How can design promote sedentary worker’s health better?

Design for behavior change

Wondo Jeong


Team project

My Role: Project Managing, Research design, 3D rendering, Video making(50%), Graphic design


Common workers in offices in the modern society work in sedentary condition for a long time. In this context, death rates increase caused by cardio disease or metabolic syndrome[1][2][3][4] — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and so on. For that, ‘Acti’ provides several functions changing user’s behavior to be more active such as standing desk, light and movable design. Consequently, officers will experience working health and be productive with using ‘Acti’.


The mobile work station breaking sedentary culture.

‘Acti’ changes sedentary culture in the office to be active(standing more, live longer). The product provides various functions; boards, desk and chair. With the mobility of the product, office workers can personalize their own space such as the combination of ‘Acti’ for burning time.

Figure 1. Key feature: Transformable furniture
Figure 2. Contextual use case


The project’s begun to find design solution through suggested social problems from the master’s course. Our team picked the healthcare issue as one of the crucial issue people these days faced, and progressed under own design question: “HOW COULD WE PROMOTE SEDENTARY WORKERS TO TO SUSTAIN HEALTHY LIFE?” Then following research activities were conducted under these research questions that we can answer through the design solution.

  • What do people usually do in sedentary?
  • How long do people sit if they once sit?
  • In which situation do people move? (stretching, changing position, stand up…)
  • In which situation do people not move?

Problem and opportunity

Figure 3. Lifespan related with sedentary lifestyle

Nowadays, workplace makes us to sit much more than we move around. However, it is fatal for health and affects productivity worse ironically. Even if people meet the recommended physical activity requirements, death rates are similar in exercisers and non-exercisers who spend most of their day sitting. In other world, the more people stands, the longer people live. Exercise is useless if people do not stand frequently.

User Study

Figure 5. Field research methods

The purpose of user study is for answering the research questions below. Through this process, factors that promotes movement of sedentary workers can be found. User study is conducted to find out the specific dimension of sedentary culture across the office workers.

  • In which situation do people move?
  • In which situation do people not move?
  • What do people usually do in sedentary?

Participants of user study are sedentary workers. One person is information guide who work in information desk of UNIST, two people are employee who work in UNIST CDE administration office and two people are start-up workers, Open Arena. Three groups are varying in their professions and demographics are recruited. Total 5 people are invited to the user study. All participants work in a sitting position dominantly.

  • Observation
Figure 6. Video Ethnography: Fly on the wall

Video recording of workers were done for their whole working hours. Their actions within the environment were scrutinized. It is useful method to get unbiased raw data and understand unconscious activity. Furthermore, video ethnography is suitable for sedentary workers because their workplace is limited.

Figure 7. Code book

Every moving activity, even it is trivial, is written on the code book. The time, duration, trigger and insight are written and analyzed.

  • In-depth/Retrospective Interview
Figure 8. Semi-structured interview script and activity

After analyzing video ethnography through the codebook, interview script is made for each groups. Their rationale behind their action was further inquired by interviewing. Same participants in video ethnography did in depth interview about 30 minutes. It is useful method to get information that can not know from the video ethnography.


Frequency investigation

Figure 9. How many times participants sit-up or do stretching during the observation duration

With recorded video, the number of standings and stretches is counted. Furthermore, the total time they stand up is also taken. Among three grounps, start-up owners are the people who stand up for the shortest time.

Spatial Model of Sedentary Workplace

Figure 10. Spatial layouts from three different participants

We create a spatial model to find the elements that make the sedentary workers move in the office environment. This model makes it possible to see at a glance the environment they are in.

Affinity Diagram

Figure 11. Affinity diagram

Small descriptions or insight obtained from the user study and above two methods are written on the post-it, then the affinity diagram is made to organize ideas and data. The situation in which people move or not move is divided into three subcategories, physical, social and environmental. As a result, four design criteria are created.

  • break optimized sedentary environment
  • Design of workstation
  • increase movement through social interaction
  • Make workers stand more frequently


Mental Model

Figure 12. Mental model of transformable furniture

Throughout looking back research findings from the video ethnography, the optimized sedentary environment such as traditional desk seems the most critical reason why people tend to sit longer. Breaking optimized sedentary culture through re-design work station turns the point of the concept. It is the new concept that combining a desk and a partition which provide standing desk as a fundamental function and a little stool to get a rest.

Use Scenario

Figure 13. Use scenario

In order to engage and promote people to stand and move more frequently, mobility function is added finally. Through this finalized concept office worker is expected to use the product under defined user scenario which contains:

  • Standing desk: The product plays the role as a standing desk once the user folds down the plate on top of the moving partition.
  • Mobility: Through the movable functions and the light design, users can easility have a tendency to stand and move more frequently.
  • Spatial design: Users can use the products to make their own layout freely. For example, a couple of people can place three products as a triangle then it becomes a space for meeting enough even if it is not completely isolated.

Variations of transformation

Figure 14. Transformations

According to the use scenario design, the product’s main features were determined; mobile partition, standing desk and chair. Then three suggestions have been proposed through ideation process.



Figure 15. Working prototyping

The final working prototype is made linear aluminum rod and thick box paper. The aluminum frame is used for making the product frame, which holds the body, and stand needed to hold the wheels. The thick box paper is used for the main body which is transformable as desk, chair and partition. To hold the paper as 90 degrees, steel wire is fixed at the hinge part of the paper. Thanks to the hole of aluminum rod, the body part can be moved upward and downward, which is the required function for ergonomic issue.


Figure 16. Participants from two startup companies

The target groups are start up workers who have work experience in their start — up over 1 year. They are targeted because they are the group who stand up for the shortest time at user study stage. Total two groups are recruited. One group is composed as two people who work in the same start up. User Evaluation should be conducted as group because of utilization of space. For adapting ‘acti’ to various situation discussion of co-workers is really important.

User Evaluation

Figure 17. Given context different user behaviors were observed

With prototyping test, each group is asked to use ‘acti’ freely without any descriptions. They all answered to the question ‘what kind of product is mignt be?’. It is for experimenting how they feel and accept this new concept of product? Then all functions are informed and they are recommended to use every function.


Figure 18. Redesign sketches

After executing user evaluation, redesign is processed. It is need to contain various functions such as desk, chair and boards for spatial efficiency. In addition, the office furniture should help communication between team members. Through sketch, our final design outcome is drawn.

Final Outcome

Figure 19. Final outcome that support both transformation and mobility

This is rendering image of final design. It is designed to give a bright and active overall look. Office workers can use it as desk, chair or blackboards as preferred. In addition, they can freely configure the office space by moving the furniture.


[1] Too little exercise and too much sitting: Inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior

[2] Future of healthcare, PSFK

[3] Sedentary lifestyle can kill, BBC

[4]The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle,
JoAnn E. Manson, MD,DrPH