Sitting vs Standing: Finding a Healthy Balance for a Better Workplace

2018-04-20

Sitting all day has earned a bad rap and for good reason. Some doctors equate sitting for 5+ hours every day to smoking more than a pack of cigarettes. This frightening statistic led many to wonder how to reduce the amount of time people spend sitting, particularly those that work at a traditional office job. This led to the creation of the sit-stand desk. However, as with many fads, as the sheen wears off and the novelty fades, scientists are taking a closer look at the perceived benefits of these desks.

Sitting vs. Standing Health Risks

People spend a lot of their day sitting. Whether they are at work, reading a book, or surfing the internet, they do most of this in a sedentary fashion. Given all of the negative research surrounding prolonged sitting, it may come as a surprise to many that standing is not the solution either. Research shows that jobs that require extensive standing are much worse on employees’ health than jobs that involve sustained sitting. People who spend most of their day standing are at increased risk of developing varicose veins, back pain, clogged arteries, heart disease, and more. In fact, employees who stand all day are twice as likely to develop heart disease as their sitting counterparts are.

Alternatives to Sit-Stand Desks

Even if sit-stand desks provided measurable benefits, there is the issue that many people do not utilize them. It’s hard to change people’s behavior, and sticking sit-stand desks in the office is not likely to yield high usage rates. While studies show standing all day isn’t any better for employees than sitting is, there is a way to find a happy medium.

One method is to alter the work environment to encourage more activity. This could be something as simple as moving the printer further from cubicles, forcing employees to get up and walk. A more drastic approach is to restrict elevator use to customers and people with accessibility needs. If employees balk at the elevator restriction, employers can implement a wellness challenge that encourages employees to use the stairs and meet step goals. Employees are much more likely to engage in wellness initiatives when there is a tangible reward. This could be free movie tickets, a gift card, a free lunch, etc.

Another approach is encouraging staff to get up and move around for a minute or two every 20 minutes. Research shows that moving every 20-30 minutes can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Whether employers ping staff member’s phones, issue a message over the office intercom, or incorporate it into their culture, the focus should be on moving. Standing up is not enough; staff members need to stretch their legs to reap tangible benefits.

If your company needs innovative ways to improve employee health, MMA Florida can help. Contact us today to learn more about employee benefits and wellness programs.

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