Stand up when on the phone, get up from your desk every 30 minutes, take the stairs – employers will be encouraged to promote these and other small working lifestyle changes later this month during “On Your Feet Britain” day. Improving employee health through more active, less sedentary working needs to be about slow, sustainable lifestyle change.
Employee health and wellbeing – stand up to sedentary working on “On Your Feet Britain” day
April 26 is “On your Feet Britain” day, where employees and individuals across the country will be encouraged to get up off their seats and convert sitting time to standing time.
The event, run by the Active Working Community Interest Company and including a range of standing desk organisations as partners, is promoting a series of eight easy-to-do changes designed to get employees on their feet and more active during the working day. These are:
- Stand during phone calls
- Stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes
- Use the stairs
- Have standing or walking meetings
- Eat your lunch away from your desk
- Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of phoning or emailing them
- Stand at the back of the room during presentations
The initiative is also encouraging employers and teams to sign on its challenge page and is on the hunt for “workplace champions” to communicate and administer the event within their organisation. There will be a range of social media activity on the day via the hashtags #SitLess and #MoveMore.
Sedentary working lives
The fact that most of us are too sedentary at work, commuting to and from work and then outside work is, of course, nothing new.
To cite just some recent research, in February a survey commissioned by leisure product supplier Home Leisure Direct, concluded that more than half (53%) of office workers believe their health is impaired by their workplace, with many complaining of not getting enough exercise or time away from their desks.
The survey of 2,000 office staff found that two-thirds spent more than 60% of their time at work sitting down, with the remaining third spending more than 80% of their working day sedentary.
Also in February, research by the British Chiropractic Association concluded that a third (33%) of employees have taken at least one day off work due to back or neck pain in the past year, with almost half reporting their pain was triggered by spending long periods sitting at their desks.
To that end, anything that helps employers – and employees themselves of course – put in place practical, easy-to-stick-to lifestyle changes to help them become more active can only be positive.
Incremental, sustained change
As Dr Lucy Wright, Optima Health Chief Medical Officer, emphasises: “This is not necessarily about employees making radical changes, such as going for a run at lunchtime, although if they wish to and have the fitness to do so that is great, of course.
“It is about – and pardon the pun – encouraging employees to change a step at a time. Even small, incremental changes to how people move about at work can all help. If that can be sustained and made to stick, it can then be built upon to help employees become even healthier and fitter over time.
“But two other things are also important. First, these messages have to be more than not just a one-off on ‘On your Feet Britain’ day. Sedentary working is something you have to keep on pushing, promoting and communicating.
“Second, you need to ensure your organisational culture and environment encourages people to make and sustain these changes. For example, are managers buying into and even modelling some of these changes themselves? Are people being given time at lunch to get out and go for a walk? Are stairways accessible and easy to use? Are people actively encouraged not just to email each other all the time? It is not enough simply to be thing telling employees to get ‘on your feet’, employees have to see that it is possible to do within their organisation,” Lucy adds.