Picture a gym embedded in a workspace and you are looking at the “Office of the Future.” Think of it as “action ergonomics.” Obesity is a common risk factor for sedentary employees and a headache for employers: associated health problems rack up staggering costs in absenteeism, lost productivity, health insurance and worker compensation claims. The futuristic office combines work and exercise, and was designed at the Mayo Clinic in the United States to slim down America’s office workers.
In an article about the concept published by the Clinic, the inventor, Dr. James Levine, MD, said the idea is to introduce an environment that will encourage activity. He is an obesity researcher whose specialty is studying the way people burn calories during everyday activities. Dr. Levine’s recent research shows that thin people tend to be on their feet an average of two and a half hours a day more than people who are overweight.
The “Office” is an open plan space with 10 Plexiglas standing computer desks, complete with variable-speed treadmills. Employees stand in front of a raised workstation and work while walking on the treadmill. There are no desk phones or wall phones: they wear mobile phones on their belts.
“We have meeting rooms, but for small groups we prefer the track,” says Dr. Levine, He’s referring to a two-lane walking track that circles most of the 5,000-square-foot floor. “So when (we) ‘take a meeting’ we also take a walk.” Walls near the track are magnetic white boards for posting ideas and scribbling notes during the moving meetings. Employees are expected to strap on plastic carpet skates and slide from meeting to meeting.
In September, The Ergonomics Report, a publication for professionals requiring an in-depth exploration of current ergonomics issues, covered the benefits of introducing exercise facilities to the workplace. Conceptually, at least, the “Office of the Future” fits neatly into several of the programs advocated by organizations promoting the benefits of a slimmed-down and physically-fit workforce.
Source: Mayo Clinic