Study: Open-plan offices reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes among employees

Interestingly, the design of an office may affect the diabetes risk of employees. A study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine recently found that open-plan offices cut the risk of Type 2 diabetes among employees. In addition, the study revealed that open-plan office workers are less stressed than those who work in small private rooms or cubicles.

Earlier research has associated sitting for long hours with health problems, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and researchers continue to look for ways to fight this. In the current study, researchers from the University of Arizona followed 230 people working for the U.S. government. They tracked them for three days and two nights with the use of activity and heart sensors. In addition, they asked the participants about their happiness and stress levels using a smartphone. (Related: Chronic stress leads to diabetes, study finds.)

The results of the study revealed that people who work in an open-plan office without any desk partitions were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. They were 20 percent, on average, more physically active than those who work in cubicles with walls. In addition, open-plan office employees were also 32 percent more active than those who work in private offices.

The researchers hypothesized that this may be because employees move more in this type of working space compared to those who work in smaller working environments. Open-plan office workers move from one place to another to attend one-on-one video calls, small group chats, or larger conferences.

“If we can figure out how to design offices to allow people to be more active, that will result in better health and lower stress, so educating people about that is really important,” explained Esther Sternberg, director of the university’s Institute on Place and Well-being.

Furthermore, the most physically active workers appeared to gain benefits at home as well. Based on the measurements from wearable heart sensors, 14 percent of these employees were less stressed than their more sedentary colleagues. In addition, older employees and overweight employees were the most stressed.

Using sit-stand desks at work cuts Type 2 diabetes risk

A study published in the journal Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health revealed that employees who use sit-stand desks at work are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and more likely to live longer. Sit-stand desks enable people to raise the desk to stand while working, which could have greater health benefits for employees who otherwise sit for most of the day.

For the study, a team of researchers from Deakin University in Australia tracked over 230 office employees. The research team aimed to get the office employees to stand more by using the specially adapted desk.

“Ultimately this intervention has the potential to make a very significant and sustainable positive impact on reducing workplace sitting time, but most importantly it is also cost-effective, which we know is critical in making the case for a wider rollout of this program,” explained Lan Gao, lead researcher of the study.

According to the estimates of the research team, introducing sit-stand desks in the workplace could save 7,492 “health-adjusted life years,” which is a measurement of the health of a population, by preventing conditions caused by obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The researchers also believe that this workplace intervention can potentially reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.

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