The United States is currently facing a sitting epidemic. Studies over the last several years all point to the same conclusion — sedentary lifestyles lead to higher mortality rates. Sitting for too long increases the chances of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.
So, how can industry professionals begin to combat this problem? People spend around 40 hours a week at work, mainly sitting. To get to the root of the problem, employers need to change how they run their businesses and support their employees’ well-being.
1. Initiate Workplace Challenges
Competition and prizes are great motivators for at least temporary change. Come up with a workplace challenge for each month of the year focused on different aspects of wellness. Some should specifically target sedentary time.
One month could have a goal for everyone to drink half a gallon of water daily. Another month, employees could track their steps, trying to reach a certain number of stair flights taken.
Offer incentives for anyone who completes the monthly challenge to encourage participation. Employers might provide a special luncheon or entries into a drawing for a larger prize.
2. Move Commonly Used Technology Across the Room
When there are copiers spread out across the office — conveniently located next to everyone — there’s little need to get extra steps in and move around. The results are even worse when employees have little reason to move from where they’re standing because they have everything they need at their station.
To encourage more movement, have one or two centers set up in less-convenient locations so workers need to go further to pick up their papers. There will probably be some pushback at first, especially if everyone has had a long time to get used to the more convenient placement. However, sharing the reasons for the shift could help smooth things over.
3. Invest in Sit-Stand Desks
While encouraging staff members to get up and move around from time to time is crucial, the root of the problem is the amount of time spent sitting necessitated by their work. Sit-stand desks are the perfect workplace solution — however, they do come with an added cost.
Replacing all of the desks in an office with newer specialized equipment will take time to save for unless there’s a lot of wiggle room in the budget. Instead of buying all of them at once, try getting just a few and setting them in their own particular work area. Allow employees to reserve times to work at one. While it isn’t a perfect solution, it will get the workplace started on the right path.
4. Provide Alternative Working Stations
In addition to a few standing desks, industry leaders could add some workspaces equipped with a working treadmill or desk bike. These options would provide more opportunities for workers to remain active while completing their work, significantly reducing sedentary time.
If some of the staff aren’t ready to transition to standing work, managers could offer some exercise balls as alternatives to a desk chair. At the very least, they’ll be activating their core and reducing the risks of sitting time.
5. Set Up an On-Site Gym
If there are extra funds in your budget, a great way to encourage more active time for the staff is to provide an on-site gym. When everyone leaves work for the day, finding the time or motivation to head to the gym or exercise at home can be challenging. A workout option at the office allows employees to work out during their breaks, lunch breaks, before the workday begins or right after work.
Equip the space as the company’s finances allow. Start out with some weights and bands and move up from there, adding in treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, mirrors, upgraded lighting and so on. The better outfitted the exercise room is, the more likely the staff will use it.
6. Incorporate Something More Unique
If there’s already an on-site gym or no appropriate indoor space, move the ideas outside. A tennis or basketball court is a fun way to get employees away from their chairs during breaks and out into the fresh air.
An even more unique option would be to add a pickleball court. This project typically costs between $10,000 and $35,000, depending on the materials, fencing options and lighting choices. Pair the new pickleball court with a monthly challenge to amp up the usage. Choose one month to create a bracket for willing participants and hold a competition with a cool prize for the champion and breakfast at the end for everyone involved.
7. Keep Basic Dumbbells and Bands Available
Perhaps a full-scale gym or outdoor activity space is out of the question in the business’s budget right now. An alternative is to have light weights or weighted bands available at everyone’s desk. Throughout the day, workers can stand, stretch and do a few reps of their favorite exercises.
8. Hold Standing or Walking Meetings
The staff sit at their stations and work, then sit some more to attend meetings. The primary mode in the workplace is sedentary behavior. To help combat this, change the way the company conducts meetings.
When a meeting doesn’t require technology or papers, take the team outside and walk. This format works perfectly for brainstorming or problem-solving. The activity will improve blood flow and encourage creative thinking. For meetings that require additional materials, encourage everyone to remain standing for the whole time or at least a portion.
9. Model Interpersonal Connection Over Email
Email is a handy tool, but it kills interpersonal communication and adds to sedentary behavior. Encourage the staff to walk to their coworkers to discuss issues and ask questions. This may seem like a strange shift at first, so you must model it for them. Save emails for company-wide and private communications and talk one-on-one with individuals or small groups for everything else.
Improve Employee Wellness With These Initiatives
Industry professionals can help their employees significantly decrease their sedentary time with even a few of these workplace changes. The roughly eight hours they spend at the job each day should be filled with opportunities to stand and move around. Implementing some of these measures can help workers feel valued, improving their health, productivity and retention rates. Decreasing sitting time is a win-win for everyone involved.