We were born to move. Immobility is to the human body what rust is to the classic car. Stop moving long enough and your muscles will atrophy. Bones will weaken. Blood will clot. You will find it harder to concentrate and solve problems. Immobility is not merely a state closer to death: it hastens it.
This is an extract from Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery. In it, he makes the argument that people who have freedom in motion, ie, the ability to move under their own steam, eg, by walking, running, or riding bicycles, are happier. And that cities that make it possible for their inhabitants to do this safely and easily, are filled with happier people. Think Copenhagen and bicycles.
So, moving is good for the body. And it’s good for the mind.
This got me thinking. If it applies to cities, why not offices? Why don’t we think about how we can integrate more movement into our office design and ways of working?
Google’s thinking about it in the design of its new London headquarters—including climbing walls, bean bag chairs and on-site eateries—though I suspect this is with a view to keeping 20-something workers at the office for more hours per day, rather than thinking about their long-term health.
Before you ask, I don’t think hot desking is the answer. Indeed, I think hot desking actually exacerbate stress (bad for the body) as it fosters feelings of uncertainty and lack of control—imagine if you had to go home to a different home every night.
But here are some good ideas for bringing more movement into our offices:
- Mix teams in open-plan offices. This way, colleagues must get up more often to speak to members of their own team. (This has the added benefit of learning what other teams do in an informal way.)
- Put printers, copiers, faxes down or up a level so that people have to take some stairs to get to them.
- Every lunch time, offer a mild stretching class and make it mandatory several times a week. This can be an hour long and employees can come and go as they like during the hour, but they must stay for at least 30 minutes.
- Hold meetings off-site as much as possible, so that colleagues must at least get up to walk to the meeting—the farther away the better. You can walk and talk—get the meeting started on the way to the coffee shop.
- Make sit/stand desks the rule.
- Let people make their own tea/coffee. It may sound impolite, but often making tea or coffee is the one time people actually do get up at work. Don’t take the chance to move away from them. And definitely don’t pick up lunch for other people.
- Get everyone in your office involved in thinking of ways to bring more movement into the office. Have a go at trying some of the ideas one week and then rotating.
What can you do to bring more movement into your office?