Analyzing the health of the office

Martin Keen demonstrates his Focal Upright standing desk.

In an article for The Atlantic, Julie Beck looked at the "optimal office" and found that one factor in some of the issues we're having with our workspace's may be the "open office" movement, and the fact that "[b]y the turn of the century, roughly two-thirds of U.S. workers spent their days in open-plan offices." In her article, Beck writes:

"But as the layout became commonplace, problems emerged. A 2002 longitudinal study of Canadian oil-and-gas-company employees who moved from a traditional office to an open one found that on every aspect measured, from feelings about the work environment to co-worker relationships to self-reported performance, employees were significantly less satisfied in the open office."

She also looked into the prevalence of fluorescent light in most modern offices:

"The brightness of the lights in your office affects your emotional state. When the lights are brighter, one particular study found, people were more aggresive, they found other people more attractive, they felt better about good things and worse about bad things. Everything was sort of intensified."

In terms of the new office trend of standing at a desk, instead of sitting down.

"It's been pretty well documented that people who sit a lot have higher risk for premature death and various, other health risks. But the standing desk hasn't been studied enough, I think, because it's a newer craze that people are getting into. But there was one study that said that standing for more than eight hours a day, right on the edge of the amount of time most people spend at work, can cause back pain, for pregnant women there's a risk of pre-term birth. It's not necessarily the perfect solution."

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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