Think about your job or the job you hope to have; how much physical activity does it require? Given that sedentary habits have become so institutionalized in the workplace and engrained in our daily routines, reversing the sedentary work environment epidemic is a difficult undertaking. However, this process has already begun with a number of solutions.One recent solution that has emerged is standing desks. Standing desks enable an individual to be active at his or her desk. Stand-up desks come in many different forms. There are fully adjustable standing desks that allow you to change your desk into a standup desk electronically, and there are add-on podiums like the Standee Classic XL if you don’t want to replace your entire desk. At the extreme end of the spectrum, there are treadmill-standing desks, which enable you to walk on a treadmill while working.
People who have standing desks should engage in “postural rotation,” which involves alternating between sitting and standing positions throughout the day. Postural rotation is important because standing all day can also be strenuous on your body. You don’t have to have an adjustable stand up desk to practice postural rotation. Generally, there are plenty of opportunities to take a break from standing by sitting at lunch, sitting in a meeting, and sitting in your car during your commute. Standing desks are going mainstream, particularly in the tech world at companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
Another solution involves exercising while at work through company gyms and exercise programs. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company Title IX has a 2,200 square foot gym in its office and an instructor comes in often to lead “CrossFit-like workout[s].” Many other companies have followed suit. Wellness programs like these have resulted in greater productivity, a decline in absenteeism, and reduced long-term health care costs, according to Inc. Magazine.
A complimentary solution to exercise programs is providing healthy food in the company cafeteria. According to Inc. Magazine, offering employees healthy meal options boosts their performance while also satisfying their nutritional needs. Healthy food is a necessary part of any company wellness program.
The facts speak for themselves. Though it is a daunting task, every workplace should strive to make the transition from a sedentary to an active work environment. Companies that fail to do so are doing both themselves and their employees a disservice in terms of productivity and health. As more companies implement active work environments, they will set an example for their peer companies, and ultimately it will become a competitive requirement.
It is not solely the employers’ responsibility to make the change from a sedentary work environment, however. Potential employees can and should be putting pressure on companies to make the transition as well. In an interview, one of the job candidate's go-to questions for the company should be, "Have you done anything to address the problem of sedentary work environments?" This might seem strange, but slowly, this tactic is sure to create change in the workplace. And if you already have a job, inform your employer about the health risks of sitting and the long-term benefits of an active work environment.
As the research indicating the negative health effects of sedentary lifestyles gains momentum, so too will active workplace alternatives. Companies that are ahead of the curve will benefit greatly. We all need to combat the negative health effects of the sedentary work environment. Let’s take the necessary steps to stop being a society of sitters.