Sponsored by Teknion
Series articles allow design
practitioners to earn
continuing education unit
credits through the pages
of the magazine. Use the
following learning objectives
to focus your study while
reading this issue’s article.
To receive one hour of
credit (0.1 CEU) as
approved by IDCEC, read
the article and go to
ceus and follow the
After reading this article, you
should be able to:
◗ Understand the connections
between the built office
environment and occupant
◗ Discuss the importance
of movement in the
workplace to support
◗ Comprehend the impact
of space design on human
behavior, and how to
outcomes, such as
movement, through design.
◗ Utilize various frameworks
for grasping and measuring
impacts, such as the
Health Product Declaration
and the Well Being
hen monks were hunched over desks in drafty cloisters illuminating
biblical manuscripts in the Middle Ages, nobody cared very much
about the impact of the workplace on their health and well-being.
But today we know better. And in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “When you
know better, you do better.” Our challenge is to move from creating spaces that
simply minimize hazards to designing spaces that actually help users thrive.
The workplace has a tremendous influence on our personal well-being. That’s
why experts are rethinking everything about it—how it encourages or inhibits
movement, how it helps or hinders collaboration, how it celebrates or suppresses
our humanity, and even how the materials we use to build it, decorate it, and
furnish it impact our health.
One reason we are thinking so differently about the workplace is that we
spend so much time there. According to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, average Americans spend approximately one-third of our days working.
For many of us, the 40-hour workweek is a fond memory. A September 2014
Gallup study showed that the average time worked by full-time employees is
nearly 46. 7 hours a week (nearly another entire 8-hour day per week!). Another
50% say they work even more than that. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the
time we spend at work impacts us in a whole host of physical, emotional, and
psychological ways, which in turn impact the work we do, and the organizations
we work for. Given our increasingly knowledge-based economy, it benefits
companies to understand the connections between work and workplace.
In the summer of 2013, for example, a Gallup study showed disturbingly
high levels of employee disengagement among American workers across
industry and market sectors. One in five was reported to be “actively disengaged.”
Additionally, fewer than one in three American workers (30%) are committed to
the success of their organization. The results of this disengagement include the
obvious loss of productivity and the not-so-obvious physical and mental toll on
those who feel so disconnected on a daily basis.
The Integrated Benefits Institute, a nonprofit research organization which represents
major U.S. employers and business coalitions, estimates that poor health costs the
U.S. economy more than a half-trillion dollars per year. By poor health, we mean
not only the physical health challenges that result in absenteeism, or not coming
into work due to illness, but also the mental health challenges of presenteeism,
which includes reporting to work but not performing very well. Both of these can
seriously impact an organization’s success and bottom line. Clearly, there is a
need to rethink how and where we work and the impact it has on our lives.
Work and the workplace are vital parts of our overall well-being, and there
in the workplace.
Disengagement: Less emotionally connected and not
willing to do any more than is necessary to keep one’s job.