Being chained to the desk is bad for you, and it can be bad for your business, too. According to the British Psychological Society, 70% of us are not meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity. And the fact that UK office workers spend an average of 5 hours and 41 minutes each day sitting at their desks is one of the reasons behind that statistic.
Research shows us that we’re not designed to spend the entire day sitting down — it can be a contributing factor to an increase in heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. At the same time, it may also affect our mental wellbeing, potentially making us less focused and less productive.
So, with all of this in mind, here’s a closer look at why promoting a more active workforce makes sense for your business.
Why is desk-based work a problem?
As a member of a close-knit, office-based team, it can be very easy for the entire day to go by without hardly ever leaving your seat. Especially in an open-plan office, you’re likely to be sitting right next to your colleagues, with all you need (computer, phone, and a pot of coffee) right in front of you. In short, from a practical point of view, there just isn’t the need to get up.
Take a break
We can also be very reluctant to take a break, with research from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) suggesting that one in five of us work through lunch each day. Of those office workers who do manage to fit in a lunch break, almost half eat at their desk.
Finding the time
Official guidelines by the NHS recommend 2.5 hours of weekly physical activity, with a suggested breakdown of 30-minute slots. For an office worker, meeting these guidelines can be especially tough. In a startup environment, it’s usually a case of all hands on deck, and the CSP research suggests that nearly a third of us work longer than our contracted hours. In fact, the research found that 42% of people said they often had to cancel exercise plans due to work. We sit all day at work, we sit on the commute, and once we get home, there’s little time or energy to do much else. Over time, however, this lifestyle may lead to the following issues:
Our core muscles (in the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen) need to stay active to remain effective. Sitting down for a long period can mean these muscles are not getting used. This has the added effect of putting extra pressure on the discs in the lower spine, too. Combined, these factors can increase the risk of back pain or serious disc damage. It can also make us more susceptible to straining injuries in the neck, shoulders, and upper limbs.
Cardiovascular and metabolism
Sitting all day means we’re burning up far fewer calories than if we were on the move. Inactivity also tends to slow down the metabolism, affecting the way the body breaks down fats and sugars. This increases the likelihood of excessive weight gain and the risks linked to it. This includes heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
There’s a strong link between physical health and mental wellbeing. Regular physical activity goes hand-in-hand with reduced risk of depression, reduced anxiety, enhanced mood and self-esteem. So, the absence of physical activity may increase the risk of problems in each of these areas. Especially in a high-pressure and potentially stressful office environment.
What does this mean for productivity and your business?
Once you’ve got your business on its feet, sustaining it with drive from yourself and your workforce is essential for growth. So employees who are not motivated to the cause can be a serious problem, especially if you don’t take action. Encouraging them to be active, through a company discounted gym membership, for example, can be a great way of boosting their productivity levels. Here are just a few examples of the problems that could arise if low productivity levels remain neglected.
It’s hard for a business to meet targets and achieve its goals if team members are frequently off sick. In the UK, more days are lost to back, neck, and muscle pain than any other cause, while stress, anxiety, and depression is the third most common cause of absence. It’s therefore in the employer’s’ best interests to encourage a healthy, active workforce to help keep sickness rates down.
‘Presenteeism’ can be a further barrier to productivity. This is when your employees are present at work, but are just getting through the day doing the bare minimum. This can be due to ill-health, stress, and/or lack of engagement. Physical activity can be a contributing factor that helps to boost energy levels, encouraging creative thinking and getting staff re-motivated.
Keeping talent on board
Healthy employees tend to suffer less stress and are generally happier in their work as a result. So encouraging your staff to stay active can help to promote job satisfaction. It will also make it more likely that valuable team members will stay with you. All of this helps to not interrupt productivity by having to deal with the fallout of high staff turnover.
Take simple steps. These could include encouraging your staff to take regular breaks while not overburdening them with unrealistic workloads. This can help to reduce the risks associated with sedentary working. Head on over to our help centre to find out further ways to promote a happier, healthier and more productive office environment.