The human body is built to move. Therefore a people-friendly workplace should be designed to provide people with the opportunity for physical activity. Simply put, a work environment that encourages movement: to sit, stand and walk around.
Sitting is the new smoking? Sitting is killing us? These headlines were inspired by recent studies¹. These studies looked at the relationship between sedentary behaviour and health problems, like weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. These studies looked at many factors that have a negative impact on people’s health. It’s not black and white. Sitting alone isn’t killing us, but poor postures for long periods with little movement and few breaks for standing or walking can have an impact on our health and reduce our productivity.
No one posture is the best posture:
Changing posture is the key for a healthier work style.
No one posture is the best posture – changing posture is the key for a healthier work style. Sit, stand, walk is a specific approach that is embedded in Nomique’s Clever Workspace concept. A concept that embraces this through height adjustable desks, convenient temporary workspaces away from dedicated workstations, break out landscapes and, of course, ergonomic seating.
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Sitting will always be a part of our work day. After all most office tasks, especially where workers need to concentrate, are still (best) performed seated. Often tasks are completed more efficiently and accurately. The problem is not that we sit but rather how we sit and what we sit on.
Movement is an important part, even when seated. Office workers should and do change their posture all the time. They shift from side to side, move their legs, flex their upper back or recline. This is where a good ergonomic chair comes in. Such chairs allow optimal support and a full range of postures and a supported pelvis that helps keep a healthy spinal motion. Additional training on how to set up chair and workstation, can take out a significant portion of the risk in the workplace. Especially common workplace ailments like back, neck and shoulder pain can be prevented. It’s all about being comfortable and this creates less distracted, less fatigued and in turn happier and more productive workers.
Standing at work offers a break from sitting, helps offset some of the problems that can result from prolonged sitting and ensures employees stay in motion. Standing has lots of benefits: It burns more calories than sitting, increases blood flow, reduces static muscle load and refreshes and re-energises. These should be great incentives for workers to spend more time at work standing up.
A clever designed workplace will encourage this by providing height adjustable workstations as well as areas for a standing up meeting. It’s recommended to stand on a height adjustable workstation for 1.5 to two hours a day. According to Dr. Callaghan, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention at the University of Waterloo, workers should start to alternate sitting and standing at a ratio of 3:1². This ratio helps to prevent any strain or pain experienced when standing for longer periods of time. Practise is key. Overtime, workers should lengthen their periods of standing, with a goal of reversing this ratio to 1:3. In an eight hour working day that would mean only two hours of seated work. That would require quite a change in thinking of how we conduct office work.
Movement is healthy. Therefore it is important to take regular movement or walking breaks throughout the work day. And even the office offers opportunities to get more active: climbing the stairs, standing up and stretching, walking while talking on the phone, walking to a conference room or using the lunch break to go for a walk outside. Some offices even offer workout sessions or treadmill workstations. A workplace that facilitates workers to mix work and activity will contribute to healthier and happier life- and workstyle. After all, even light activity releases mood-boosting endorphins increasing the feeling of well-being.
(1) E.g. Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior, (2007) Marc T. Hamilton PHD
(2) White Paper on Implementation of Sit-Stand Workstations, Jack P.Callaghan PhD, CCPE, FCSB, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada