What is it? No, not your vending machine/cafeteria options. Not employee engagement (or lack thereof).

It's your desk. Or more specifically, the fact that you and likely the majority of your workforce sit at one all day. Combine that with the fact that employees likely sit during their commute to and from work, and then sit again watching TV in the evening. All told, it equals an average of 7.7 hours a day spent being sedentary, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Last year, the American Cancer Society revealed that all this sitting is killing us. A 13-year ACS study published in 2010 concluded that women who sat for more than six hours a day were 94% more likely to die during the study period, and men who did the same were 48% more likely to die in the same time frame.

Now, you might be thinking: But those people obviously weren't exercising. Our wellness program gets people up and moving! However, the ACS study found that the negative effects of sitting were just as strong in people who exercised regularly.

So, what's the answer? Work standing up?

Actually, yes, according to several people I met in Boston recently at the National Business Group on Health's 25th annual forum:

* One was Dr. David Laibson, Ph.D., a Harvard professor who recommended that employers encourage working groups to have walking meetings to build more movement into the workday.

I love this; the walking meetings would burn calories, lessen sedentary working and I have no doubt make for shorter meetings.

* Another was Dr. Jack Groppel, Ph.D., co-founder of the Human Performance Institute. He told me about research he'd done with Ben Wiegand, Ph.D., from Wellness & Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, showing that as little as one-to-two minutes of physical activity every 30 minutes or so is enough to oxygenate the brain to improve employee function and productivity. (Stay tuned for an EBN article further detailing the study.)

He noted that simply walking up and down hallways was enough to produce results. Who can't make time for that? It's as simple as getting up to talk to a colleague rather than sending them an email.

* A third was a rep from Ergotron, a firm that makes sit-stand workstations. Granted, these folks have stuff to sell. Still, a desk that allows employees to work while standing part (or all) of the time could be something your workforce would value - thus providing tangible wellness rewards and intangible benefits as well in terms of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

So, what do you think? Do you have deep-seated resistance to standing/walking while you work? Or are you ready to take a stand toward a less sedentary workforce?

I invite you to email me at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com to share your thoughts and comments.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access