Second only to your house, you probably spend the majority of time at your office, especially if you work a nine-to-five. So, it should come as no surprise that research is finding that your work environment may be impacting your mental and physical health. But while most research focused on how your work impacts your health has found a negative association, a new study shows that workplaces with open office seating are better for your overall health.
The research, led by a team at the University of Arizona Institute on Place, Wellbeing and Performance, was originally published in the U.K. medical journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. To conduct the study, the researchers had 231 federal office workers wear both stress and activity sensors for three full days at work, and two nights. This was to measure stress that study participants experienced at work, versus their stress levels at home.
Interestingly enough, the study found that workers who in open offices not only experienced less stress in the daytime, but had higher levels of physical activity than their counterparts who worked in closed-off workspaces like cubicles or offices. Specifically, workers in open offices were 32 percent more physically active than those in private offices, and 20 percent more active than workers in cubicles.
Additionally, study participants who were more physically active at work also experienced 14 percent less stress when they were out of the office than cubicle and private office workers. Meaning, sitting in the same spot all day at the workplace may have an effect on your wellbeing long after you power down your laptop, and head home for the day.
"This research highlights how office design, driven by office workstation type, could be an important health promoting factor," Dr. Esther Sternberg, the senior author of the study, and the research director the UA Center for Integrative Medicine, said of the study in a Aug. 20 press release.
Despite this study's findings, not everyone is a fan of open office layouts, whether due to noise concerns, privacy issues, or other reasons. What's more, some studies have indicated that open office work plans can lead to a decrease in productivity in the office.
However, this emerging research lends more credence to the idea that the potential benefits of open office seating outweigh the potential cons. Your health matters way more than your work productivity in the long haul. And to put it simply, science has shown office jobs are, well, pretty damaging to your health: As Business Insider reported in 2016, the simple act of sitting all day long at work can actually take years off your life. Not to mention, sitting slouched over at your desk can lead to chronic pelvic pain, back pain, headaches, and digestive problems, among other ailments. A 2015 study even discovered that sitting for long periods of time was associated with a higher risk of developing certain cancers and type 2 diabetes — and, not even a regular 30 to 60 minute sweat session could combat these negative health effects.
Staying active at your office can be difficult, but incorporating simple workouts your can do at desk throughout the day, and making small changes to your work space can help you feel less stressed. This study shows that even if you hate watching the person across from you chew gum all day with every fiber of your being, your health might benefit from your open office plan.