It’s time to stand up to work actively
In 2015, the Public Health England and Active Working CIC published a Consensus Expert Statement. It provides guidance for employers and staff working in office environments to combat the potential ills of long periods of seated office work.
In the past 5 years, an accelerated amount of evidence has been published on the links between sedentary living, including time at work, and the leading causes of morbidity and mortality (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers). With 70% of sedentary behaviour taking place at work, it’s more important now than ever.
The results of active working
Environments that support health and wellbeing in the workplace and allow employees to work actively can be highly desirable spaces. Not least because they can result in:
- Improved employee wellbeing
- Productivity benefits
- Increased Engagement
- Absenteeism reductions
- Cost savings
The costs of prolonged sitting
The physical effect of prolonged and excessive inactivity are obvious. However, research has found that sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time and especially more than 4 hours per day, has a contributory effect to a variety of costs which will directly affect a business’ bottom line.
The cost of absenteeism
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average firm of 250 employees loses £4,800 per week due to sickness absence.
A Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey, estimates that every year, employee absences incur a £15bn cost to the economy. As a result of mental health and stress-related problems, 8.2 million work days are lost. And stress-related disorders have been the cause of 270,000 employees taking time off work.
A further cost of £5bn each year has been estimated by the TUC as a result of the 4.9 m days lost due to work-related back pain. On the flip side of this, implementing a wellness program can reduce absenteeism in the workplace by as much as 42%.
The cost of presenteeism
When employees suffering from ill health actually show up for work, the costs can be just as significant.
Disengagement or performing at lower levels as a result of ill health can reduce productivity. The Centre for Mental Health calculated that presenteeism from mental ill health costs the UK economy £15.1 billion every year.
Increasing productivity, engagement, and wellbeing
One method to encourage employees to work actively is the current trend for sit-stand workstations. People have unanimously claimed that they felt more alert, task-driven and positive after using them. This links directly to research that shows a direct link between healthy employees and improved performance.
A sit-stand strategy in the workplace has been shown to keep meetings short and efficient. Posture is improved with a reduced risk of back pain. Energy levels were seen to be higher, especially in the afternoon.
Your obligation as an employer
Anyone who employs staff has an obligation to keep them comfortable, there are any number of ways that this can be addressed, including conducting occupational health surveillance.
Since no two people are the same size or shape, you should provide chairs, desks, and monitors that can be adjusted. This should reduce the risk of backache, neck ache and other aches and pains.
Ensure that people who use computers take regular breaks. Working for long periods can increase fatigue and contribute to headaches, back and neck ache, and repetitive strain injury.
You should provide regular eyesight tests, since computers can increase the risk of eye strain.
Information on health and safety regulations should be provided, as most people aren’t aware of them.
Not all computer systems meet regulations, so assess the risks of using a particular workstation. Any problems should be corrected and made as safe as possible for the user.
Get Britain Standing
Campaigns like Get Britain Standing have been designed to educate employers and employees on the benefits of striving to work actively and highlight the potential ills of sitting for prolonged periods.
Employers need to evaluate the best ways to achieve this. Active working activities could include:
- Standing and taking a break from your computer every 30 minutes
- Standing during phone calls
- Using the stairs
- Having standing or walking meetings
- Eating your lunch away from your desk
- Walking to your colleague’s desk instead of phoning or emailing them
- Standing at the back of the room during presentations
- Use a sit-stand workstation
However, you choose to address it, you can’t deny the importance of aiming to work actively into the workplace. Contact us today to find out more about our occupational health solutions.