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Workplace In Motion: Three Active Design Strategies That Promote Movement

Alex Spilger, LEED AP, Senior Vice President 

workplace strategy

In today’s winning workplaces, creating opportunities for physical activity and movement can have profound effects on office dynamics, company culture as well as health and well-being of the employees.

As companies compete to recruit and retain top tier talent, innovative active design features such as treadmill workstations and climbing walls, can highlight a firm’s commitment to health and fitness, encourage social interaction, and bring a sense of fun and energy to the work place. Light physical activity also promotes blood flow that can aid in creativity and productivity, thus contributing to a company’s bottom line.

On a macro-level, over the past three decades, obesity and related chronic diseases have skyrocketed in the United States while sitting has recently been declared “the new smoking”. The structure of the built environment is increasingly recognized as an important facilitator (or inhibitor) of a healthy lifestyle, given that where and how an individual works determines his or her opportunity to be physically active.

Active Design is a series of guidelines based on extensive research by an interdisciplinary team of government and private sector professionals to address obesity and chronic diseases as well as improve worker health and well being. This relatively new and innovative concept encompasses all aspects of design and space planning from projects small to large.

Active design features are most effective when they reflect an organization’s values and brand. Some features integrate with sustainability efforts; others advance work-life balance goals; and still others are designed to improve mindfulness. Cushman & Wakefield’s West Region Sustainability Practice, led by Alex Spilger, has years of experience at helping companies design and create spaces that promote movement and physical activity in the workplaces. Below are several active design strategies we’ve implemented along the way – from the obvious to the more inventive.

Make Staircases Inviting:

Ascending and descending stairs is one of the best ways to promote walkability during the workday. Studies have shown that workers are much more likely to use stairs when the stairs are integrated as a design feature, rather than hidden away in an unfinished, windowless stairwell. Open staircases also promote sustainability because they reduce energy from elevator and escalator usage and often reduce lighting loads. Adobe’s LEED Platinum San Jose office earned LEED pilot credit PC-78, Design for Active Occupants, with inter-floor staircases integrated into the overall design, making use of natural light.

Locate Shared Functions On Alternate Floors: 

Give employees reasons to use those open staircases more often by placing cafeterias, lounges and other commonly used resources on every second floor. This not only promotes walkability but increases the number of informal encounters between colleagues who work on different floors. Some companies have even considered placing lobbies and entrances on the second floor accessible by a staircase.

Shake Up The Traffic Flow:

Companies are purposely designing offices so that restrooms, break areas, lounges, mailrooms and copy centers are a pleasant walking distance from desks. Active designs often require people to take different paths of travel throughout the office where there is no obvious ‘right’ way to traverse the space. Skype’s U.S. headquarters features casual meeting areas arranged in the center of the floor plate called ‘pods’ that encourage people to move through the space in less traditional ways. SF Travel provided space for a walkway between the window line and glass-enclosed conference room, allowing people to walk around the outside of the entire floor plan while retaining the benefits of natural light and views from the conference room.

The above is an excerpt from Alex’s larger editorial, which was featured in the Spring 2016 edition of the Occupier Edge. To learn more about workplace design strategy, download the Spring 2016 edition of the Occupier Edge.

Alex_SAlex Spilger is the Senior Vice President of Sustainability Services for Cushman & Wakefield.  


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