Work in an office? Sit too much? Get into the movement mindset!
Maybe you’re wondering “What’s a ‘movement mindset,’ anyhow?” It’s an online resource, at themovementmindset.com, featuring discrete yoga poses to do at your desk.
A movement mindset seeks to counteract the harms of sedentary office life – stiff neck, back pain, headaches, lack of focus, and more – by alternating between sitting, standing, and moving throughout the day. Any company can give its employees the freedom to move more in the workplace. Ergotron delivers the sit-stand workstations that make it possible to do so while at a desk.
Discover a better way to work, and a happier, healthier you!
Now in its third year of existence, Active Working Summit, held last week in London, UK, was attended by public health experts, opinion leaders, researchers and decision makers responsible for wellness, productivity and engagement of office workers. The event speakers were both engaging and informative, with a clear message ringing consistently throughout the day: we have a ticking time bomb of health issues being created by the way that office workers carry out their work each day. Yet, worryingly, as the speakers at the Active Working Summit explained, the issue is not gaining the attention it requires and therefore the right actions are not being taken. Here are the five key takeaways from the event.
Health and wellbeing remains on the periphery of company priorities when it should be at the heart of business strategy
Dame Carol Black, adviser on Health and Work to Public Health England and NHS England, argued that organisations are failing to take the issue of health and wellbeing in the workplace seriously enough. Her view was that it cannot be regarded an ‘add-on’ and there must be a ‘total worker’ health approach by moving health and wellbeing into the very fabric of the organisation. Her message was a strategic one for businesses therefore: ‘embedment, not add-on’. So, attitudes need to change and senior executives need to show leadership in facilitating this change.
Investment in health and wellbeing at work makes business sense and can be measured
But if Dame Black argued that not enough is being done for workplace wellbeing, Dr Michael Brannan, Deputy National lead for adult health and wellbeing, Public Health England, emphasised the commercial common sense of investing in health and wellbeing at work. He explained that as the UK has some of the longest working hours in Europe with 60% of waking hours spent at work, it isn’t an option to not focus on health at work. But more importantly, from a commercial perspective, he told the audience that for every £2 spent on the health and wellbeing of employees, there’s a return of £34.
Simple solutions can drive quick results
The average UK office worker sits 10 hours each day, with almost 70% of sitting taking place at work and 73 per cent only leaving their desk for toilet or tea breaks, per a shocking new study. Growing scientific evidence continues to draw our attention to multiple health risks (including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and mental health) associated with excessive and prolonged sitting. All the speakers verified that the simple process of standing more often could therefore yield dramatic improvements in the health of the average office worker. The goal for an average day was to accumulate two hours of standing throughout day with the goal, eventually of four hours.
Wearable technology is not the only answer
Dr Dunstan also discussed the benefits that the huge expansion in wearable technology usage has brought; in particular, the awareness of need to be more active and better understanding of how to measure activity. But he was also quick to add a note of caution stressing that such devices tend to drive users towards focusing on the vigorous activity side, but don’t help break up long periods of sitting. This conclusion is what led Dr Dunstan to play a part in the development of the ‘Rise and Recharge’ app which is aimed at solving the issue of interrupting prolonged sitting, which is both the real danger but also a simple thing to fix.
Culture is all important in driving change
Time and again during the day the speakers referenced the pernicious culture that exists in offices where a person’s productivity is linked to the time they are at their desk. The point was made that we need to turn the tables and rather than ask ‘why aren’t you at your desk?’ to ‘why are you always at your desk?’ Breaking this culture is hard though. As Dr. James Levine pointed out; while it’s okay to be seen to be going to the gym, if you stand up at work (perhaps with a sit-stand workstation), you are seen as ‘just a bit weird!’
In short, change needs to start at the proverbial top. Business leaders need to take a stand here themselves—by providing tools and products that will change the habit of sitting for so long and encourage attitudes to change by changing their own behaviours.
We just kissed 2016 goodbye, and now begin anew in 2017, often with New Year’s resolutions. As you’d probably guess, the most common resolutions are related to health: lose weight, eat better, and get more exercise.
We all know that sticking with a New Year’s resolution is difficult – in fact, January 17th has come to be called “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day.” (An informal survey of team members about past resolutions confirmed that most of us do indeed fall off the wagon then.) But the good news is that the act of setting a goal already makes you much more likely to reach it.
One trick that helps assure success is to start small and let momentum build slowly over time. Setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is tempting, but that’s what causes most resolvers to crash and burn. Focusing on a tiny behavior makes taking action so easy that it’s embarrassing not to do it. (An example is stepping in place during one TV commercial.) With repetition that behavior becomes automatic so it’s easy to expand and enlarge it. Soon enough you could be stepping during the entire show.
How long will that take? Scientists at University College London found that it takes on average 66 days to make habits “second nature,” so you don’t have to exercise any willpower. In fact, it feels uncomfortable when you don’t carry out a “super-habit” such as brushing your teeth before bed.
If you’re coming up short on ideas for 2017 New Year’s resolutions, here are a few from some of our healthy, happy Ergotron employees:
“It’s way easier to avoid that slice of leftover birthday cake if you know it’s a whopping 350 calories. This year, I’ll be tracking on MyFitnessPal to see how many calories I’m consuming in each sugary treat – and how much I need to exercise (or stand up!) to burn it off.”
“In 2017, I’m going to go outside or stand near a window to get some daylight whenever I can. A study by Swiss scientists showed that people exposed to daylight were way more alert at the beginning of the evening versus those exposed to artificial light, who were sleepier. Plus, it relaxes my eyes to look out into the distance and take in the view.”
“I’ve resolved to stop checking my email obsessively. I figure that if I’m checking for messages or refreshing my social stream every five minutes during the day, that means I’m checking in at least 24,000 times a year. No wonder it’s so hard for me to concentrate.”
“I promise to set the timer on my smartphone to three minutes, and then close my eyes for that time and focus only on my breathing without trying to change it. I always feel a lot more clear-headed afterwards, but I feel guilty taking a break during really busy days. Not in 2017!”
“I haven’t made it a habit to stand more while working. Sure, it may take some getting used to, but it’s a relatively painless way to make a small, yet significant, difference in my health. When I remember to do it, I do feel the results (more productive, more alert) almost immediately.”
“In the new year, I’d like to go back to more of an emphasis on good ergonomics. That’s still an important way to avoid wrist, back, and neck pain that can be a red flag for serious injuries and diseases.”
Tell us about your New Year’s resolutions and how you’ll make them stick in the comments!
Want to take it to the next level?
If you’re willing, and your schedule allows, challenge yourself to not only look away from your computer screen every 20 minutes, but to actually get up and move around. Stand to make a phone call. Stretch to file paperwork. Stroll to grab a cup of coffee.
The point is: just get moving! Not only will moving around reduce eye strain, but it keeps you active during an otherwise sedentary period, increasing alertness and leading to higher productivity.
We challenged our readers to try out the 20-20-20 rule and here’s what they said:
Nell: “Wow this really works! Don’t usually have eye strain but this certainly works to lighten your mood and concentrate better! :)”
Brian: “Thank you for this great tip for preventing eyestrain. As I get older, I was thinking strain was due to age. Nice to know it is associated with intense use and can be remedied.”
Georgia: “I have wonderful picture windows in front of me where I work so this is a rule that is easy to follow – as long as I stop to do it.”
Computer usage is likely to cause only temporary eye irritation, and no permanent damage, but consult an eye care professional anyway. Eye drops or artificial tear lubricants may take care of symptoms. Or for maximum viewing comfort, you may need computer glasses with a special prescription, or lens coating and tint.
Have you tried the 20-20-20 rule? Does it work for you?
It’s been a month since we presented our Building a Business Case for Sit-Stand at Work webinar (available on-demand). There was a lot of interest in the topic and we received several questions after the Q&A segment, so let’s address them here.
Q: When did Ergotron become involved with the sit-stand workstyle concept?
A: In 1994 we introduced our first sit-stand monitor arms – back then for CRTs! But really the sit-stand concept started with healthcare. Nurses were spending too many hours on their feet, so Ergotron designed carts that would allow them to sit while charting. In 2009 we launched our first WorkFit® sit-stand desk and in 2010 we launched JustStand.org, as a hub and community for the latest research, tools and ideas about moving more. And we’re still innovating with products like the LearnFit® student standing desk for classrooms.
Q: I’d like to make a business case to my boss for a sit-stand desk. I’m not an HR professional. Where do I even start?
A: First of all, bravo! You’re not alone in being hesitant to request a workstation upgrade – only 16 percent of employees surveyed have asked for one. Begin with our “Ask Your Boss” letter template (part of a downloadable WorkFit Champion Toolkit). Then customize it based on your unique circumstances. If you have special health concerns that are exacerbated by sitting, talk to your doctor about using a sit-stand workstation. Most companies will try to accommodate an employee with a medical condition.
Or, if your boss will only be convinced by fiscal facts and figures, add an ROI angle to your letter, such as what this employee wrote to her manager:
“Outfitting our workplace with ergonomic sit-stand desks will affect the bottom line in a positive way. Let’s say every workplace injury costs the company $5,000, taking into account lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, etc. If an employee approaches you before becoming injured at the workplace from a chronic disease or repetitive strain injury, you save $5,000 (minus the cost of the desk). The return on investment is substantial. Not to mention all the other benefits: employees who sit and stand up during the workday are more comfortable and more alert, and as a result, more productive.”
Q: Do you recommend any small tools or gadgets to help me add more movement to my sit-stand routine?
A: Sure! Many of us have tried a variety of active-office gear with positive results. Your experience may vary, so listen to your body and have fun experimenting. Carrie, a certified ergonomic assessor, says her anti-fatigue mat gets a lot of use. When standing, it not only cushions her feet, but it encourages her to move. (One bonus: the cushioning in any one spot of a mat compresses and provides less padding after a while, so you naturally step to another spot.) Denise, a designer, uses a stand-up task stool with her sit-stand desk. She likes to adjust it to different heights, depending on her fatigue level, and “perch” on it throughout the day. When on a long phone call, for instance, she raises it high and rocks back and forth, which keeps her legs moving and engaged. Colette, a product manager, likes to use a footstool so she can alternate putting a leg up when standing, or a balance board when movement helps her stay more engaged and alert.
Have you been using a smartphone or tablet more often, instead of a desktop computer? Working on the go may lead to certain types of injuries due to a mismatch between mobile technology and our interface with it.
Case in point: Text messaging has been common for years and initially medical clinicians saw an uptick in repetitive strain injuries of the hand. Pain related to handheld devices was amusingly named “BlackBerry thumb” or “teen texting tendinitis.” But it was no joke. Patients suffered weakness, throbbing, and “popping” from inflamed muscles and tendons of the thumb and wrist, requiring cortisone injections or even surgery. We quickly learned to lighten up, write short, and take breaks.
Now there’s a new scourge associated with the use of a smartphone, tablet, or other small devices: “Text neck.” Caretakers and physical therapists say patients complain of headaches, muscle strain and pinched nerves. Frequently bending your neck for long periods to look at a device can even lead to spinal degeneration.
Technology usage rates are skyrocketing across the globe, according to Pew Research Center. In addition to texting, other favorite activities include social networking, watching videos, and listening to music/podcasts. In fact, two-thirds of Americans now own mobile devices, spending an average of 3-5 hours a day on them.
The ergonomic remedy?
1.-Use good posture, keeping your head upright. The average adult head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, which equals the weight of a bowling ball. When you tilt your head forward 60 degrees, the weight your neck must support surges to 60 pounds, about the weight of an 8-year-old child!
2.-Adjust the screen height and angle of your device for optimal viewing. When a desk is available, attach an external keyboard and/or monitor for prolonged use.
3.-Switch up between sitting and standing throughout the day. If it’s not possible to alternate positions, limit leisure screen time, especially if your work is computer-intensive.
The uncompromising approach of the new generation of workers both shocks and inspires me. They dare to suggest solutions that sound impossible to my jaded ear. And they don’t always easily tolerate a choice between this or that. Maybe we can learn something from their openness to breaking the rules so to speak.
A case in point: recent articles like the one by Jill Margo, a baby-boomer like me, in the Financial Review, “Forget standing desks, take a ‘walking meeting’ instead.” She (and others) report that walking meetings are feasible for many workers, and offers some good advice on how to engage in them. But why does she suggest walking meetings as an alternative to standing desks?
The new generation of workers will be sure asking for this and that. And a feasible response to them would be, “Of course we can – in fact, we should!” We, as workers, will benefit from both.
While both walking meetings and standing desks serve the cause for worksite wellness, they do not function physiologically in the same way. Placing them in opposition to each other reflects a basic misunderstanding of the importance of the different types of movement in the workplace. This could mislead readers into thinking walking meetings and standing desks are more similar than they really are, and ultimately to some ill-informed decisions around their workplace activity.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the article’s promotion of walking meetings. I only want to emphasize that adjustable sit-stand desks are designed to reduce the periods of uninterrupted sitting so prevalent in office environments. Even if a person engaged in four 30-minute walking meetings every day, they would still be at risk of “sitting disease” if they also sat for more than 30 minutes at a time. This is true because physical activity like walking does not compensate for time spent being sedentary.
There is quite a bit of research being done to establish a dose-response relationship between movement and sedentary time. Some experts even suggest that too much physical activity during the work day can cause longer uninterrupted bouts of sitting later as a compensation. The balance between too much sitting and too much exercise is still to be determined.
In the meantime, moderation is recommended.
You don’t have to be a millennial to want both worlds. Maybe I learned it from my millennial children, or maybe I’ve just come to experience the benefits of both in my own work day. You could easily interchange walking meetings with yoga at work, or taking a run at lunch. The argument remains the same. Both are better for you. Sit-Stand desks have a place in your work world, whether you work in a corporate center or have converted your back bedroom for a home office.
Let’s all start thinking like the next generation of workers. They don’t accept unreasonable choices sitting down, and neither do I.
– Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig)
Are you a deskbound worker? Chances are that for some of you, your health may be compromised and your fitness de-conditioned due to prolonged sedentary time. Most ergonomics and human factors experts agree that the human body is designed to move and cycle through a balance of postures.
In other words? You need to periodically sit down, stand up and move around throughout the day. How much may depend on your life and workstyle.
Research suggests that sitting for extended periods slows your metabolism and raises your risk for obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death. But as any retail worker or waiter can tell you, being on your feet all day can be hard on your circulatory system, legs, feet and back too. The idea is balance. By switching from one posture to another frequently, you automatically mitigate the risks associated with either one on its own.
So how should you begin to switch it up?
This is where the sit-stand switch comes into play. As a benchmark, we recommend changing your position every 30 minutes.
Start slowly. No need to overdo it and suffer additional physical stress and strain. Stand for short periods – 5 minutes per hour, then 10 minutes, and so on until you work up to longer intervals throughout the workday.
Need a little more guidance? Here are some examples of an hourly sit-stand routine, which could be repeated during your workday:
Do 30 minutes of sitting while computing, then 30 minutes of standing in a meeting or reviewing mail
Do 20 minutes of sitting working on a report, and then 10 minutes of standing reading email and 30 minutes of doing some coding or editing
Do 30 minutes of sitting while writing an article, then 20 minutes of standing on the phone and 10 minutes of stretching or filing.
There are endless formulas for creating a mix of sitting and standing postures that accommodate many environments, occupations and workflows. Use these as guidelines only, meant to simply encourage you to sit less and stand more. It is worth noting that even small changes can make a big improvement in your biochemical and biomechanical picture.
There may be a few other areas that you need to switch.
Whether sitting or standing, good posture and proper body mechanics are necessary. While sitting, avoid slumping forward, craning your neck out or dropping it down. While standing, keep the knee joint relaxed, not locked. Wear supportive shoes and cushion feet with a mat. Fidgeting is good, and if possible, make bigger movements such as light stretches at your desk.
To prevent falling back into sedentary bad habits, you might want to consider giving yourself regular reminders to change posture. For instance:
Set a digital alarm or kitchen timer to ring at 20-30 minute intervals.
Use a Fitbit or other wearable device that tracks activities and reminds wearers to move.
Consider creating or buying a sit-stand desk that allows you to easily switch between sitting and standing without interfering with work activity and productivity.
If you can train yourself to cycle through the sit-stand switch, you will gain the benefits of both postures. Plus, you’ll minimize the risks of metabolic, mental, and musculoskeletal strain. That’s a double-win, for your mind and body.
We’ve added a new Resources Center on Juststand.org with even more information to equip employees asking for movement-friendly workstations — and to educate employers on the many organizational benefits of creating a culture of movement. Visit Juststand.org/toolkit to learn more.
With so many organizations looking for ways to reduce employee absenteeism and presenteeism, improve productivity, and lower healthcare costs, this complimentary 30-minute on-demand webinar followed by Q&A, helps HR and wellness professionals learn why standing at work is gaining popularity and how to make a business case for sit-stand solutions. Attendees who work in the fields of health, safety, wellness or ergonomics will benefit most from this webinar.
This webinar will help you address such questions as:
* Why is standing at work such a focus all of a sudden?
* What research has been done on sit-stand interventions?
* How can I build a business case for investing in sit-stand?