Soon, We’ll All Go to Work in Hamster Wheels

Companies are finding ingenious, sneaky new ways of getting employees to exercise without even realizing it. Buildings and office spaces – even office furniture — are being designed around that goal. Can it be long before out cubicles are replaced with giant hamster wheels?

In architecture and design circles, the approach is called Active Design. It’s a way of creating a workspace that encourages/forces employees to be more physically active.

For instance, architects design workspaces with open floorplans to increase the amount of walking an employee will typically do. They bring stairways into the workspace, instead of putting them off into the corners, behind walls. This is meant encourage more climbing, and fewer elevator trips.

Cubicles are removed, and replaced by open, collaborative workspaces.

Active design extends to fixtures and furniture. Employees are issued height-adjustable sit/stand desks, for instance, since standing encourages people to move around, and burn calories.

Not all of this is being done behind employees’ backs, either. Employees are encouraged to take part in these changes, and are being offered various incentives for adopting healthier lifestyle practices both in and out of the workplace.

Companies have been experimenting with “healthy lifestyle incentives” for years. They have bribed employees to lose weight, or to quit smoking. Numerous companies have offered free gym memberships – or even added fitness centers within their corporate campuses and office floors.

These approaches have met with limited success. More active types will take full advantage of these programs, while those who are prone to less active lifestyles will ignore the incentives, and strenuously avoid the in-house gyms.

Designing the workplace to require greater physical activity essentially forces people out of their chairs, and up the stairs. This may be a bit sneaky, but the approach seems to be working, and not causing any revolts among workers. We’ll see how well they react to the human hamster wheels, though.

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