Sustainable lifestyle and health from a public health perspective

Concepts for the Sustainable Office of the Future (SOFCO)

The aim of SOFCO is to develop a concept for the office of the future that promotes a healthy working life and lifestyle as well as contributes to sustainable development. The results will rely on empirical data from office-based intervention studies that will be designed and analyzed together with actors on the office market as well as a large-scale population-based cohort study of office workers.

Project manager at MDU

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Today, about 60% of the working force work in offices. Traditionally, an office has been defined as an organizational space that comprises a built environment as well as the spatial environment, where employees perform their work. However, the boundaries between work and private life are getting blurred. Digitalization allows us to work regardless of time and space, and is increasingly being done in temporary, cross-border and collaborative projects and networks. This is manifested in office designs, which currently advocate activity-based flex offices that encourage digital and paperless office work, also referred to as New Ways of Working. This type of office and way of working are claimed to support environmental, economic and social sustainability, since they optimize the use of office space.

Although research shows that activity-based flex offices have managed to reduce office space for companies, it also shows that the behavior of the employees has not changed in line with the concept of New Ways of Working. Moreover, several actors on the office market recently suggested that the New Ways of Working concept should be broadened to support sustainable and long-term health among office employees.

Aim of the project

A paradigm shift in the office property market is on its way, and major actors would like to put people at the center of their properties, instead of seeing the property as a financial transaction. The aim of this project is to develop a concept for the office of the future that promotes a healthy working life and lifestyle as well as contributes to sustainable development.

Three sub-projects:

The project comprise three subprojects that will contribute knowledge to the synergy component of the proposal, i.e. concepts for the sustainable office of the future (SOFCO). The three subprojects are:

  • Subproject 1: An intervention study of sustainable lifestyle at work

Will generate employee-driven solutions to establish a sustainable lifestyle and health, where eating habits and physical activity are key elements.

  • Subproject 2: Green office work – developing sustainable ways of office work in indoor and outdoor green environments.

Will result in co-created concepts for green office work that foster individual and collective work tasks, and recovery during the workday.

  • Subproject 3: A population-based study of health among office workers.

We will utilize data from the large cohort study (n= 50 000) to study health and well-being among office workers. The data will serve as a future testbed and together with companies, we will formulate novel research questions relevant to office work.

The project originates from the new strategic research focus “Sustainable working life, lifestyle and health” at the School of Health, Care and Social Welfare at Mälardalen University (MDU) and be co-produced with the following innovative and leading companies on the office market: NCC Property Development, Castellum, Helio, Naava, GoToWork, Tenant and Partner, Matters Group, Stargo and COOR. In addition, we will collaborate with researches at the School of Innovation, Design and Engineering (IDT) at Mälardalen University, Linköping University, Oxford University, as well as Stanford University. Moreover, the research project will enrich the learning environment at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD levels at MDU.