The human body is made to move. When it doesn’t move, things go seriously wrong. Indeed, one of the greatest threats to workplace health today is the sedentary lifestyle of people.
One in three European workers is suffering daily from ailments, such as backache, neck pain and fatigue, as a result of sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end. 60% claim their productivity and performance have been affected, and 32% have taken an average of two weeks off work. This is costing businesses in Europe around €73 billion a year[i].
There is a dire need for managers and HR teams to take a more proactive stance when it comes to introducing more movement into the working day. Whether that’s asking staff to stand up and move every 20 minutes or reminding them to achieve a minimum of two hours standing time a day, it’s time to challenge some norms and embed some new behaviours.
In doing so, fewer staff will suffer from the posture problems that sit at the root of so many health issues, absenteeism will be reduced, and productivity will skyrocket. Employees will also sustain higher energy levels and better concentration. In a nutshell, active working makes good commercial sense.
But how to bring employees along for the ride? Granted, it’s easy to convince them of the health benefits, but just because we know something is good for us, it doesn’t mean we’ll immediately embrace it. Also, people need time to make entirely new ways of working a habit. That’s just human nature.
According to research from Fellowes, 68%[ii] of employees wish they could be more active and introduce more movement into their working day, but they are looking for employers to take the lead. 73%[iii] of employees agree that approaches to workplace health need to be proactively preventative and long-term, instead of quick fixes in the short-term.
Patience and persistence are key when it comes to seeing results. A 2009 study by University College London found that it takes an average of 66 days to build a new habit, not 21 days as previously commonly believed. Pushing the new active agenda especially in the first few weeks, while checking in and make sure the initial momentum doesn’t drop off increases the likelihood of creating a more active working culture.
However, senior leaders need evidence of ROI in workspace management, and the benefit of a more active workplace if they are to commit to it. Indeed more than a quarter say they need help to see that there will be a genuine improvement in productivity and quality before they invest.[iv]
So get going with a new active agenda, but be transparent with your stakeholders about the benefits and progress every step of the way. When senior management looks for results, manage their expectations. Be realistic and clear about timelines and remember there is a strong case for marginal gains, which will have an impact over time.
As Stephen Bowden, Chartered Ergonomist puts it, “Modest gains in staff wellbeing and
productivity can deliver significant financial savings. One study has shown that there is a saving of about nine times the outlay for ergonomics interventions. The study[v] measured injury and labour turnover.”[vi] It makes sense and shows that it’s better to spend money on creating a healthy workforce than it is to endure the cost of sickness.
For more insight into how active working can impact your bottom-line, download the POV paper here.
[i] Loudhouse Research 2016, commissioned by Fellowes
[ii] France: 51% Germany: 68%; Spain: 69% The Netherlands: 56%
[iii] France: 70% Germany: 71% Spain: 74% The Netherlands: 58%
[iv] Fellowes Sit-Stand research, 2017
[v] REF – Spilling, S., Eitrheim, J. and Aaras, A., 1986. Cost benefit analyses of work environment investments at STK’s plant at Kongsvinger. In Corlett, E.N., Wilson, J.R and Manenica, I. (eds), The Ergonomics of Working Postures) London: Taylor & Francis), pp. 380-397
[vi] Veerle Hermans, France:
“Emphasise the link with CSR: corporate social responsibility: we care about our people, the wellbeing of our workers. We know that people have to work longer, so it is important to prevent problems in the long run.
3P’s: people – planet – profit: we work on the people’s benefits (and this will also have an effect on profit since we will keep our good workers and we provide the with good workstations so that they can keep on going)”.