By: Neil Mrkvicka
Workers need to quit a nasty habit they have developed at work. Is it time for employers to take a stand on this growing health hazard?
You’ve probably already heard or seen the Sitting Is the New Smoking research—If not, just Google the phrase. Too much sitting has been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and death from cancer, heart disease and stroke. The World Health Organization now lists inactivity—or what many health experts have called the sitting disease—as the fourth leading cause of death globally. Additional research suggests sitting may affect mood, creativity and mental health.
If you’re thinking none of this matters because you’re a CrossFitting ultramarathoner, think again. Researchers have found that the more time people spend sitting, the earlier they die—regardless of age, body weight or how much they exercise! (Runner’s World Magazine fittingly says, “There’s no running away from it.”) And while smoking rates have been trending downward for decades, rates of the new smoking are rising—The average American now sits more than 9 hours a day.
So what does this research mean for organizations? Think about it: If sitting for long periods is on par with smoking, does that change the way you think about your work environment? Is your organization doing the equivalent of handing out packs of cigarettes and filling the building with smoke by forcing workers to sit throughout their workday? Could HR and benefits staff start facing some of these types of questions and rumblings from workers in the future?
The questions are mostly written in jest, meant to spur some laughter and possibly some thought, much like this humorous April Fool’s video from Simon Fraser University last year. Treadmill desks, conference bikes and instant recesses won’t work for everyone. But the question worth asking for a lot of organizations is: If workforce health and wellness is a priority (e.g., investments have been made in wellness initiatives like smoking cessation and/or health incentives) wouldn’t it be worthwhile to actively encourage periodic breaks away from the smoking chairs you’ve supplied?
What have you done to combat sitting disease in your workplace? Have you had success with standing work stations, walk breaks or other ideas? Don’t just sit there—Share your successes and failed attempts to get employees moving in the comments below.