little effect on mortality risk. Those people in the study who spent a few minutes each hour engaged in such low-intensity activities did not show much if any decline in death risk, compared with those who sat the most.

But those who walked around after standing, replacing some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling, gained a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk.

In fact, if they replaced as little as two minutes of sitting each hour with gentle walking, they lowered their risk of premature death by about 33 percent, compared with people who sat almost nonstop.

The researchers found an additional reduction in mortality risk if people engaged in moderate exercise instead of sitting, although the numbers of respondents who jogged or leapt about instead of sitting was so small that statistical determinations were difficult.

Over all, the study’s findings are “encouraging,” said Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah, who led the study. They are especially so since the benefits seem to be additive, he said. Someone who already is walking for two minutes per hour and now starts to walk two minutes more — displacing an additional two minutes of what had been sitting time — could reduce his or her risk of premature death even more than from walking two minutes alone.

This reduction in death risk is likely related to energy balance, Dr. Beddhu said. Strolling instead of sitting increases the number of calories that someone burns, potentially contributing to weight loss and other metabolic changes, which then affect mortality risk.

But because this study is observational, he said, it doesn’t prove that walking instead of sitting directly reduces death risk, only that the two are associated.

Still, the possible benefits of strolling more often around the office seem alluring and the risks slight, especially if you invite your boss to join you, highlighting your tender care for his or her well-being.

Originally published on NYTimes.com, May 13, 2015.

Makers: Innovant

by Rob Kirkbride 

Innovant is well known for its highly technical desking and height adjustable table products. Its FORm_office is a standard for many of the top financial firms in New York and beyond…

With the understanding that not everyone needs such a high performance, highly technical product, Innovant is launching NIGEL, a new product line that features a modern, yet classic design that is still suitably sophisticated and simple to specify. 

It has a lightweight appearance because of its slim frame and lack of hardware, giving it a residential feel. It certainly does not replace the company’s hit FORm_office line, rather enhances it by giving customers other options. NIGEL works well for customers seeking Innovant’s design methodology – clean, intelligent and tailored products – who do not have the high-level technology management needs. 

Its design draws upon the Parsons Desk frame, with a quick assembly, knock-down design for easy transportation and rapid installation or reconfiguration. While FORm_office is a perfect fir for financial firms where a trader might have eight computer screens and a high need for technology integration, NIGEL is suited for technology, media, real estate and design firms. Customization comes through material selection or adapted storage and privacy accessories… 

“There are many clients who come to Innovant who don’t need that horsepower [of FORm_office] under the hood,” said Bruce Wells, director of marketing and development. “They are looking for our sensitivity to design and want all the unique, client-driven features and detailing, but don’t necessarily need the level of engineering that comes with FORm_office.”

It is a similar approach to what car maker Tesla is doing – drawing in trendsetting and influential customers with its top -of-the-line model and offering models with less features later. Still, Wells insists that NIGEL is not a step down from Innovant’s commitment to quality. Instead, it is a different product for a different set of customer requirements…

NIGEL hopes to [further] open up Innovant products to a new category of customers… The company has quietly emerged from the New York financial market and has been gaining traction in other sectors… The company continues to branch out from there.

Originally published in the Monday Morning Quarterback, June 8, 2015.

WorkTech 2015: Beyond the Basics

This year, a ‘softer’ quality of the workplace was at the forefront of many WorkTech conversations: wellbeing. Jim Taylour, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Orangebox and co-founder and chair of a special interest group on children’s ergonomics with the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF) spoke of this topic using intriguing terms: fitness-centered design and wireless wellbeing. According to Orangebox’s Mobile Generation research into fitness-centered design (also known as active design) we need to intentionally plan for opportunities and experiences that provide positive physical and psychological outcomes in our static work environment.

Now more than ever, we are dependent on our mobile devices 24/7. This dependency has some eye-opening consequences, including a negative impact on vision health, poor posture and ergonomics. This begs the question: how can we be more cognizant of wireless wellbeing for the mobile generation? One extreme possibility was touched on by Martha Clarkson, Global Workplace Strategist and Manager of the Experience Design Program in Microsoft’s real estate group. She shared that the company has introduced “no tech” zones in their workplace. 

Considering the increased media exposure regarding happiness at work (including the Happiness at Work Survey, the Happy Planet Index, and the International Well Building Institute), there is a clear focus on ways to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment. This focus was also seen in the recent 2015 Executive Report on Workplace Wellbeing from the IIDA Annual Industry Roundtable, where 30 members of the real estate and design community provided new perspectives on the importance of human-centered design.

A major topic of discussion centered on ways the tech industry is influencing the financial industry’s approach to such elements as talent, space and culture. This influence is seen in the US and the UK, through the evolution of the financial workplace. Phil Kirschner, former Americas Head of Workplace Strategy at Credit Suisse, cited their Smart Working Program as an example of this evolution. The program focuses on how best to use policies, space, and advances in mobile technologies to address changing workplace preferences. The program also reduces occupancy expenses through better utilization of analytics to inform space strategies and performance.

How much has the “workplace” evolved over the years? Not as much as we’d like to think, according to Robert Lucchetti. He suggests that the ideas published in a Harvard Business Review article from 1985 remain at the forefront of workplace planning practices nearly 30 years later. Beyond the basics of square footage, workstations, and office allocation, it is reassuring that conversations about workplace design are being elevated to ‘softer’ qualities. Components that were not part of the prior discussion around work and the workplace are now at the forefront of our work-life minds.

Content originally published on dIAmeter, June 2, 2015.

Innovant's Open Plan Office Products Now on Display at Brookfield’s Innovative DesignHive in Los Angeles

Innovant’s FORm_office Adjustable Height, FORm_AV, PRIVATE_office, and new NIGEL Desking products will be on display at DesignHive in Gensler’s innovative spec suite. 

DesignHive is a forward-thinking spec suite design project introduced by Brookfield to meet the changing needs of modern space users. Six leading Los Angeles architectural firms have designed 3,500-4,500 suites that showcase a next generation work environment. Each of the six suites are geared toward a specific industry, including creative, tech, media, financial, legal, and professional services. DesignHive not only serves as an experiential idea generator for those exploring progressive workplace solutions, but also offers immediate leasing and move-in opportunities for smaller tenants.

Gensler’s DesignHive suite is geared towards the legal industry. With the practice of law undergoing a fundamental transformation in the way work is acquired and done, the need for faster and more agile law firms has emerged. This means that the law office of the future will likely be smaller, flexible, more collaborative, and technology enabled. In order to adapt to these future needs and work styles, the key is to build flexibility into today’s legal workplace. Gensler’s DesignHive suite, furnished with Innovant’s open plan office products, exhibits the flexibility that’s needed for a smooth transition into the law office of the future.

This progressive work environment can be seen at the Wells Fargo Center-South Tower, located at 355 South Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. For more information about Innovant or its products, please visit http://www.innovant.com.

Introducing NIGEL, Innovant’s Beautiful New Desking Product

Innovant has expanded its selection of open plan workstations with the launch of NIGEL Desking.

This new product line features a modern, yet classic design that is both sophisticated and simple to specify. Characterized by a lightweight appearance due to its slim frame and lack of hardware, NIGEL evokes a residential feel in the workplace.

NIGEL is the perfect solution for clients seeking Innovant’s trademark design methodology – clean, intelligent and tailored products – who do not have high-level technology management needs. With a profile that draws upon the universally admired Parsons Desk frame, NIGEL’s quick assembly, knock-down (KD) design allows for efficient transportation, rapid installation and/or reconfiguration.

Available in a variety of colorful finishes, NIGEL allows designers and clients to achieve a signature aesthetic. Collaborative and mobile office workers across different industries - from technology to media, or real estate and design – can also personalize their space with distinctive storage and connectivity features. Whether through unique material selection or adapted storage and privacy accessories, NIGEL can be tailored to suit any client’s needs.

“We created NIGEL in response to our specifier partners who wanted a product with Innovant’s sensitivity to design and user-centric features, but on a lighter scale than our other product lines,” explains Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing & Development at Innovant.

Consistent with all Innovant products, NIGEL delivers a minimalist aesthetic with intelligent and purposeful features that can be easily tailored to meet the requirements of every project.

For more information about Innovant or its products, please visit http://www.innovant.com.