Public Health England
Sitting at your desk all day means companies are “haemorrhaging productivity” according to PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie.
He wants us to get up and move more, have walking meetings (it reminds me of that phrase used by bosses “walk with me” which also seemed controlling to me, but moving on, literally) because we like bursts of energy.
He thinks firms would benefit more by spending less time sitting in a chair and more time moving around. He wants employers to think about how to get people moving more.
They did a similar campaign two years to get people to stand up more, about which I posted. Standing up more is one thing but given our climate holding outdoor meetings could be quite a challenge.
However research shows that being sedentary is linked to all kinds of health problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and heart disease. So if you take your health seriously you should consider it.
I remember visiting the BASF factory in Munster a few years ago and seeing the outdoor meeting area (picture below). It seemed to work for them.
A report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said employers should encourage the workforce to break up their day by getting away from their desks with standing work or breaks for at least 2 hours a day.
They suggest that we should use more “standing” desks to move away from a sedentary life-style and move towards one where we spend half the working day on our feet.
“Unlike purposeful exercises, standing is something that the vast majority of individuals can do without too much effort and it doesn’t detract from time at work“.
At present the researchers believe that office workers spend between 65% and 75% of their time in periods of prolonged sitting. In Scandinavia 90% of office workers have access to standing desks compared to 1% in Britain.
Public Health England said “simple behaviour changes to break up long periods of sitting can make a huge difference” (to health).
What are the health risks they are referring to?
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Stressed neck muscles
- Pressure on back compressing discs
- Double the risk of pulmonary embolism
- Obesity and increased risk of colon cancer
- Double risk of heart disease
- Increase in blood pressure
- Double the risk of diabetes (according to the World Health Organisation)
Simple steps to avoid these risks
- stand up to answer the phone (it will also make you sound more confident)
- take a break from your computer every 30 minutes (you can install software to help you with this)
- use the stairs not the lift
- have stand up or walking meetings (notice the buzz groups that managers hold in supermarkets)
- instead of e-mailing a colleague actually walk over to their desk and speak to them in person (practise those interpersonal skills)
The research was commissioned by a community interest company called Active Working which claimed that call centres with standing desks recorded an increase in call response rates and call quality.
I always thought call centres were the equivalent of Victorian factories and recall that office workers in those days also had standing desks. Are we turning back the clock?
A CBI spokesperson said “Businesses recognise the importance of looking after their employees’ well-being as a means of maintaining a happy, healthy and therefore productive workforce. Companies will generally take a common senses approach, and offices can be re-designed to encourage different ways of working, but ultimately firms will seek to balance the practicalities of time spent away from desks with the needs of the business“