Yes, there really is a single, simple action that can improve employee wellness. In a nutshell: stand more.
Several recent studies have found that sitting for most of the day (as many of us do when we work in office jobs) can increase your risk for health conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or premature death.
Even if you exercise regularly– biking to work instead of driving or hitting the gym during your lunch break– and make healthy eating choices, sitting for the better part of your day can still make you sick. Out of the healthy people who exercise, those who sit for the majority of their time suffer in terms of employee wellness; they have larger waists and worse blood pressure and blood sugar levels than those who spend less time sitting.
One study, from scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, observed more than 17,000 people over the course of 13 years and concluded that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks. This phenomenon affects smokers and non-smokers, exercisers and non-exercisers.
Why is sitting so dangerous to employee wellness? A New York Times article explains:
Sitting is one of the most passive things you can do. You burn more energy by chewing gum or fidgeting than you do sitting still in a chair. Compared to sitting, standing in one place is hard work. To stand, you have to tense your leg muscles, and engage the muscles of your back and shoulders; while standing, you often shift from leg to leg. All of this burns energy…
But it looks as though there’s a more sinister aspect to sitting, too. Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a “physiology of inactivity”: that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.
In a perfect world, everyone would have a job that involved moving around frequently during the day (or everyone would have standing desks). But even if you have a normal office job that requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, you can still make small changes to improve your health.
Improve Employee Wellness With Daily Choices
1. Drink lots of liquids.
Keep a cup or bottle of water on your desk and refill it frequently throughout the day. Staying hydrated is good for your health anyway, plus it will give you an excuse to walk around a few times an hour (as well as make trips to the bathroom). You can also use this method to refill your coffee or tea mug.
2. Take phone calls standing up.
The next time you have a conference call or a chat with a client, stand up while you are talking. A few minutes of standing time here and there add up.
3. Hold standing meetings.
This has two benefits: it helps employee wellness by getting people out of their chairs and it keeps meetings short and productive.
4. Take frequent breaks.
Set alarms on your computer or phone to remind yourself to get up and stretch your legs. Walk around the office a few times, go get a cup of coffee down the block or take a real lunch break away from your desk.
5. Deliver the message in person.
Instead of sending an email or making a phone call to the office next door, get out of your chair and talk to your colleague in person. Face time is good for your working relationship, and it’s a few minutes you won’t spend sitting down.
What are your tips for getting out of your chair throughout the day?
Learn more about the EDSI Leading with Credibility course and how it can be applied to employee wellness efforts.