There has been a recent push in both the media and within the various companies that I consult with for Corporate Work Health Australia as to how and what companies can do to help promote and support health and well-being of their workers.  This has varied from looking at the introduction of height adjustable desks for all workers an annual ergonomic risk assessments and training to the implementation of sit-to-stand hot desks within the office and providing health and wellbeing seminars and weekly yoga/pilates/group fitness classes for workers to participate in.  The great thing about all of this is that there appears to be a cultural shift with many companies with regards to how they view and manage their workers.

Recently I have been involved with the assessment and review process of a number of workplaces looking to implement sit-to-stand desks and I thought I would make the information that I found on the internet more visible to workers and their employers regarding the evidence behind prolonged sitting postures and the benefits from increasing general activity in the workplace.

Vichealth and Comcare have published a number of documents that discuss the health risks associated with workers spending more time sitting at work at being sedentary compared to those benefits that can be gained by creating a workplace that encourages more activity and less sitting.  Comcare have recently published the documents  “Stand up Comcare – Promoting health by tackling sitting as a risk factor for chronic disease” and “Benefits of movement – Be Upstanding!”.  In these documents they report that there is considerable evidence that shows that prolonged sitting increases your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and death.

They also report that the benefits of sitting less and moving more include:

  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Improved weight management
  • Reduced risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders

Looking At Changing Workplace Culture

The role of changing workplace culture comes is the responsibility of both the company and the worker and from my personal experience of having consulted in occupational health and safety for many companies, this strategy needs to be a top down approach that is filtered through the entire company.  Simply putting up some posters outlining the risk of sitting for prolonged periods is not good enough in my eyes.  Companies need to get fully on board with making change and look at creative and innovative ways that encourage workers to increase general activity and reduce sitting times.

Comcare have suggested that companies can help promote increased activity levels and less sitting in the following ways:

  • Promoting movement in the workplace through their policies and procedures.
  • Raise the awareness of the risks of sitting with employees.
  • Ensure a standing-friendly culture that is promoted and supported by all staff members.
  • Encourage standing and walking meetings between individual and small groups.
  • Review workers job tasks and workplace design to reduce job tasks that require sitting.
  • Provide sit-to-stand workstations for workers to use.

Workers can also take an active role in reducing times spent sitting by:

  • Walking over to talk to colleagues rather than use emails or phoning them.
  • Using bins or printers that are located within a different area of the office.
  • Drink more water so that the worker is required to walk over to the cooler and use the bathroom more often.
  • Get outside for fresh air.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Use an active way of commuting to and from work.
  • Get away from the desk at lunch time.

A trial conducted by Vichealth in 2010 of 10 staff members using a sit to stand workstation showed largely positive feedback.  Staff used the standing position when completing short tasks e.g. reading and responding to emails, web browsing and then resumed the sitting position for longer work.  All workers reduce their sitting time and some of the physical changes noticed by the participants included:  few back problems, more energy, quicker muscle recovery from regular activity.  Mental health changes noted by workers included feeling more alert during the day and worker also reported an improvement in productivity.

References:

Vichealth – Sitting Less Factsheet

Vichealth – Avoiding Prolonged Sitting Report

Comcare – Be Upstanding! Factsheet

Comcare – Stand Up Factsheet

Find out more about Principle Four Osteopathy & Corporate Work Health Australia

Osteopath Heath Williams is director of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia.

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathy clinics.  Located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD 3000 at 29 Somerset Place (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St).  Services provided include:  Osteopathy, Functional Movement Screening, Exercise Prescription and Rehabilitation.  The clinic is open Monday – Friday and appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com.

Corporate Work Health Australia Pty Ltd is a national based company that provides corporate work health services such as ergonomic risk assessments, manual handling risk assessments and training, corporate wellness seminars and pre employment assessments.  All of our trainers and assessors are registered Osteopaths or Physiotherapists.  We provide services in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin. To find out more about our services, please go to www.corporateworkhealth.com.

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