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Studies: office layout can affect your mental and physical health

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Leaving the office, most of us feel pretty exhausted. Studies now suggest that we can blame much of what ails us physically and mentally on the layout of our workspace.

Not all the 150 employees at Tough Mudder's international headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn sends e-mails from a treadmill desk. But any who want to may exercise that option.

"It's not like you're working at a call center where you have your booth and there's nowhere else for you to be besides your communal kitchen or something," says Tough Mudder brand VP Alex Patterson. He credits the company's in-house workouts with the health of his body and the layout of its office with the health of his mind.

"There are nooks and crannies where lots of people can brainstorm," he says.

American companies standardized the sprawling square room divided by cubicles or nothing to foster team atmosphere. But newer research suggests that the open-plan office actually raises stress while lowering motivation and focus and maybe even reducing life-expectancy.

"A lot of my patients tell me that sitting is the new smoking," says Dr. Len Horovitz of Lenox Hill Hospital. "If you don't move, you have more risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes."

He would likely excuse Tough Mudder sitters when he saw their mid- and end-of-day workout routines, standing desks, and -- yes -- the office treadmill.

But even an active open-plan office, with quieter work spaces where the distracted can focus, faces a greater risk of airborne germs than closed-off individual work spaces.

"It's absolutely true that a sneeze cloud, which is like a balloon, can travel a lot father in an open space and can affect a lot more people," Dr. Horovitz says.

The healthiest possible office likely varies depending on the worker and the individual needs of that person's body and mind.

But offering to employees a choice of where to sit, stand, or walk seems a fine place to start.

"We put the keg next to the door so you can't really leave without having a beer," Patterson says.

And that helps, too.

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