Are your employees feeling tied to their desk all day? The so-called “knowledge workers” tend to spend most of their days thinking in front of a computer — and it’s showing. Articles with chilling headlines like “Your Office Job is Destroying Your Health” are rampant on top business websites, and they boast thousands, if not millions, of shares. American employees are afraid they’re wrecking their health for work, and they’re not sure what to do about it.
Slouching leads to poor posture, sitting all day leads to increased risks of disorders and diseases, and treadmill desks sound great, but can cause their own issues — one study found treadmill walking contributed to a deterioration of the fine motor skills needed for computer work, as well as math skills. (The CEO of a one manufacturer points out they do have other benefits, such as feeling less lethargic after lunch.)
So, how can you create a work culture that celebrates the health of movement, when everyone seems tied to their desk?
The simple answer is getting folks away from the desk — for breaks, a lunch hour, and in comfortable spaces where they can move their bodies.
Leaving the desk for walking, stretching, or mindfulness breaks all contribute to a healthier work environment. And it’s not just good for the body. Scientists have found that paying close attention to one subject for an extended period of time actually desensitizes the brain—making it easy to lose focus. A scientist involved with one study concluded, “when faced with long tasks . . . it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”
Taking one’s lunch break has gotten the short shrift in recent years, but studies show lunch breaks matter. A survey by Tork found that workers who take their lunch break every day score higher on metrics ranging from job satisfaction to likelihood to stay with the company. But it also found that some bosses “look down upon employees who take regular lunch breaks.” What’s the real story here? If perception is reality, management may have some work to do when encouraging lunch breaks. And make sure the break room is inviting—those breaks are more effective than desk lunches.
If your employees are back at the office, do they have a space where they can stretch, do a little yoga, and generally relax? This isn’t the break room, where people are trying to eat (and maybe someone just made popcorn in the microwave). But a conference room with enough comfortable space for a little stretching, and an office policy that it’s available when meetings aren’t being conducted, could offer employees the break they need to get the kinks out.
Communicate Work-Friendly Incentives and Initiatives
Are your wellness programs, step counter contests, and department goals getting the communication spotlight they need? Are you sharing tips on workplace health effectively? Creating a work culture which values movement requires a little marketing by management.
As we encourage one another to keep on moving, workplace cultures can truly become one of movement — which leads to better wellness, productivity, and mental health. It’s a win-win!