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Workplace Health and Safety

Why an Office Health Overhaul Is Good for Backs and for Business

Photo: Courtesy of Michele Kaiser

Recent studies by the CDC estimate that physical inactivity contributes to more than 300,000 deaths annually in the United States. “Almost 100 percent of people who sit for six hours or more every day are going to have some kind of discomfort or injury in their back, neck or upper extremities,” says Dr. Scott Bautch, president of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Occupational Health.

The office chair conundrum 

He continues, “It’s like if you’re a runner and you run a mile, your shoes aren’t really that important. But if you’re a runner and you run five miles, your shoes become incredibly important.” Bad office furniture can affect more than just an employee’s physical health — it can actually impact a business’s bottom line.

“When we’re in an uncomfortable chair, we become less productive over time. Even though we may sit there for eight hours, we might only be getting 4 to 6 hours of work in,” he explains. “If you create a healthy work environment, you’ll have more productive workers in that they feel better.”

The power of mindful microbreaks

In response, employers have been tasked with creating ergonomic workspaces that promote health and well-being. And while he believes bucking this trend starts with smarter design, Dr. Bautch encourages employees to take their health into their own hands.

“No matter how good an office is, humans are meant to move. We have to get motion whenever we can, even if that’s just opening your toes up and stretching your arms.”

He recommends punctuating the workday with microbreaks: regular, small, biologically meaningful breaks from being stuck in one position for too long.

“Think about how you can add as much activity to your day that rests the muscles you need to rest and engages the muscles you need to engage. And think about doing that all day in a mindful way.”

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