Office workers need to leave their desks more often
Workers need to find ways to be more active, finds JULENA DRUMI
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. However, this article won’t make comfortable reading. In fact, your sedentary style could be doing more harm than good as research reveals that one in five UK employees are sitting for more than eight hours each day and putting their health at risk. Adding to the discomfort is that hybrid working, despite its popularity, has made matters worse.
Sitting for such long periods places UK employee health in the ‘high’ to ‘very high’ risk category. This is particularly concerning as Diabetes UK reports that more people than ever are at risk of type 2 diabetes due to their working habits.
The UK-wide Health, wellbeing & habits study asked more than 1,000 employees for insights into their health status over the last year. The aim was to discover how changing working patterns are affecting employees’ health and wellbeing, and how UK companies can better support their workforce in this area.
The study, conducted by vape retailer Vape Club, found that employees who do at least 2.5 hours of exercise a week were less likely to experience negative physical or mental effects from their work. Only one in seven workers in the East Midlands gets this much exercise, making them the least active in the UK.
The findings also raise concerns about the impact of hybrid working on employees as it emerged as a popular form of flexible working and is now being written into employment contracts.
Compared to office working and work-from-home (WFH) employees, hybrid workers were found to be the most likely to spend over eight hours a day sitting at their screen. They were also the most likely to work outside of their contracted hours.
Chris Myers, clinical specialist physiotherapist and owner of Complete Physio, says: “It’s important to encourage employees to ‘move’ regularly during the day, so offering things such as a sit-to-stand desk can be a great idea. Sitting still all day in the ‘perfect posture’ won’t actually help you.
“It’s also beneficial if employees get outside on their lunch break and get some fresh air or have a walk: there is a lot of research which links physical and mental health.
“A lot of employers also offer wellbeing perks such as gym membership, pilates or yoga classes.
“Employees should try to schedule breaks into their day at appropriate points. This will help them focus, but also give their bodies and minds a break. Having some social interaction will also reset their thinking and help them become more creative.”
Lyndsay Hirst, physiotherapist at Your Pilates, says: “One of the impacts of someone sitting for eight hours a day is the effect it has on their musculoskeletal health.
“I tend to find those who are desk based for long periods of the day are weaker in their posterior chain of muscles.
“It’s really important to change positions regularly during the day. I am a big fan of the desk that can be adjusted to standing. Businesses should consider standing meetings or even sitting on the floor (where possible), just to alter the hip and spine positions.
“There are lots of companies investing in the health of their staff. For me, allowing them time to do a workout during the working day is one of the best things they could promote.”