Best Practices in HR

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Robyn Whalen
  December 5, 2018

How Sitting is Harming Your Employees (+7 Tips to Fix It!)

Is sitting all day slowly killing your employees? 

Think about the average amount of time they sit in a day. Between commuting, office work, and then lounging at home, it adds up.

Research shows sitting for five or more hours a day is equivalent to smoking 1.25 packs of cigarettes. Another study showed a sedentary lifestyle is a potential risk factor for early death. 

Considering health experts have been telling us our whole lives to exercise more, eat less, and avoid smoking, the research isn’t too shocking. 

Sitting for long amounts of time has also been linked to health issues like diabetes, obesity, and abnormal cholesterol levels. 

Those aren’t exactly health concerns you want to sit on and ignore.

From an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies are meant to be moving. Our ancestors had very little time to rest and recover and rarely sat down  — they had to hunt food and stay on the move for survival. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about tigers chasing us down in the workplace. 

But you still want to get your employees moving, right?

It may actually be easier than you think, even if your company doesn’t have the budget (or space) for bulky standing or treadmill desks. 

Ready to sit less? 

Here are seven easy ways to get moving:

1. Host a Steps Challenge 

There’s nothing like a little friendly office competition. Employees who want to be more active will get addicted to tracking their steps (shoot for 10,000 steps or more a day) with a pedometer. Some free apps are available for phones but are not always reliable in step counting.

If there’s an office budget for it, employees will love finding a shiny new Fitbit on their desks with an invite to participate. Track progress over the month, and hang a graph with the results on the wall or use a wellness portal to inspire and encourage employees to get stepping.

2. Organize “Walk and Talk” Meetings

Instead of crowding into a stuffy conference room, get out into the great outdoors. If the presentation doesn’t require a ton of paperwork or PowerPoint, walking meetings are a great option. Employees can enjoy fresh air and exercise while being productive. Win-win all around.

3. Set Alarms 

Every 30 minutes, encourage employees to set a reminder to stand up. Better yet, have the whole team get moving when the alarm chimes. It may seem silly at first, but doing some light stretches together at the same time will offer a sense of camaraderie.

4. Be an Active Phone Chatter

Need to take a call? Prep prior to a call to stand for the duration of it. Throw in some light squats for double the calorie burn and benefits. If standing while chatting doesn’t work, sit on a yoga ball for the call. It works the core and helps with balance.

5. Eat Outside the Office

Everyone has to eat. If it’s lunchtime, ask a favorite coworker to join you. On days you bring your lunch, find a nice spot outside for a midday picnic. If a local favorite lunch spot has a fantastic salad bar, head that way. Skip the drive, though. You’ll burn calories, catch up with a friend, and you’ll feel more energized upon returning to work.

6. Talk to Coworkers

With today’s technology, it’s so easy to ping a colleague who is across the hall. Instead, get up and go ask your question in person. It will force you out of your chair, and it provides much-needed social interaction that is sometimes missing in busy offices.

Working on a project with a ton of pieces? See if your coworkers will join you for an evening walk or run to brainstorm and get creative.

7. Use Standing Desks 

While this is a more costly endeavor, some company leadership may feel the cost is worth it to have healthier employees. There are plenty of options available, including sit-stand converting desks. Employees who use standing desks have overall better health and less desk work-related issues like back, shoulder, and wrist pain.

Standing desk benefits include: 

  • Burns calories  
  • Reduces back pain
  • Improves mood and energy levels
  • Lowers risk of heart disease

Standing desks don’t have to be expensive, either. We even have some tips for a DIY option! Prices range from $350 for simple, conversion models, up to $2,000 for fancier setups. When considering the cost of overall employee health, the one-time price isn’t much. That price tag is a lot less expensive than having an empty seat due to an employee taking repeated time off for a doctor’s visit for back pain from sitting too long.

Take it Easy When Taking a Stand 

Like most physical activities, it’s always best to ease into getting active. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, the body needs some time for adjustments to a more active lifestyle. Everything is best in moderation, including standing while working. Research shows spending one hour standing for every 1-2 hours of sitting is the happy medium.

Reducing sedentary time will make the body happy, and it improves metabolic, mental, and physical health overall. 

Next time you’re at work, try out one of these tips and let us know what you think! 

How do you prevent yourself from sitting too long at work? Share in the comments below!  Active Design CTA