Anyone who’s worked in an office knows that sitting all day can cause a host of problems, from back and neck issues to weight gain. But for employers, the pitfalls of a sedentary workplace can also disrupt operations, hurting productivity as well as profits.
Promoting good posture and comfort by allowing employees to move regularly and sit or stand while they work can not only improve workers’ overall health; it can also boost creativity and productivity.
Get on your feet
“Statistics show we’re meant to move, and when we don’t move it’s not just back pain; total health issues start to increase significantly,” cautions Dr. Scott Bautch, president of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “When we sit and have inactivity, it brings on a myriad of conditions.”
Bautch implores business owners to offer their workers opportunities to get up and move throughout the day. “Industries have to buy into the concept that movement actually makes people more productive than less productive,” he says, noting that extensive ACA research into pain and workers’ compensation claims has found that productivity is actually increased when workers can move more.
Work station solutions
One way to achieve that activity is to provide ergonomic workstations that let employees sit or stand at their leisure throughout the day. Bautch says sit-stand stations are an effective way to offer as much movement and flexibility as possible, as they allow workers of all shapes and sizes to stay upright, active and more comfortable as the workday progresses.
“We know sitting is related to lower back pain, and when you sit for a long time in a day, almost everyone feels stiff in their upper back and neck,” he says. Because sit-stand stations allow workers to change position frequently, they also improve alertness, which leads to increased productivity.
Breaks in a blink
Bautch suggests encouraging small movements known as “microbreaks.” These breaks, which are beneficial at just two to five seconds long, include motions as quick as looking at the ceiling to longer activities such as stretching the arms, running in place in the chair or taking a deep breaths and releasing them through the nose. Bautch, says that aiming for 35 of these small movements per workday is ideal.
Together, these efforts can create a company culture of movement and flexibility that helps keep employees healthy, comfortable and fruitful. “It doesn’t take big breaks,” Bautch says. “It just takes that mindfulness to remind people that moving during the day is really good for their physical and mental health.”