Advisory Banner

ADVISORY

ADVISORY NEWSLETTERS

Standing, Stretching and Soaking Up Sun: Healthy Office Habits Make a Major Difference

Wellness and productivity are an integral part of the smart, connected building strategy. In this article, CoRE Tech speaker, Dr. Esther Sternberg, a professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Arizona and director of research at the Center for Integrative Medicine, discusses how air quality, lighting, ventilation, noise, physical activity and other aspects of the environment contribute to an occupant’s wellness and productivity in the workplace. This topic has become front and center in the smart building discussion.

The University of Arizona has more than 15,000 faculty and staff – the majority of whom spend significant portions of their workdays in office settings. Over the last two decades, an emerging field of research has looked into how these office settings impact health and well-being. While the specific goals and methodologies of these studies have differed, the general conclusions are similar: Traditional office environments have a dramatic impact on a person's health.

"Most people spend up to one-third of their weekdays at their places of employment, but we've found that the vast majority of these people aren't aware of the stress responses that are related to their work environment and physical activity," said Dr. Sternberg.

Sternberg's interest in the relationship between place and well-being evolved from her work on the science of the mind-body connection, which she began in the 1970s as a rheumatologist in Canada. Her career path eventually led her to the National Institutes of Health, where she spent more than 26 years in a number of leadership capacities.

In 2000, Sternberg was contacted by the then-director of research for the U.S. General Services Administration – the agency that builds and operates more than 370 million square feet of office space, housing more than 1 million federal workers. He asked if Sternberg and her colleagues at the NIH could help him draw connections between health, performance and office environments. In these initial studies, they used devices worn over several days to track heart rate variability and collected salivary cortisol throughout the day to measure stress responses in federal office workers transitioning into retrofitted space with improved workplace conditions.

The original work setting was what Sternberg called a "dark maze cubicle farm" with loud mechanical noise, poor ventilation and a lack of natural lighting. The retrofitted office space in the same building featured some of the first open-office concepts, with light, airy spaces, better air flow and lower levels of mechanical noise.

"People were not subjectively aware they were stressed," Sternberg said. "We gave everyone questionnaires during our research and, when asked about their stress levels throughout the day, they simply had no idea. The data told a different story, however."

To Sternberg's surprise, the researchers were able to find significant, almost immediate reductions in stress responses in the people in the retrofitted spaces compared with those in the legacy spaces – not only at the office, but also when the employees went home at night, and even while they were sleeping. "You take your work home with you – in more ways than one," Sternberg said.

Her research caught the attention of Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Victoria Maizes with the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, and that of the then-dean of the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, who jointly recruited her to the UA. Sternberg joined the UA in 2012 as the founding director of the UA Institute on Place, Wellbeing and Performance, where she is leading a variety of efforts to tie empirical, objectively measured data relating office environments to people's health and well-being.

In August, Sternberg and Casey Lindberg, a psychologist and architect and former research associate with the Institute on Place, Wellbeing and Performance, who now works as a senior design researcher at HKS Inc., co-authored a study with their GSA colleagues and collaborators across the UA and the Baylor College of Medicine, which found that workers in open office seating had greater daytime activity levels and lower after-hours stress levels, compared with workers in private offices and cubicles. Once again, workers were not subjectively aware of these differences.

The study found that workers in open bench seating arrangements were 32 percent more physically active at the office than those in private offices and 20 percent more active than those in cubicles. In addition, workers who were more physically active at the office had 14 percent less physiological stress outside of the office compared with those with less physical activity at the office.

The study garnered worldwide media attention and sparked online debate about what truly constitutes a happy, healthy work environment. "We had no idea the amount of attention this study would generate," Sternberg said. "It turns out people have a lot of very strong opinions about their work environments."

Sternberg said that proponents of open office settings enjoy the increased face-to-face contact with their co-workers and increased sense of collaboration. Detractors tend to find these open arrangements distracting, making it difficult to focus.

In this study, Lindberg and Sternberg asked participants in the moment about their focus level and found no difference between those in open seating, private offices and cubicles. However, when participants were surveyed at end of the study, people in private offices said they were more focused than those in open offices.

Sternberg notes that it's a delicate balancing act between the cumulative health benefits and these perceived external distractions.

"Offices need to be constructed in ways to accommodate all types of styles and preferences, keeping in mind where the loudest, high-traffic areas tend to be in relation to personal space," Sternberg said. "Thoughtful designs need to work hand in hand with health and activity considerations."

To that end, many of the UA's newest construction projects incorporate a variety of Sternberg's concepts into their designs. In fact, the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine's new facility on Alvernon Way south of Speedway Boulevard features many of these architectural innovations into its design.

"We're fortunate to work at a place where there is such a close collaboration between the colleges of medicine and architecture," Sternberg said. "I'm encouraged by the direction I've seen from the new construction projects throughout campus."

For UA employees who work in office settings that haven't made the leap to fully open concepts, there are a number of ways to increase activity and improve overall well-being.

First, stand.
Standing desks don't solve every issue relating to workplace inactivity, but Sternberg says they are a significant step in the right direction. In place of a standing desk, Sternberg advises people to set alarms reminding them to get up and move every 15-20 minutes.

Second, seek sunlight.
People aren't at their best – intellectually or emotionally – when they haven't seen sunlight for extended stretches during daylight hours, Sternberg said. She encourages people to orient their offices in ways that allow them to be as close to windows and full-spectrum light as possible. Scheduling brief, brisk outdoor walks – weather permitting – makes for a more productive overall day.

Third, stretch.
Muscle stiffness and joint pain can linger in the background of the workday without occasional breaks to interrupt one's chair-bound monotony. The Mayo Clinic offers a series of workplace stretches that don't require any additional space or equipment, and this piece on Lifehack outlines a variety of energy-boosting movements.

"Add up every single day of your working life and these small, incremental improvements on a daily basis truly add up to a much happier, healthier life. You can even begin to think of your office as your new gym," she said.

More reports are in the pipeline examining the elements of the built environment that contribute to health impacts, including with industry partner Aclima Inc.’s wearable and stationary real-time environmental monitoring systems.

Hear Dr. Esther Sternberg, Director of Research from the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, discuss the GSA study on productivity in the workplace at CoRE Tech 2018 which will be held on November 14-16 in Silicon Valley. For more information visit Program Details.

Note: This article was originally published from UA@Work, Lo Que Pasa and reprinted with permission.


Nick Prevenas, Sr. Writer, News / Media Relations Analyst, University of Arizona
Nick Prevenas serves as a senior news writer for the Office of UA Communications, covering the areas of research, technology and rankings. He is also responsible for producing the university's daily news summary, while analyzing the UA's media relations efforts and maintaining the office's media contacts database.

This Week’s Sponsor

Bear River's flagship product, BearTracks, is a fully scalable enterprise software designed to help companies of every size track, report and manage critical office services – from mail & parcels, print & copy, supply & assets – to facilities & hospitality. Whether you have one site or hundreds, BearTracks provides real-time operational insights to help meet and exceed even the most ambitious service goals, turning everyday workplace functions into true competitive advantage. www.bearriver.com

Realcomm News


Technology, Automation and Innovation continue to impact Corporate Real Estate and Facilities at an unprecedented rate. In order to keep up and take advantage of this technology, you need to communicate and collaborate with the best and brightest.

Where Will the Most Visionary & Innovative Corporate RE & Facilities Professionals Be on Nov. 14-16?

Below is a partial list of those companies attending…


FOR MORE INFO AND TO REGISTER, PLEASE VISIT
www.realcomm.com/coretech-2018

UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS

The Cloud, IoT, Sensors and More – The NEXT EVOLUTION of Smart Connected Buildings - 4/4/2019

The concept of smart buildings has been around for decades. What’s different now are the multiple generations of technology we have seen throughout the years. At first ‘building automation’ was proprietary and single-source, next came ’connected’ buildings which introduced us to the internet. Today, next-level thinking includes an expanded use of the cloud, the inclusion of non-traditional smart edge devices found within the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, as well as integration into ERP’s other single purpose solutions and multiple telecommunication platforms. While the benefits of a smart connected building are great, the path to success is elusive. This webinar will feature the industries’ most accomplished smart building experts.

headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff Intelligent Buildings
Tom Shircliff Co-Founder Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was
headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff
Co-Founder
Intelligent Buildings
LinkedIn

Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.

headshot for Kathy Farrington
Kathy Farrington Google
Kathy Farrington Technical Program Manager
headshot for Kathy Farrington
Kathy Farrington
Technical Program Manager
Google

headshot for Paul Maximuk
Paul Maximuk Ford Land Energy
Paul Maximuk Energy Manager Paul Maximuk is Energy Manager for Ford Land Energy where he is currently is providing project and program technical guidance to implement global met
headshot for Paul Maximuk
Paul Maximuk
Energy Manager
Ford Land Energy
LinkedIn

Paul Maximuk is Energy Manager for Ford Land Energy where he is currently is providing project and program technical guidance to implement global metering of electric, natural gas, steam, water and compressed air systems. He is an Energy Engineer with over 30 years of experience in the HVAC/BMS field. He is an SME specializing in building management and energy reduction. Paul has focused his efforts in large industrial facilities but also has equal expertise in Class A buildings. Additionally he is a problem solver finding the root cause of why mechanical systems do not operate at their peak efficiency.

headshot for Gordon Echlin
Gordon Echlin Triacta Power Solutions
Gordon Echlin Vice President Marketing and Business Development Gordon Echlin is Vice President Marketing and Business Development for Triacta Power Solutions LP, where he has been a management team member since 20
headshot for Gordon Echlin
Gordon Echlin
Vice President Marketing and Business Development
Triacta Power Solutions

Gordon Echlin is Vice President Marketing and Business Development for Triacta Power Solutions LP, where he has been a management team member since 2009. Prior to Triacta, Gordon was a partner for a boutique venture capital firm, Venture Coaches from 2006 to 2009, and started a telematics company, Netistix Technologies, in 2002.

headshot for Chris Fine
Chris Fine Aruba
Chris Fine Senior Strategist, Workplace Innovation As a Senior Strategist for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, Chris Fine is focused on Aruba’s Smart Digital Workplace initiative. The Smart
headshot for Chris Fine
Chris Fine
Senior Strategist, Workplace Innovation
Aruba

As a Senior Strategist for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, Chris Fine is focused on Aruba’s Smart Digital Workplace initiative. The Smart Digital Workplace combines Aruba’s industry-leading networking technology and a growing ecosystem of partners in technology, real estate, smart furniture, and other specialties, to drive the growth of new experiences for end users and managers in the next gen Smart Office.

headshot for Rick Szcodronski
Rick Szcodronski cohesionIB
Rick Szcodronski Chief Technology Officer Rick has more than ten years of experience in technology and intelligent building engineering. Prior to cohesionIB, Rick served as the Senior Practice
headshot for Rick Szcodronski
Rick Szcodronski
Chief Technology Officer
cohesionIB

Rick has more than ten years of experience in technology and intelligent building engineering. Prior to cohesionIB, Rick served as the Senior Practice Leader at Environmental Systems Design in the Intelligent Building group. He led the technical design of global intelligent building and smart city projects in cities around the globe. He is passionate about designing digital solutions for the built environment that improve the experiences people have and foster the culture around them.

headshot for Anne Hardy
Anne Hardy Join
Anne Hardy CSO Anne is a high-tech executive with broad experience, starting from software design, architecture, cybersecurity, to managing teams to release telecomm
headshot for Anne Hardy
Anne Hardy
CSO
Join

Anne is a high-tech executive with broad experience, starting from software design, architecture, cybersecurity, to managing teams to release telecommunications and enterprise software, building and leading research labs, managing developer relations, and initiating and driving cultural changes. She worked for over 10 years at SAP successively as Director of Security and Trust Research, VP of Platform Research and VP of Developer Advocacy. More recently she co-founded and became the CEO of Workrize PBC.