It’s been called the new smoking and for good reason. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing certain cancers and may contribute to anxiety and depression. It also puts people at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, numerous studies have suggested that sitting for eight hours per day puts your workers at the same risk of dying as smoking and obesity.
In the workplace, sedentary lifestyles have also been linked to decreased cognitive function. With so many jobs today keeping employees seated at desks or tied down to monitors and control panels, finding ways to encourage your people to keep moving can be a challenge. (Learn more in The Negative Health Implications Of Sitting All Day And What To Do About It). But it’s also a critical change. It can pay off in a healthier workforce and also an improved bottom line through decreased health care utilization costs and absenteeism and increased focus and productivity. It doesn’t take much. Just 60 to 75 minutes of moderate physical activity per day can counter the effects of long-term sitting. To help you we’ve gathered 10 simple changes you can make in your workplace to promote non-sedentary lifestyles.
Incentivize healthy living by offering free bike storage, gift certificates or discounts at nearby gyms. Gift your workers with a brand-new pair of running shoes as part of a healthy living promotion. Launch a fitness contest or challenge that emphasizes movement. This can be as simple as keeping track of who took the stairs into the office each morning for a week. Post a leaderboard and appeal to people’s sense of competition. Offer some kind of prize for all participants and something a little more special for the winners. You might promote a 10,000 steps per day challenge and provide staff with Fitbits to keep track. Or, sponsor employee participation in a charitable walk or run.
Standing desks have been around for a while now and have come down significantly in terms of price. Consider purchasing several for your office and make them available to your staff. (Learn more in Office Desks: Sitting vs. Standing). Standing desks tend to be smaller, so making laptops available for use with these desks is also a good idea. While not providing actual activity, standing does force you to use several muscles and can help keep your metabolism working. Another option is using an exercise ball rather than a desk chair, which forces workers to use their leg muscles while sitting. Some workplaces are creating outdoor or green spaces where employees can bring their standing desks, providing a further incentive for their use.
Treadmill and bike desks are also available and afford increased opportunities for your employees to be active, but they can be prohibitively expensive for some offices. Desk pedals are a less expensive option and can be found for around $20 each. Essentially, these are under the desk foot pedals that allow the user to discreetly pedal away while working at their desk.
Post and Promote
Post signage encouraging physical activity. For example, you may want to remind people to take the stairs on signs posted near your elevator or perhaps post footprints leading from the office to the stairs and away from the elevator. You might also want to consider signs that encourage people to stand up and stretch every thirty minutes and regularly change their posture by changing the position of their keyboards and monitors. Short, pithy or funny emails can also help promote activity.
Reorganize Your Work Space
Force your employees to walk around several times a day by locating machines such as photocopiers or appliances like water coolers and coffee stations on the periphery of the office. Alongside physical changes to your office layout, suggest your people avoid communicating by email and instead encourage them to get up and go to cubicles or offices to speak directly to their colleagues. You could also schedule a 10-minute group stretch several times a day.
For small meetings involving two or three people, take the meeting on the road and go for a walk while you talk. For larger groups, consider holding your workplace meetings in a space without of desks and tables. This will pay off with more than just improvements to your employee’s health. Several studies have also concluded that people are better collaborators and are far more creative when they attend standing meetings.
A free onsite gym is, of course, a great way to get your employees to get active. But if this isn’t an option for your workplace, consider taking them out. Golf, rock climbing and kayaking are not only great ways to be active, they’re also natural team builders for your employees. You can devote a few hours of work time to these pursuits or sponsor a post-work activity.
A growing number of organizations are sponsoring workplace sports teams including volleyball, basketball, indoor soccer and others. In many communities, you can even find workplace leagues your employees can join to compete against teams from other businesses. Buy team jerseys and encourage other employees to cheer on participating staff.
Lunchtime Fitness Classes
Hire a consultant or fitness coach to come in and conduct classes. A growing number of workplaces are offering lunchtime yoga and other classes. You can even organize an employee walk during the lunch hour. Consider putting a ping pong table in the lunchroom. Ping pong is an easy quick game that nearly everyone can play. Consider putting in an employee shower for people who might head offsite during lunch breaks for a quick run or to attend a fitness class.
The key to encouraging a non-sedentary lifestyle in your workplace is to make it easy for employees to participate and to make it a natural part of the workday. You and your supervisors can also help by setting an example and participating in workplace activities.