For Active Workplace, Avoid These Common Pitfalls

The latest thinking in active design can help keep office workers healthy and energized — but only if employers avoid common pitfalls, according to integrated design firm JZA+D of Princeton, NJ.

Thinking product first.
Among the biggest traps? Thinking that active design is a product choice. “For too many facilities, standing desks are offered as the solution,” says JZA+D founding partner Joshua Zinder, AIA. “But making employees stand for eight straight hours is no better than having them sit.”

active design
Photo by Michael Slack, courtesy JZA+D

Adds Zinder, “We have incorporated standing desks into our workplace designs, but as part of a holistic approach that encourages movement and activity throughout the workday. Standing desks alone are not a solution, just a product.”

Neglecting variety.
A second pitfall: Workplace designs that don’t encourage movement. “Standing is only one part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Zinder. “More important is variety: people need to be moving and doing things, so we work with clients to create buildings and interiors that promote activity during the working day.”

Zinder shares, “Whenever possible, we encourage our client organizations to consider adjustable desks, which allow employees to switch between sitting and standing positions at will.”

Designing in a vacuum.
A third challenge: Creating silos for architecture, furnishings, technology, and work policies — areas that need to be fully integrated to achieve long-term active design solutions.

active design
Photo by Michael Slack, courtesy JZA+D

That’s why Zinder and Zucosky provides integrated consultative design, collaborating from the earliest workplace planning phases and developing a mix of programming, architecture, interior design, branding, and advisory solutions for each client employer. “In the programming phase, the goal is not just to fit walls and furniture into a floor plan,” says Zinder’s partner, Marlyn Zucosky, IIDA, an expert in commercial office properties and the latest thinking in active design. “Instead, it’s a process that helps discover and define the company’s unique office culture.”

Forgetting that workers must rest, too!
The JZA+D design teams focus on a fourth big challenge, commonly overlooked: That active employees with well-rested brains are more productive. In fact, says Zucosky, most restful breaks include activity — walking to lunch, for instance, or playing a game. For this reason, recent projects by JZA+D include:

  • Break areas and shared printing stations located away from offices
  • Fitness equipment provided as an amenity
  • Adjustable desks for alternating between sitting and standing

Avoiding these common pitfalls can help facility management executives achieve more and lasting results from their active design investment.