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Occup Med (Lond). 2017 Jun 1;67(4):260-267. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqx022.

Perceived office environments and occupational physical activity in office-based workers.

Author information

Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.
The Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Department of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK.
UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, Central House, University College London, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK.
Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Third Floor, Olympia Building, Bridgeton Cross, Glasgow G40 2QH, UK.
UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, 132 Hampstead Road, University College London, London NW1 2PS, UK.



Individuals in office-based occupations have low levels of physical activity but there is little research into the socio-ecological correlates of workplace activity.


To identify factors contributing to office-based workers' perceptions of the office environment and explore cross-sectional relationships between these factors and occupational physical activity.


Participants in the Active Buildings study reported perceptions of their office environment using the Movement at Work Survey. A principal component analysis (PCA) was conducted on survey items. A sub-sample wore the ActivPAL3TM accelerometer for ≥3 workdays to measure occupational step count, standing, sitting and sit-to-stand transitions. Linear regression analyses assessed relationships between environmental perceptions and activity.


There were 433 participants, with accelerometer data available for 115 participants across 11 organ izations. The PCA revealed four factors: (i) perceived distance to office destinations, (ii) perceived office aesthetics and comfort, (iii) perceived office social environment and (iv) perceived management discouragement of unscheduled breaks. Younger participants perceived office destinations as being closer to their desk. Younger and female participants perceived more positive office social environments; there were no other socio-demographic differences. Within the sub-sample with accelerometer data, perceived discouragement of breaks by management was related to occupational step count/hour (B = -64.5; 95% CI -109.7 to -19.2). No other environmental perceptions were related to activity or sitting.


Perceived managerial discouragement of breaks could be related to meaningful decreases in occupational step count. Future research should aim to elucidate the role of the workplace socio-cultural environment in occupational walking, with a focus on the role of management.


Movement; sedentary jobs; social environment; work environment.

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