Reducing Sedentary Work Practices

Recent articles in the industry press have highlighted the risks caused by sedentary work practices.  HR professionals and Safety officials can read Safe Work Australia’s review here

The report shows negative health implications from prolonged sitting. This include tension in the shoulders and neck, headaches, and eye problems. The more serious health implications can be as serious as:

  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Some cancers
  • Premature mortality

Even fit and healthy workers who exercise regularly can have an increased health risk by sitting all day.

A sedentary work environment does not just impact office workers, but also truck drivers, crane operators and telephone based employees.

Technology introduced to the workplace like computers, e-mail and telephone headsets has meant that staff are less likely to change their posture or move around.  Office memos that used to be hand delivered to a colleague’s desk and now e-mailed. Discussions around shared projects are less often done face to face.

Do you have workers in your office that spend most of their day sitting at a desk in front of a computer? What as an organisation can you do to reduce the time your employees spend sitting at their desks?

During the working day, staff should be encouraged to move around.

Staff should be encouraged to not sit for periods longer than 40-50 minutes without a break.

These are our tips to get them moving:

  • Encouraging staff to visit an in-house colleague rather than sending an e-mail
  • Work processes and workstations should be designed to promote movement. They should use elements of good work design as per this report from Safe Work Australia
  • Use Standing desks where they are appropriate for part of the day. This can be accomplished by using a combination of a stand up desk and a tall office chair.
  • Make use of walking meetings, where colleagues discuss issues and action items as they walk around the block or the floor.
  • Encouraging staff to perform simple exercises and take micro breaks. There are some examples of desk exercises

Health and Safety professionals should be including prolonged sitting on their radar of OHS issues.  They should also ensure that they are looking after their own health and not sitting at their desk in front of a computer for too long themselves!

As a recruiter of talented professionals to the Occupational Health and Safety industry, we can help you address this workplace issue. Speak to our consultants about candidates with proven experience in programs to reduce sedentary work practices today!