Reducing the risks of sedentary behaviour

David Price – CEO of Health Assured

February 26 2016

There is no escaping the fact that a majority of our time in the office is spent sitting at our desks. This level of inactivity, alongside increased stress within the workplace is increasing the risk factor for what is now being termed the ‘sitting disease’, which according to the World Health Organisation is the fourth leading risk in global mortality. Despite this alarming statistic, workplaces have the potential to create positive change and lead the charge in creating an environment that values and supports employees’ health and wellness. What risks come with sedentary behaviour? High and prolonged levels of sedentary behaviour has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including, but not limited to, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression. Many ailments that we experience through prolonged sitting including tension in the neck and lower back, fatigue and poor circulation can be precursors to the more serious conditions mentioned above. It is important to note that even people who participate in regular physical activity are still vulnerable to the negative effects of sedentary behaviour, which makes it even more vital that employers take action and make employee wellbeing top of their agenda. Wellbeing: Extra Costs? Whilst wellbeing is moving up on the business agenda, some employers may be reluctant see the benefits of pushing money in this direction. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2014/15, 23.3 million days were lost due to work-related ill health, with stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health. With this in mind, spending money on improving employee health and wellbeing in the office in the short term, can actually pay dividends for the business in the long-term. In the big productivity debate, workplace morale and employees happiness in their jobs can play a significant role in the effectiveness of daily work practices and the quality of the work produced by employees. Whilst agreeing to invest time and money in wellbeing strategies is half the battle, the other, and more important half comes from finding a strategy that marries with your company culture and engages everyone from senior management to employees on the office floor. What can employers do? It is common knowledge that prevention is the best medicine with regards to workplace health and wellbeing. Introducing the traditional gym membership scheme may not be enough in this instance, as this will only cater for those are knowledgeable and focussed on what they need to do to stay fit and healthy. Additionally, this approach will not necessarily appeal to those who are short on time, and thus can’t attend gym sessions. Educating your employees is the best way forward, as it is the most effective method in encouraging both you as an employer and your employees to adapt or alter their current behaviours. Whilst it may not be practical to implement more breaks into the working day, ensuring that your employees are actually taking breaks away from their desks is a simple strategy that can make all the difference. Encourage your employees to move away from their desks at regular intervals during the day. Mild exercise such as short walks can be extremely beneficial, not only to their health, but to get their creative juices flowing and prevent fatigue from setting in. Perhaps look at implementing exercise into the weekly office routine. This could include running exercise classes during lunch or building in an invigorating approach to morning meetings, for example beach ball toss, where members are thrown the ball and tasked with answering a question. Not only will this encourage team bonding and communication amongst colleagues, but it will get the heart rate going and people laughing, which is great therapy for the mind and body. Try obtaining suggestions and feedback from your employees. What would they like to see implemented in the office? How could you improve the health and happiness of your employees? These are questions which will help determine what course of action may be beneficial for your company and its employees moving forward, it also demonstrates that you care about your employees, taking into account how they feel and work and valuing their ideas and opinions. This is a great all-round tool for how you can run your business more efficiently, whilst also ensuring that your employees are content and committed to a future with your company.    

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