07 May 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
This month we investigate what organisations are doing to reduce 'binge sitting' in the workplace.
Results of a survey for On Your Feet Britain Day on 26 April suggests that office workers don't move enough during the working day.
It claims that although about 50 per cent of companies have policies in place or provide advice about the need for staff to reduce the amount of time they spend seated in the workplace, the habit of incorporating regular activity into the working day is a difficult one to cultivate.
We've also seen more warnings - by way of a recent academic journal study - about the dangers of too much sitting. (In short: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, death )
What's more, researchers at the Centre of Public Health at Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University have extrapolated data from previous studies to assess the financial impact of sedentary behaviour on the NHS for the first time. They found that spending large amounts of time sitting or lounging around during the day is linked to around 50,000 deaths a year in the UK, with the NHS spending in excess of £700 billon a year treating the consequences of inactive lifestyles.
All in all, sitting's been getting a kicking. What's needed, we're told, is more walking around, stretching or merely regularly switching from sitting to standing every hour or so.
So this month we ask: are you responsible for putting in place policies to counter 'binge sitting'? What pressure is there on you to ensure that workers take regular breaks from sitting?
Opening the door to exercise
We have bikes that are FlexiSpot office/desk bikes that encourage movement while at your desk. Over the past 12 months we have focused on the health and well-being of our customers and specifically students as we are predominantly within the student accommodation sector; we have partnered with Student Minds, which is now our charity of choice. We are also tapping into the knowledge and support they can provide in ensuring our colleagues have the confidence and awareness they need. In line with this we have also focused on the health and well-being of our internal colleagues through a variety of initiatives, one being national health and fitness day - we encouraged all staff to spend their lunchtime walking, their daily amount was accumulated across the business to cover the target distance of Glasgow (our most northern site) to Bournemouth (our most southern site) - 456 miles. We did fall short of the target, however, positively some colleagues have continued with the lunchtime walks following that day.
While looking at areas to promote and provide options for an active working life we felt the FlexiSpot desk bikes would be a perfect fit for our new head office and it now offers a space where not only can colleagues work and exercise but also informal meetings can be held with a difference.
We feel a good active lifestyle promotes positive working; we can all relate to real-life struggles and sometimes following a day at work exercise is not an option. We have now eliminated that problem and opened the door to exercising at work.
David Wooffindin, director, operations, Derwent FM
Ditch the 'al-desko' culture
As workplace specialists, we know how important it is to be up and active during the working day. Not only does there need to be plenty of options in terms of how and where to work, but also various working styles need to be accommodated. Designers have a responsibility to provide work environments that promote a healthy way of living, but ultimately employers have to encourage their workforce to shy away from bad habits like sitting down all day. We've all heard 'sitting is the new smoking' and though this is a slight hyperbole, it isn't good for us. It is crucially important that employers are actively aware of the spaces they are providing and how these can promote a healthier lifestyle.
At Active, everyone has a sit-stand desk, allowing for work to be completed in whichever way suits the individual. With the option available to everyone, people can take control over how they work. We also encourage movement around the office by having an unassigned desk policy. No one in the office has an assigned desk, and personal belongings are stored in lockers during the working day, allowing for flexibility and movement.
We also implemented a 'no eating at the desk' policy, ditching the 'al-desko' culture and encouraging staff to take a lunch break. UK office workers put in more than 17 unpaid hours a month because of a culture of having to be seen at their desks; we as employers need to do more to take away that pressure. This promotes movement and productivity, as after a break from your desk you are refreshed!
Angela Love, director, Active Workplace Solutions
Sitting it out
"Staff are encouraged to work flexibly, moving around, go and see colleagues rather than email etc - but this doesn't often happen."
"There is no official system in place that I'm aware of (I may be wrong), although our company is flexible on this kind of thing. I am naturally restless so I move a lot and always take a lunchtime walk, but others may feel chained to their desk more as a result of how they are temperamentally, rather than how we are driven by management. How do you define binge sitting? Blocks of two hours straight of sitting? More clarity is needed.
"I can only imagine what it's like to work in a company that does not care about this, and there are way too many of those in this country; strong measures are needed to point out the culprits. The only way we can overhaul this problem is by making it unacceptable for an office culture to drive its workers half to death, making it a more manual society (oh, ha-ha!), or having more of us work in the fields. Any takers?"
"The relaxed atmosphere in the office allows the employees to take frequent breaks, happy with the working environment and the freedom to stretch one's legs throughout the day. This is applicable to the United Arab Emirates."