Insurance 24 August 2017

Four ways employers can reduce the risks of sedentary habits amongst staff

standing desks
A mixture of sitting and standing can improve an employee’s health

As Public Health England publishes new data on the effects of sedentary habits on UK workers, Health Assured CEO expert David Price offers four ways employers can demonstrate they value staff health and wellbeing.

There is no escaping the fact that the majority of our time in the office is spent sitting at our desks. This lengthy level of sedentary habits can have serious downsides to our health, and has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including obesity and depression.

The World Health Organisation identified “inactivity” as the fourth leading cause of death, with an estimated 3.2m losing their lives globally to the effects of sedentary habits and lifestyles and research, published widely in the UK this week by Public Health England stated that that a shocking 41 per cent of 40 to 60 years-olds do not managed to do a brisk ten-minute walk every month.

How can businesses address this problem in the workforce and lead the charge in creating a workplace that values and supports employees’ health and wellbeing? Here are four ideas.

(1) Get on your feet

While technology has simplified many workplace processes, it is also responsible for making us remain in our seats for too long.  Staff can read emails, take part in several business calls and join in on a team discussion, all without leaving their seats.

To change this kind of behaviour, it’s important to encourage staff to get on their feet some more. Employers can do this by promoting initiatives such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and encouraging staff to walk over to colleagues to discuss work-related issues instead of emailing them.

Getting staff to drop bad habits and be more active in their menial office tasks is also a way to promote regular movement. For example, by removing bins from under desks, repositioning drinks dispensers and placing printers away from nearby workstations, staff will inevitably have to move.

(2) Standing and walking meetings

Another way to get staff on their feet is to hold standing and walking meetings. It might take a while for some people to adjust to this new method, but it can positively alter the tone of the meetings, keeping them short and to the point.

Walking meetings are ideal for smaller groups of around two to three people, and can have a great impact on the amount of time staff spends actively during the day.

(3) Encourage staff to take lunch and breaks away from their desk

Good food practice makes a big difference to your working day, as eating at regular intervals helps to combat stress and depression. Not only do our brains need rest to perform at their best, by encouraging people to make an effort to leave their desks and have a proper lunch they will also get moving, and it will help encourage mindful eating.

(4) Sit-stand desk solutions

Sit-stand desks can be effective in reducing the amount of time your staff sit down, and are no longer the obscure recommendation they used to be (however they can be costly).

Even if your workplace can offer a regular sit-down desk only, chances are you may have electronic devices such as a laptop or a tablet that can be used to migrate to a different working area.

Finding a table top that’s the right height can be tricky, but if you have one if your workplace it can break up the day and a mixture of sitting and standing can easily become a reality. So, get moving to reduce sedentary habits in your workplace.

David Price is CEO at Health Assured, an online resource designed to support employee health and wellbeing. 

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