The Active Working Summit that took place in April 2017 in London, UK, offered expert opinion from some of the world’s top lecturers, researchers and thinkers on ergonomics and health and wellness in the office.
Exhibitors – including Fellowes, sitstand.com, Yo-Yo Desk, Aeris, Imprint, Steppie, Little Nudge, FitRoom Express and Ergo Space – demonstrated the latest in ergonomic furniture such as sit-stand equipment, mats and balance boards and were eager to show off their wares. Attendees were offered short yoga sessions and encouraged to use the balance boards – a unique way of ensuring audience participation during the conference.
Below are some of the research highlights presented at the summit, detailing how reducing sedentary behaviour at work improves wellness, productivity and the all-important bottom line.
Health and Well-being at Work – Dame Carol Black, Expert Adviser to NHS England and Public Health England:
Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is now in its fifth year with 160 organisations and 35,000 employees taking part. Its main objective is to make society healthier by generating evidence based on connecting health & well-being to company productivity. Results from the 2016 data linked depression to low-income earners and the younger generation, while high earners reported a lack of sleep. Inadequate physical activity, obesity and high blood pressure were related to the number of working days lost.
The benefits of the UK’s Cycle to Work scheme were clear, with 85% of respondents gaining health benefits such as increased fitness, weight loss and stress reduction. It was found that if a regular cyclist took one less sick day per year, it would save the employer around £134 ($173), with a benefit cost ratio of about 2:1.
A 2016 report from the Social Science Research Unit at the UCL Institute of Education that sought to understand whether workplace health programmes are effective for improving health and business outcomes, found that there were benefits from establishing such programmes. The most effective interventions were those that were supported by organisational policy, focused on specific health issues and engaged employees.
Creating Active Workplaces to Improve Population Health and Economic Outcomes – Dr Mike Brannan, Deputy National Lead for Adult Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England:
Research found that in the UK fewer than 50% of people are disability-free at the age of 65. Studies suggest that while healthcare contributes around 10% to preventing premature deaths, changes in behavioural patterns are likely to contribute 40%. Furthermore, it was found that if the public were fully engaged in managing their health and prevention activities, £30 billion ($39 billion) could be saved.
There are huge health problems within the UK working population: 42% of employees with a health condition felt their condition affected their work a great deal or to some extent. In addition, one in three current UK employees have a long-term health condition. Research revealed musculoskeletal conditions were the cause of 31 million lost working days in 2013, while 27 million days were lost to minor illnesses, and 15 million to stress, anxiety or depression.
Workplace Interventions for Reducing Sitting at Work – Gavin Bradley, Founding Director, Active Working:
Evidence suggests that good health pays: employees are three times more productive; more resilient to change; more likely to engage with business priorities; and have fewer motivational problems.
Expert recommendations for employers to reduce prolonged periods of sedentary working among employees include:
- accumulate two hours of standing/light activity daily, progressing to four
- regularly break up seated work with standing work
- avoid prolonged static sitting and standing
- promote the reduction of prolonged sitting along with other healthy habits
Insights from the Stand-Up Victoria Intervention: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Research and Practice – Professor David Dunstan, Head of Physical Activity, Baker Fellow, NHRMS Senior Research Fellow, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute:
There are several factors that influence workplace sitting:
- Intrapersonal factors: socio-economic, work-related, social-cognitive, individual preferences. Recommendations: assessing behaviour may improve awareness of sitting; recognise no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution; strategies to increase workers’ perceived control over their behaviour.
- Interpersonal contexts: workplace culture, social norms that support movement, social support for change. Recommendations: foster supportive organisational culture; leadership from managers; co-workers support.
- Physical environment: office furniture that facilitates postural change, office layout, location of other office workers. Recommendations: sit-stand workstations; consider workstation design suitability for job tasks; consider location of workers and impact on visual and acoustic privacy.
- Policy & regulatory environment: workplace policies, sit-stand workstations, flexible work patterns, legislation/guidance material. Recommendations: consider adopting a policy around reducing and breaking up workplace sitting; review and update if necessary policies around sit-stand workstations.