New research has brought to light a hidden danger lurking in American offices – the “Sitting Disease.” Physicians and scientists are finding new evidence highlighting the adverse health effects – including increased risk of illness and shortened life expectancy – of the sedentary work and home habits of the average office worker.
What is the ‘Sitting Disease’?
The Sitting Disease refers to the negative consequences of long periods of physical inactivity. A study by Vanderbilt University found that the average American spends 7.7 hours a day, or roughly 55 percent of waking time, in sedentary behavior such as sitting.
The engrained routine of sitting in a car, sitting in a cubicle then sitting in front of a TV (or bartender) has many Americans facing a health crisis. The Mayo Clinic’s research found that up to 70 percent of people spend more than six hours sitting per day. Especially in a rapidly aging workforce where it is now common for professionals to remain active well into their 70s, organizations must weigh the substantial risks of ignoring unhealthy work habits.
A sedentary lifestyle puts workers at an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. The Clinic also found that by cutting sitting time in half, life expectancy is increased by a minimum of two years.
Employees, given the choice, would often choose a more active routine. According to surveys performed by JustStand.org, an organization striving to increase awareness of sitting disease, 67 percent of U.S. office workers wished their employers offered them adjustable desks that could be used in a standing position. Over 60 percent also answered that they felt they would be more productive if allowed to work at a standing desk.
The benefits to addressing Sitting Disease
To demonstrate concern for employees, and maximize productivity and the return on your investment in your human resources, it’s important to be attentive to your employees’ health. Healthy employees are more productive, absent less, make fewer mistakes, and are more satisfied in their work, according to a Gallup Business Journal study.
Tips for a healthier, more productive office environment
To fight Sitting Disease and reduce stress, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following:
- Encourage employees to use the stairs.
- Set a timer to remind employees to get up and move around every hour or so.
- Encourage employees to walk across the office instead of sending e-mails.
- Start a “step competition” by using pedometers and rewarding the most active, as well as the biggest improvements.
- Stand during lunch or when making phone calls.
- Schedule “walking meetings” instead of meeting in a conference room.
I encourage you to think carefully about how improving the health of your employees can help your organization reduce lost productivity time from absenteeism, maximize the investment in your human resources, improve employee morale and achieve even greater success. The success of your team and your organization depends on a healthy and productive office culture.
Lisa Krueger says
Sarah, great advice. I am worried about the health of a couple members on my team and the pedometer challenge is a wonderful idea. I'm on my way to Wal Mart to buy them right now. Thank you for always having wonderful information.
Larkin Simpson, IOM says
This is a great article and great information. I gave up my sitting desk almost three years ago. I had horrible neck and back pain at the end of the day from being hunched over. I now use a combination of a standing desk for most of my office work/computer time and I sit at a desk for writing, proof reading, and meeting with clients.
One side benefit I have found about using my standing desk, it intimidates the heck out of people and they usually won't sit down unless I do. With both of us standing, the conversations in my office are much shorter. – A definite win!