New study explains how to help employees stay active and healthy in office environment

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American employers’ wellness programs must reach beyond the office gym — and into the office itself, according to a new study.

“Employers across the nation have invested millions in office gyms as part of their wellness initiatives, but those facilities are largely going unused,” said Jonathan Webb, Vice President for Business Markets at KI Furniture. “It’s not that workers are lazy — rather, most feel that the facilities aren’t meant for them.

“In order to nudge workers toward healthier lifestyles, companies must reinvent their workspaces to encourage physical activity throughout the workday,” Webb said.

The new report explores Active Design — an approach that encourages movement and healthful choices at work. Height-adjustable sit/stand desks and open floor plans get people up and walking. In the office cafeteria, employers can implement Active Design principles by making healthy foods the default.

Employers are interested in Active Design because it improves not just employee health but the company bottom line. A majority of Americans are overweight or obese, thanks in no small part to their desk jobs in which many enjoy comfy Herman Miller chairs. These folks miss 450 million workdays per year — at a cost of $153 billion.

Office gyms were supposed to fight this trend. But 63 percent of workers say they do not feel that they can actually work out at the office.

The key is to make them exercise without even knowing it. Standing for two hours a day, for instance, burns 30 percent more calories than sitting.

“Active Design can help companies create a healthy workforce that’s more productive and engaged,” said Webb. “And that’s good not just for employers but employees, too.”