Your work environment can impact your physical health just as the workplace itself can impact one’s mental and emotional well-being. In fact, many common setups and behaviors present in today’s workplace are now known to have a tangible impact on one’s health. Sedentary behavior is a hot topic nowadays, and even schools are taking steps to getting people up and out of their chairs.
Prolonged bouts of sitting has become a serious health concern, especially when it comes to the workplace, as many workers are seated at their desks for upwards of 8, 10, and 12 hours a day. While many employees seek to combat this health concern by increasing their exercise, science is now showing that the best way to combat sedentary health concerns is not to target exercise but rather to target sitting times instead.
We feel more relaxed when we’re seated, so what’s the big fuss about? Research has shown that increased times of prolonged sitting can also increase one’s risk for health-related issues such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. To combat these issues, many turned to exercise as a cure-all; but now, studies are showing that increasing levels of physical activity is likely to be much less effective at reducing prolonged sitting than directly attempting to decrease sitting time itself.
In order to assess workplace ergonomics and their effects on the health of your employees, you should first analyze the workplace setup itself. Many find that a quick glance at their office setup can reveal a lot about the posture and positions that your employees are restricted to throughout the day. Are your desks in a position which requires a specific chair height? Are computers and screens at a level which forces employees to bend or hunch over awkwardly? The best way to approach workplace impacts on the health of your employees is by having an ergonomics assessment, which can reveal many of these key areas of concern.
The next step is to combat the areas of concern with targeted programs and solutions. For instance, programs designed to remind your employees to take regular breaks can help your employees avoid repetitive strain injuries.
While taking stretch breaks can certainly influence one’s repetitive strains and behaviors while sitting at a desk, studies stress that it’s also important to not only stretch but to actually stand up and move around as well. Improve your health by reducing sitting time in general. Stand up instead of simply taking a break, and consider revising your workplace setup as a whole to even include standing desks where possible. When the health of you and your employees is at stake, it pays to pay attention to factors that could be detrimental – and prolonged sitting should definitely be on your radar.