Mélina Lamarche

By Mélina Lamarche

January 11, 2019

Business

Office work: Down with sedentary lifestyles

Experts all say that prolonged sitting is bad for our health, and even reduces our life expectancy. Office workers spend about 40 hours sitting in front of a computer, plus time spent sitting in a car or on public transportation, at meals and on the couch. More than ever, sedentary lifestyles are seen as the culprit when health problems arise. What can you do for your employees?

The effects of office work on health

It’s estimated that in Canada 76% of males and 79% of females don’t do the minimum 150 minutes of weekly physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization. Sedentary lifestyles and their consequences are having a devastating effect on our society. Dr. Martin Juneau, a cardiologist at the Institut de Cardiologie de Montréal, sets out the alarming facts in his article (in French only). Compared to people who are physically active, those who lead a very sedentary lifestyle:

  • Have a 112% higher risk of suffering from diabetes
  • Are exposed to a 147% higher risk of having cardiovascular problems and a 90% higher risk of dying from them
  • Present a 49% higher risk of dying prematurely

The facts speak for themselves: we must be active to be healthy. We need to recognize that office work is not conducive to an active lifestyle. As an employer, you can introduce solutions that will encourage your employees to be more active.

Ways to encourage physical activity

Even in an office environment, it’s possible for employees to have some physical activity during their workday. The company doesn’t have to be responsible for organizing or choosing the activities, but it can ensure that the right conditions are in place.

Here are several suggestions for adding physical activity during the workday:

  • Provide height adjustable desks to employees who are interested, allowing them to work seated or standing.
  • Encourage managers to hold active meetings that include walking outside, when possible.
  • Promote stretching breaks, breaks with physical activities, tasks that can be done while walking, such as thinking, talking on the telephone, meeting a colleague rather than writing an email, etc.
  • Design 10-minute walking routes in the building or in the neighbourhood. For example, you could set up a walking club that meets every week to walk outside.
  • Promote opportunities for physical activity near the workplace (e.g. gyms, cycling trails, fitness classes, jogging or walking clubs, etc.)
  • Promote active transportation by providing bike racks, showers, change rooms, etc.

Conditions for success

There are numerous ways for companies to have physically active employees. However, they need to provide the right conditions for employees to want to participate:

  • Programs that are easy enough to allow all to participate, regardless of initial physical condition
  • Ongoing encouragement with frequent campaigns introducing small gradual changes
  • Freeing up time and resources for implementing the various initiatives and allowing employees to get involved
  • Winning over managers and making them aware of the important role they play in making these moves successful

Positive outcomes for them and for your company

If you’re uncertain about investing in costly facilities and initiatives, take time to consider the pros and cons. You’ll come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the cost. By adopting practices that promote your employees’ health, your company will demonstrate that it cares about their well-being and win their engagement and loyalty, while reaping the benefits of employees who are more motivated to perform.

Want to encourage your employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits?

Discover the VIVA workplace health and wellness program.

Visit our website

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