Healthy Office, Happy Office


Wellness in the workplace is no longer a nice perk—it’s now a mandate within the Affordable Care Act. That, coupled with a growing millennial workforce expressing a desire for a flexible, healthy place to spend their days, has companies listening more closely. And they should! (After all, who wants to be tethered to the desk with little to no daylight?)

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A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that prolonged sitting has significant health risks, regardless of one’s physical activity levels. Along with encouraging movement, there are many other small adjustments companies can “put into motion” to make the office a pleasant, yet productive place to work. Here are eight things every tenant should consider:

Access to daylight. Study after study points to the psychological and physiological benefits of daylight. One, conducted by the California Energy Commission, consistently linked exposure to daylight with higher levels of concentration and better short-term memory recall. You can let the sunshine in (along with killer views) through skylights on upper floors, rooftop lounges or stylish floor-to-ceiling windows.

Flexible, variable spaces. Mixing up the office configuration not only helps you get the most out of your square footage, but it also promotes a healthy mind, increases focus and fosters creativity.

Communicating stairs. A set of stairs can do wonders! They encourage walk breaks and exercise during the workday and can serve as a place to interact and hold meetings both small and large, formal and informal. We’ve personally seen the concept work well for two clients, Pernod Ricard and Deutsch, and have a feeling it will be in the plans of many more in the years to come.

Sit/stand desks. Adjustable-height desks and mobile work environments help reduce the risks of prolonged sitting. In recent years, these options have not only become more commonplace, but also better designed and more cost-effective.

A gym and/or yoga room. Gym membership has been a corporate perk for years, and that hasn’t slowed down with a fitness area as a top request these days. DailyBurn has an in-office gym (and a pantry that includes blenders for smoothies and healthy snacks) and one tech firm we worked with installed a multipurpose room for traditional work functions, along with the currently trending mid-afternoon office yoga break.

Bike storage. Another way tenants can encourage a healthful work environment is to incorporate bike storage areas, as Quirky has, into the plan. With more and more workers combining the commute with exercise, bike storage areas simply make great sense.

Large pantries. Spacious food areas are on trend, too. (Provided they’re stocked with healthy snacks and drinks and not candy bars.) Positioning these amenities and break areas further away from workstations incentivizes workers to get up and walk around, making the office more social and mobile.

Gaming areas. Fitness and fun go hand-in-hand. Adding a gaming area into the office gives employees another reason to take a break, both mentally and physically. Many tenants can attest to the fact that a quick mid-day game of ping pong clears minds, creates collaboration and heightens creativity.

With a little planning and forethought—and a focus on fitness and happiness—an office space can do more than be a simple place to work. It can be an environment that boosts overall satisfaction, increases wellness and leads to recruitment and, more importantly, retention. Remember, the healthy employees are also the most productive ones!

Scott E. Spector, AIA, (, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 2,000 projects.