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Office spaces can be redesigned for greater wellness benefits, researchers say

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Tucson, AZ — Reimagined office spaces can help reduce worker stress and enhance overall well-being, a pair of University of Arizona researchers say in a recently published paper.

The researchers propose a framework based on seven areas for designing the built environment for well-being: resiliency, environment, movement, relationships, sleep, spirituality and nutrition.

Paper co-author Esther Sternberg, a professor of medicine and a member of the UA BIO5 Institute, drew on research conducted during her tenure with the General Services Administration. Those studies show that office layout can encourage workers to move more often, thereby reducing stress and improving sleep.

The paper cites many other studies, “such as those showing the sleep-improving effects of natural light, the well-being benefits of nature and the health benefits of proper building air circulation, which can improve cognitive functioning and reduce fatigue by reducing pollutants.”


Sternberg adds: “This paper is a merging of two fields: integrative health and the built environment. The concept of designing the built environment for physical health and emotional well-being has been around for decades, but wasn’t really the focus across all design fields until very recently.

“COVID-19 shone a very bright spotlight on designing for mental health because in the wake of the pandemic, there is a pandemic of mental health, of stress, of anxiety around the world. The built environment can play a very important role in reducing stress and enhancing all those elements of integrative health.”

The paper is scheduled for print in the November issue of the journal Building and Environment.

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