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Mayo Clinic creates 'Office of the Future'

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Most visitors think they've walked into a gym.

The creator of the "Office of the Future" is quick to correct them.

"This is a fully functioning office. My entire staff works here," explains 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 couch potato without a couch, it's hard to sit all day at work without a chair or a conventional desk or cubicle.

"We have meeting rooms, but for small groups we prefer the track," says Dr. Levine. He's referring to a two-lane walking track that circles most of the 5,000-square-foot floor. "So when my colleagues and I 'take a meeting' we also take a walk."

This scientifically designed office environment is the practical realization of a decade of research at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Levine, an endocrinologist, has spent his career studying how humans expend energy. His recent research findings (Science, Jan. 27, 2005) show that genomic and biological differences impact how many calories a person burns during everyday tasks. It proved the long-discussed concept of a "slow metabolism" as a factor in obesity. It also showed that people can increase their caloric "burn rates" by integrating more movement into their daily regime. Dr. Levine calls this process "non-exercise activity thermogenesis" (NEAT).

In the Mayo tradition of quickly translating medical discoveries into patient care, Dr. Levine created his NEAT-oriented office floor within six months of his scientific publication.

"We became more excited as we heard more about his idea," says David Eide, the Mayo Clinic construction manager who oversaw the extreme makeover of the office floor, along with the help of Mayo interior designer Cheryl Lavin-Meyer. "We met, kicked around some ideas, and then had two weeks to make over the space."

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25-May-2005


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