MAYO CLINIC WORK ENVIRONMENT GETS EMPLOYEES MOVING

Visitors think they’ve walked into a gym.

“This is a fully functioning office. My entire staff works here,” said James Levine, M.D., as he walks on a moving treadmill that serves as both desk and computer platform. “The idea is to introduce an environment that will encourage activity in the workplace. Just as it’s hard to be a coach potato without a couch, it’s hard to sit all day at work without a chair or a conventional desk or cubicle.”

Taking a meeting here is literally about taking a walk: A two-lane track circles most of the 5,000-square-foot floor and suits small teams just fine. Only when a large group gets together do employees head for the conference room.

This scientifically designed office environment is the realization of a decade of research at Mayo Clinic. Levine, an endocrinologist, has spent his career studying how humans expend energy. His recent research findings show that people can increase their caloric burn rate by moving more on a regular basis.

The office redesign cost about $5 per square foot. The standing desks are about $1,000 each, but the room requires no other office furnishings and no cubicles. The result is an open, sunny space with 10 standing computer desks, each with a variable-speed treadmill. All employees wear mobile phones.

Every detail in this reimagined office contributes to the get-moving environment: magnetic white boards serve as walls near the track for scribbling notes during moving meetings, and all keyboarding, phoning, and thinking are done during some form of motion.

According to Levine, the concept can be modified to suit any work need.

Source: Industrial Engineer; Aug, 2005

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