January 2, 2014
Three Ways to Build Fitness into the Office Workday
Don’t sit, stand! A few simple solutions to combatting office lethargy.
Office work tends to be a sedentary activity. Today, more than 86 percent of office workers are sitting at work all day, every day. When coupled with time spent sitting in traffic, sitting in front of the TV or sleeping, the number jumps to nearly 21 hours. A recent Ergotron study found that nearly 70 percent of workers hate it. Almost all of them would be willing to do something to improve their health, and many are looking for alternative ways to build fitness, or at least some motion, into their day.
Workers have typically been forced to relegate their fitness to before work, at lunch or after the workday is complete. Regardless of the amount of exercise during those times, if they are sitting too much each day they are at risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and a whole host of health problems.
Companies need to find unique ways to bring options for movement and fitness into the workplace that encourage movement throughout the day, not just during designated breaks. There are ways to do this without hindering productivity, even if said office is located in the suburbs with no access to parks or outdoor activities. It can even be done with no major cosmetic work to the office—no need to build extensive fitness rooms, changing rooms or showers. By doing so there is also the additional bonus of a profitability and productivity upswing that will ensure and sustain business growth.
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Here are three creative ways companies can encourage workers to build fitness throughout the day without having to break a sweat.
Incorporate movement into office-hour activities
Instead of offering wellness solutions that need to be used outside of business hours, like gym memberships, provide solutions that are incorporated during the workday. A great first step is to encourage walking or standing during meetings, taking departmental stretching breaks or implementing daily “recess.” Some companies are encouraging the use of exercise bands or hand-held barbells at individual desks, while others are offering office yoga and isometrics.
Make it motivational
When it comes to workplace wellness, a little competition can be the spark needed to push your office to a healthier lifestyle and build unity. Invite employees to form teams and use pedometers to track the number of steps each team takes, offering rewards to the first group to reach a designated goal. Some innovative companies are revamping their conference rooms with treadmills to encourage movement in otherwise sedentary blocks of the day, or taking away wastebaskets to force people to get up and find a trash can. Some are designating portions of the office space as ballet centers, providing Wii fitness in a conference room, or carving out corners of the office for fitness activities.
Another solution is to explore adjustable sit/stand workstations that contribute to the comfort, ergonomics and wellness of workers. These types of solutions will appeal to the so-called ‘worried well’ group, giving them ways to improve their own health while working, while also catering to—rather than singling out—those with pre-existing conditions. The benefits are clear: after a year of standing just 3 additional hours each day, one can burn up to 30,000 extra calories and eight pounds of fat. In addition, it’s the equivalent of running about ten marathons.
Even the American Medical Association supports the research behind the need to reduce sedentary behavior in the office and have recently enacted policy that recommends businesses should offer sitting alternatives, like standing desks and sit-stand workstations. Switching between a seated and standing position periodically throughout the day has been proven to help increase energy, burn extra calories, tone muscles, improve posture, reduce blood sugar levels and ramp up metabolism. Standing also improves blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain leading to increased energy, alertness and focus.
Finding ways to move more throughout the day creates a culture of movement, with relatively simple changes offering potentially major impact on employee engagement, satisfaction and morale. This culture enhances productivity, retention, and can also be a great way to incentivize employees. In addition, fitting more “fitness” into their work day may help employees feel more energized for their home life too.
Wendy McCubbin is Senior Manager of Workplace Wellness, Ergotron