The rising cost of health insurance, the need for greater productivity at work and the costs in both time and money of illness in the workplace are driving a growing trend: Small business owners are trying to get their employees to live healthier lifestyles. While being overweight, smoking and being inactive are all obvious causes of poor health, one factor that’s attracting more and more attention is the sheer number of hours most people spend sitting each day.
If your small business is office-based, chances are most of your staff spends 8 hours a day or more sitting hunched at their desks. New research is showing that prolonged sitting—even in otherwise active people—can be harmful to health. So how can you get your staff up off their chairs?
- Offer standing desks for employees who want them. You could invest in ready-made furniture such as Focal’s standing furniture. Or, depending on how handy you and your employees are, you could also raise existing desks to an appropriate height by bracing them to the wall.
- For the really committed, try treadmill workstations. These can be pricey (and most people won’t be able to walk all day, anyway), so you might want to invest in just one and let employees use it at different times of the day with their laptops.
- For a less expensive solution, stability balls can provide many benefits by requiring employees to work their core muscles just to stay stable. Workers can alternate the balls with regular desk chairs as they build up stamina.
- Make exercise part of the day. OfficeGym sells a chair-based exercise system that makes it easy to fit in a workout at your desk. You could also encourage employees to take quick stretching breaks instead of coffee breaks.
- Hold standing or moving meetings. Holding your meetings standing up is a great way to not only get people off their chairs, but also keep the meetings shorter. Double the effect by starting the meeting with a group stretch. You can take it up a notch by holding walking meetings outdoors. (Just make sure someone is recording what’s discussed on a voice recorder or other device so nothing gets forgotten).
- Walk around. Instead of shooting an email to the person next door, try actually getting up and talking to him or her. (If this gets too time-consuming, you could set a “no-email day” once a week to force people to actually walk around and talk to each other). This tactic can have benefits beyond just walking around as employees interact in new ways.
Image by Flickr user jseliger1 (Creative Commons)