Those of us who work in an office environment find ourselves continually plagued by reminders that sitting down all day isn’t doing us any good at all. It’s true of course: prolonged periods of sedentary activity are bad for our health. According to a paper published by Professor John Buckley of the Institute of Medicine and University of Chester in 2015, for those of us working in offices, 65-75% of our working hours are spent sitting down. Sitting down for too long can cause back pain and neck pain, and Professor Buckley’s report also tells us that if we spend too long sitting down, the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers becomes significantly higher. Scary stuff.
Even scarier, my hunch (no pun intended) is that for Architects, we probably spend longer than 75% of our time sitting down. Our staff’s health and wellbeing is key to our output, so we wanted to break some habits and encourage our staff to get moving around the office. However, the simple fact remains that the majority of an architect’s work is conducted on a computer and is therefore desk-based, so how do we solve this?
The most dramatic solution would be to install a new adjustable sitting/standing desk for every member of staff. Whilst we know and understand that this is where all offices should be heading, this was a step too far for the time being (this is also the most financially significant option!) so we concluded that the first stage in introducing a change of behaviour would be to install a ‘standing table’ located in a central position in the office. The idea is that this would motivate us to move away from our desks for the times when work is discussion-led, and at the same time provide us with a surface for lunches & refreshment breaks (‘break-out space’).
Next problem: we found that commercial and domestic furniture retailers couldn’t offer us what we needed. Tables were either too small (probably designed as a bar table for occasional use – and too small for spreading large drawings out) or too large for the space we had designated for the table (a long and narrow space in front of our beloved pinboard) so we approached Matt Foster, AKA Plane Structure, a local furniture maker with experience working with artists and creatives to make bespoke pieces.
Working with Matt we developed a design for a table which was long enough for our space, wide enough for A0 drawings, and high enough to rest the average elbow on. Matt liked the idea of referencing American style timber bridges with lattice trusses (you know, the sort of thing you see in wild west films) and this was the result.
It’s long and only just fitted up the stairs, but the table, which is constructed using Douglas Fir trusses and a laminated MDF top has been in its new home for 6 weeks now and feels quite at home. A couple of us still find ourselves walking into it when exiting the kitchen area but old habits die hard.
Are we standing up more? Yes, I can honestly say we are. Our last Friday morning office meeting, which combines breakfast with a catchup on latest project news, was conducted around the new table. Informal discussions about office matters take place over there, quick project reviews, people popping into the office for a cuppa…. It’s gradual but the standing table will probably become the centrepiece of our working space which will probably lead to a wider change with our style of working. Success!