HOLISTIC HEALTH FACTORS in the WORKPLACE:BIOPHILIA, ERGONOMICS and EXERCISEApril P. McEwan, MSD candidate, industrial desgin, Arizona State UniversityRebecca Barry, Committee MemberJames Shraiky, Committee MemberPhilip White, Chair derived from: Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
PROBLEM“Something, somewhere went terribly wrong.” Localoaf.org. “Something, somewhere went terribly wrong”. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from http://www.localoaf.org/page/3/?s=kenWith information and computer-technology demands in the workplace, employees and employers spendmuch of their time sitting at computers. Sedentary work can be stressful and harmful for the body andmind (Congleton, ErgoExpo, 2011).Research evidence proves that “sitting in a chair itself generates physical problems and deforms thebody” (Cranz, 1998).
PROBLEMNumerous health problems have been associated with sitting for long periods of time: back pain of allsorts, fatigue, varicose veins, stress, and problems with the diaphragm, circulation, digestion, elimination,and general body development (Cranz, 1998, p.97).
SIGNIFICANCEPoor working conditions can lead to dissatisfaction and poor health; and therefore reduced performance.If we do not provide comfortable environments that fulfill base human needs (emotional, social and physi-cal health) then the building occupants are unlikely to be at their most productive (Oseland,1995, p.246).
SIGNIFICANCEIn the Healthy Workforce Act of 2009, Congress stated its findings about the US workforce:(1) The US has more than 12 million employers and approximately 135 million working adults.(2) The use of effective worksite policies and programs can reduce health risks and improve the quality oflife for the 135 million full-time and part-time workers in the United States.(3) Workers spend more than one-third of their day on the job and, as a result, employers are in a uniqueposition to promote the health and safety of their employees.(4) Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are among the mostprevalent and costly worker health problems for most employers.(5) The use by employers of effective worksite policies and programs can reduce health risks and improvethe quality of life for their employees.(6) The good health of workers is good for business because healthier workers miss less work, are moreproductive, and have lower health care costs.(Open Congress, 2011)
HYPOTHESISThis research study proposes that employees and employers desire mobility and resources in the work-place that support holistic health practices involving biophilia, ergonomics, and exercise.These conditions are significant contributors to well-being and productivity in the workplace.Perhaps employees and employers will feel healthier, physically, emotionally and socially in environmentswith access to natural environments, the outdoors, ergonomic furniture and equipment and exercise,therefore increasing pleasurable experiences; and in turn, stimulating productivity in the workplace.
Holistic health factors considered for purposes of this research study are factors that pertain to emotional,social and physical well-being: biophilia, ergonomics, and exercise.
Specific areas of concentration for this thesis study involve detailed elements of each factor—biophilia,ergonomics and exercise.
BIOPHILIAEMOTIONAL and SOCIAL HEALTHpeoples’ love and affiliation with other species and the natural environmentIt is ultimately human nature and a hereditary desire to have an emotional affiliation with human beingsand other living organisms (Kellert, et al., 1993).
BIOPHILIAEMOTIONAL and SOCIAL HEALTHResearch on biophilia supports the idea that interaction with other species can be healing.“The absence of plants may suggest an “unnatural”, and thus potentially unsafe, environment;” as plantsmay affect the human mind through unconscious mechanisms, even when plants are not the object offocus (Grinde & Patil, 2009, p.2335).
ERGONOMICSEMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL HEALTHrelationship between the human body, mind, movement, the immediate environment and productivityThe International Ergonomics Association states that “ergonomics promotes a holistic approach in whichconsiderations of physical, cognitive, social, organizational, environmental and other relevant factors aretaken into account” (IEA, 2010, para. 4). Varier. (2011). Retrieved March 20, 2011, from http://www.varierfurniture.com/Collections/Human-instruments/Variable-balans-R
ERGONOMICSEMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL HEALTHResearch has found ergonomic body-conscious furniture and equipment to increase productivity and limitbody aches and pains and health costs.“Probably the single most important principle of body-conscious design is to use design to keep posturevaried and the body moving” (Cranz, 1998, p. 185). Varier. (2011). Retrieved March 20, 2011, from http://www.varierfurniture.com/Collections/Human-instruments/Variable-balans-R
EXERCISEEMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL HEALTHexertion of the body to obtain physical fitnessThe World Health Organization states that significant health benefits are related to regular physical activitysuch as walking and sports activities (2011).
EXERCISEEMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL HEALTHResearch has found that exercise stimulates the mind and body, increasing productivity.“The bodily decrepitude presumed under the myth of aging is both avoidable and reversible” (Hanna,1988, p. xii).
EMOTIONAL HEALTHBIOPHILIA, ERGONOMICS and EXERCISEEmotional health has been found to contribute to work success, relationships and health (Diener, King &Lyubomirsky, 2005). Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
SOCIAL HEALTHBIOPHILIA“Past research has identified many factors, such as demographic, task-related, workstation-related, ergo-nomic, and psychosocial factors, associated with health complaints of employees engaged in sedentarywork” (Waikar & Bradshaw, 1995, p.18). Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
PHYSICAL HEALTHERGONOMICS and EXERCISEEven moving around a little bit more on a daily basis can help maintain healthy body weight and burncalories (Levine & Yeager, 2009). Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
SCOPEfour small US offices, as case studiesMaricopa County, AZ and Glynn County, GAfinancial institutions and private medical practices
SCOPEdemand sedentary workbetween 1000 and 4000 square feetemploy 3 to 12 personnel3 participants from each office total (1 employer, 2 employees)
METHODOLOGYflexible and qualitative research study using rapid ethnographymethods: surveys, observations, interviews, pedometer readingsanalyzed systematically and thematicallyqualitative and quantitative data analysis yielded quantitative and qualitative data organized intographs, tables, word clouds, relationship matrixes
LIMITATIONSParticipants’ desires were recorded, not necessarily needs. Health, happiness, productivity, motivation,and work performance of participants and offices were not measured with external measurements in thisresearch study. Only miles walked were measured externally. Extensive ergonomic assessments of eachoffice were not performed.
1. Of the holistic health factors—biophilia, ergo-nomics and exercise—considered in the work-place, which are valued by employees and em-ployers in the workplace?A majority, 10 out of 13, of participants equally valued emotional health, physical health, social health,and spiritual health.3 participants valued emotional health over physical, social, and spiritual health, believing all other healthfollows emotional health; therefore, biophilia, ergonomics and exercise were all considered to bevaluable to all participants.
1. Of the holistic health factors—biophilia, ergo-nomics and exercise—considered in the work-place, which are valued by employees and em-ployers in the workplace?More than half, 8 out of 13 participants, preferred to work in a workplace environment with exercise spaceand equipment, serene natural environment with outdoor space, and body-conscious furniture, equip-ment and workstations. derved from: Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
DISCUSSIONDoes climate and geographical location of an office and its personnel affect the desire for plants withinan office?Maricopa County, AZ, office of rocky and dusty southwest Arizona Sonoran Desert ecosystem with a sub-tropical arid climate of dessert, succulents and mountains1 natural plant, 2 artificial plants
DISCUSSIONDoes climate and geographical location of an office and its personnel affect the desire for plants withinan office?Maricopa County, AZ, office of rocky and dusty southwest Arizona Sonoran Desert ecosystem with a sub-tropical arid climate of dessert, succulents and mountains1 natural plant, 1 artificial plant
DISCUSSIONDoes climate and geographical location of an office and its personnel affect the desire for plants withinan office?Glynn County, GA, office of east coast—of a humid subtropical climate, barrier islands, marsh hammocks,maritime forests, and lush ecosystems11 natural plants, 0 artificial plants
DISCUSSIONDoes climate and geographical location of an office and its personnel affect the desire for plants withinan office?Glynn County, GA, office of east coast—of a humid subtropical climate, barrier islands, marsh hammocks,maritime forests, and lush ecosystems13 natural plants, 3 artificial plants
2. Of the holistic health factors—biophilia, ergo-nomics and exercise—considered in the work-place, which are considered by employees andemployers to be the most significant contributorsto productivity in the workplace?84.62% of participants believed “freedom to move between one social phase and another (from solitarywork to group interaction)” and “music” contributed or would contribute to their personal levels of pro-ductivity in the workplace. Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
3. Of the holistic health factors—biophilia, ergo-nomics and exercise—considered in the work-place, which are considered by employees andemployers to be the most significant contributorsto well-being in the workplace?More than half (8) participants felt their workplace lacked “opportunity for regular exercise”.No participants felt that their workplace lacked “meaningful change and sensory variability”.
4. At what economic cost are employees andemployers willing to implement elements of theirpreference of holistic health factor(s) into theirplace of work?More than half (69.23%) of participants were unwilling to sacrifice vacation time, hours, salary or pay cutsLess than half (30.77%) of participants were willing to sacrifice their hours Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
A. How much does each worker currently walkduring a typical work day?Participants were recorded with pedometer readings to walk from the least mileage of .33 miles per aver-age work day to the most mileage of 2.66 miles per average work day. The average miles walked duringa typical work day for eight participants were figured to be .78 miles for the less socially active and 1.41miles for the more socially active. This data shows that the less social participants walked less than themore social participants in participating workplaces.
RESULTS of DATA ANALYSIS 3 LESS SOCIAL MORE SOCIAL MORE PHYSICAL MORE PHYSICAL 2.66 W 2.625 2.25 PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PEDOMETER READINGS IN MILES 1.875 1.5 1.4 M 1.1 W 1.28 W 1.125 1.05 W .71 W .79 W .75 .72 M .54 W .67 M .51 W .375 .33 M LESS SOCIAL MORE SOCIAL LESS PHYSICAL LESS PHYSICAL 0 INTERVIEWS INTROVERTS BORDERLINE EXTROVERTS OBSERVATIONS LESS TALKATIVE MORE TALKATIVE LOW HIGH SOCIAL ACTIVITY M = Men W = Women
B. What holistic health programs or incentives arecurrently in place?No health programs or incentives were in place in any of the four offices for exercise, weight manage-ment, alternate transportation to and from work, or pet friendly behaviors.A small 3 out of 13 participants claimed their employers provided ergonomic furniture and equipment inthe workplace.
RESULTS of DATA ANALYSIS AT YOUR WORKPLACE, WHAT DOES YOUR EMPLOYER SUPPLY, ENCOURAGE OR OFFER INCENTIVES FOR? SOCIAlIZING 61.5% VACATION 61.5% MUSIC 61.5% LEAVING THE OFFICE FOR LUNCH 53.8% PERSONAL ACCESSORIES 38.5% BREAKS 38.5% ERGONOMIC FURNITURE & EQUIPMENT 23.1% OTHER 23.1% WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PET FRIENDLY BEHAVIORS EXERCISEALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION TO/FROM WORK 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 BIOPHILIA ERGONOMICS EXERCISE
B. What holistic health programs or incentives arecurrently in place?If corporate offices offered incentives and holistic health programs to their franchise owners, perhapssmaller franchise offices would be more inclined to offer health programs and incentives to theiremployees; this is what the two franchise workplaces of this study suggested.
C. What are ideal work environments?When asked to express their ideal workspaces, participants expressed both extreme idealistic work envi-ronments and minor adjustments to their existing workplaces. Such ideals included categories of: plants,animals, windows, lighting, space, furniture, art, personal items, environment, color, exercise and food.
IDEAL WORKSPACES SPACE ENVIRON- MENT 13 ART 11 2 COLOR PERSONAL ITEMS 8 2 EXERCISE IDEAL WORK ANIMALS 6 2 ENVIRONMENTS FOOD OTHER 6 3 WINDOW PLANTS 5 3 FURNITURE LIGHTING 4 3
PROVEN HYPOTHESISAs the hypothesis of this research study proposed, results represent that employees and employers indeeddesire mobility and resources in the workplace that support holistic health practices involving biophilia,ergonomics, and exercise. derved from: Steelcase. (n.d.). The movement toward wellness in the workplace. Retrieved April 20, 2011, from www.steelcase.com/ergonomics
FUTURE RESEARCHThis study laid a foundation for future studies of workplace health.Are mandatory breaks needed in workplaces? Some people eat lunch while they work, sacrificing lunchbreaks...Further research should be explored on the subject of lunch breaks in order to find the most efficient andproper way to implement exercise and health breaks into workplaces.
FUTURE RESEARCHA future study may collect quantitative data from controlled experiments, monitoring and testing so as tomeasure the relationships between holistic health factors and productivity and well-being.
FUTURE RESEARCHLonger studies using trial and error, involving action research, could focus on evidence based design,comparing productivity and well-being in current workspaces to productivity and well-being in the re-designed or new work environment adapted to incorporate holistic health practices according to partici-pants opinions and desires, which have been recognized in the data analysis of this study.
FUTURE RESEARCHExisting body positions at work and reasons for such positions must be explored in order to fully understandhow future research and design can improve workplace health.
INFORMING WORKPLACESAre people aware of their options--the variety of furniture and equipment available?10 out of 12 participants had not heard of a treadmill workstation.
INFORMING WORKPLACESAlthough most participants of this study expressed that they would prefer to work seated in an ordinarychair at a desk of standard height (the accommodations of most participants during the time of thestudy) participants may not have had experience with alternative options, consequently; they were nottruly able to express interest in alternative work positions and furniture options.
FUTURE RESEARCHA research study that tests participants work productivity and comfort while comparing various workpositions would shed more light on true workplace personnel ergonomic preferences, making certaineach participant is aware of alternative work positions through experiment experience.
FUTURE RESEARCHFuture research addressing exercise preferences and program specifics in the workplace would providevaluable information for action research.
INFORMING WORKPLACESWellness coaches and ergonomists are professionals who can educate workplace personnel on healthywork behaviors.Although ergonomic recommendations never completely eliminate the damage caused by chair sitting,following such recommendations would minimize health risks (Cranz, p. 101).
IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGNINTERIOR OFFICE DESIGN, INDUSTRIAL DESIGN and FASHION DESIGNIt is important, for the well-being of all users of a space, to consider emotional, social and physical healthduring workplace design and planning phases.Workplace design should not only cater to employees and employers within a work space, but also otherusers such as clients and patients. Steelcase Inc. (2009). The movement toward wellness in the workplace [Brochure]. Unknown:
DESIGN CONSIDERATIONSToday’s workplace demands can be stressful and harmful for the body and mind; however, relief can befound. Such things as: freedom to move from solitary work to group interaction, music, opportunities to engage in spontaneous social encounters, opportunity to engage in creativity, self-expression and exploration, appealing visual environments, regular exercise, space for body movements such as exercise, stretching and a variety of working positions, furniture and equipment, noise levels not much above or below that in nature, personal accessories, plant life, association with other species, access to outdoor environments, and sensory variability...can provide relief from everyday stresses and improve well-being (Boyden, 1971).
OFFICE DESIGN“Implicit in an understanding of the mind-body connection is an assumption that physical places that setthe mind at ease can contribute to well-being, and those that trouble the emotions might foster illness”(Sternberg, 2009, p.10).
INTERIOR OFFICE DESIGNInterdisciplinary desgin teams could collaborate to provide valuable insight for office design; such as inputfrom ergonomists, environmental psychologists, interior designers, architects and wellness coaches.During design and planning phases of office design, space should be considered for implementation offuture innovative health programs and equipment.
INDUSTRIAL DESIGNImplications for industrial design include equipment that accomodates body movement, comfort, andenhances productivity; such as the Walkstation by Steelcase and Dr. James A. Levine.Here too, interdisciplinary design teams would provide valuable insights for design opportunities.
(IM-)PRACTICALITIES OF EXERCISE AT WORKHygiene, space and time are some factors that may hinder workplace exercise, despite the desires forexercise in the workplace.Mild exercise such as steadily walking two miles per hour on a treadmill workstation will not likely involve asmany concerns for hygiene and professional appearances as would rigorous exercise programs.
IMPLEMENTING EXERCISE WORK PROGRAMSThe most efficient way to incorporate exercise into workplaces may be by providing gymmemberships, longer lunches, more breaks and workstations that accommodate more body movement,such as sit-stand-walk working stations. Steelcase Walkstation by Details. (2011). Retrieved November, 30, 2011, from http://store.steelcase.com/products/sit-to-walkstation/
FASHION DESIGNDepending on whether personnel prefer intense or mild exercise in their workplaces, professional attireof comfortable and practical materials that allow for movement and flexibility, absorb moisture and dryquickly would be more appropriate than the materials of typical restrictive pants, skirts, collared or buttondown shirts that can be found in professional wardrobes. Shoes are another component of fashion designto be considered in order to successfully implement healthy workplace practices such as exercise.