A curse of our times, a 21st century habit that is as dangerous as smoking, a cancer that kills us silently – phrases like this can be used to describe a sedentary lifestyle. How can you change your old habits, including those related to office work, and why is it worth doing so?
We site for 7 – 8 hours at work every day. Then we go home by car or public transport. When we get home, we sit at a table or in front of the TV. Unfortunately, this lifestyle has a very negative influence on our health, well-being and efficiency.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH
It is important to know that a sitting posture overloads the spine 40 – 90% more than standing (depending how correct our sitting position is), since when sitting we are not able to maintain the physiological curve of the spine. 72% of employees complain of backaches, 51% feel pain in their neck and 37% suffer from shoulder strains. Some even claim that an office worker, who spends most of their working time sitting, has more damage to the musculoskeletal system than a representative of any other industry. The employee absenteeism resulting from these conditions generates a huge expense for employers.
Now get up, raise your body on your toes and stretch your calf muscles. Repeat this exercise a few times. Stand steady on both of your legs and continue reading.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Physical activity after working hours is not enough; it is also necessary to change our body posture (from sitting to standing) in the office. Specialists recommend applying the 50/25/25 rules, which means spending 50% of your working time sitting, 25% standing and 25% walking. This should be divided into particular stages. We should stand for about 15 minutes per hour. It is essential to provide employees with a flexible work environment, where they can choose where to perform certain tasks themselves. In this case, it is important to convince employees to organise quick consultations at a high table, have conversations standing in a phone booth, and read printed materials sitting on a pouf or in a comfortable armchair.
But what about people whose profession force them to perform individual work at a desk for most of their working day? For instance, some IT specialists or accountants do not have many opportunities to hold meetings. To help employers take care of the health and well-being of these employees, the perfect solution is to use desks with height adjustment. They allow employees to change their body posture easily whenever they feel fatigued or physically uncomfortable. Even employees who have the opportunity to hold meetings, because of the irregular character of the meetings, should be able to choose the working posture they wish to adopt at any moment, since it has a huge impact on their productivity.
And now sit down again and lean back in your chair. Remember that the advanced mechanisms installed in an increasing number of office chairs can adjust to the user’s body posture and allow them to lean back or even move sideways. Check what options your chair is equipped with and start using them!
WHAT CAN A CHANGE IN BODY POSTURE GIVE YOU?
There are many physical and psychological benefits that result from changing body posture from sitting to standing. By doing this regularly, we allow the most overloaded parts of our body to rest, we strengthen our skeletal muscles and we regulate our blood pressure, which consequently reduces the feeling of discomfort often experienced at the end of the working day. We can also burn more calories. As research has shown, glucose levels, which usually increase after eating a meal, return to normal more quickly when employees sit and stand alternately. It is important to know that excessive glucose level increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Employees who regularly rise from their office chairs enjoy a boost in well-being. They are more creative and it is easier for them to come up with new ideas. Their level of engagement and efficiency is higher too – meetings held standing are usually shorter than those held sitting, and they can have great results.
Stop reading this article for a while. Go to the window, look at a remote point and let your eyes rest. Maybe there is some relaxing greenery outside. Link your hands above your head and stretch your body. Now encourage your colleagues to do the same.
FOLLOW A GOOD EXAMPLE!
Interestingly, the awareness of the damage a sedentary lifestyle can cause has prompted some governments to prepare regulations that allow employees to change their body position at work. Such regulations have been passed, for example, by the Danish Ministry of Employment and the Norwegian Directorate of Health. In the recommendations of the latter, we read: “Longer periods of sedentary behaviour should be interrupted with light activity. Exchange sitting and inactive time with low intensity activities such as standing, walking or strolling. Children and young people should regularly have the possibility to have sort activity breaks with light muscle activity for a few minutes. The same recommendations apply to adults who sit for prolonged time at work”.
This kind of policy bears fruit. In Scandinavia, as many as 90% of employees have access to sit-stand desks. The situation is also changing dynamically in Germany, where 25% of employees can use desks with height adjustment. This number has doubled over the last four years.
More and more companies are not only taking care of their employees’ health, but also their general comfort at work, which is determined by an interior’s temperature and air quality, good acoustic properties, and lighting with an intensity that varies depending on the time of day. This approach meets the global trend towards taking better care of employees. On one hand, this probably results from the fight for talent (24% of employees’ job satisfaction depends on their workplace), while on the other hand this is connected with the cool economic climate and the desire to avoid employee absenteeism and decreases efficiency.
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