Following a recent publication by The British Journal of Sports Medicine* of ‘The Sedentary Office’, an Expert Statement commissioned by Active Working CIC with Public Health England, the press in the UK published a number of articles about the ‘sedentary epidemic’ including these in the Guardian, Telegraph, Express and Daily Mail. The Guardian also published an opinion piece by their news writer Esther Addley on her experience of trying to work standing for four hours.
In response to these news pieces, we prepared this statement that sets out our views on the matter:
“Whilst the “The ‘sedentary epidemic’ in the modern workplace is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately, solving the problem requires more than simply telling staff to stand more and move about. Not only would such enforcement be considered draconian, it will also make preventing inactivity a chore to sustain, and would therefore be a short-lived and swiftly condemned attempt.
“The key to addressing this issue is to reassess how ‘work’ is perceived and rethink the methods in which we achieve it. This needs to begin by breaking the cycle of thinking “I’m working therefore I need to be sat at a desk”.
“Put simply, being stationary at a desk is not always the ideal place to work. For example, research has proven that movement can increase creativity and enhance communication; yet being sat still at a desk is most often where tasks related to these take place.
“All of our jobs require a vast array of activities, yet most of us use only a single seat and desk in which to do them all from. Our environments need to match our needs in the way that areas such as schools or libraries do. These buildings specifically cater for each activity that takes place within them with great adaptability and flexibility. The users of the spaces move around them according to their needs, and their tasks. The modern worker however, remains stationary for all duties, despite the fact that the desk might not be the most appropriate site for the task at hand.
“By introducing changes such as implementing walking/standing meetings, encouraging telephone conversations/video conferences to take place on foot, offering sit-stand desks, encouraging breaks through adaptable and attractive environments (one in five of us miss them), introducing agile or flexible working policies and providing areas within a workplace that address specific needs such as hubs, activity zones, collaboration areas, break-out-spaces, privacy pods and quiet zones- workers will automatically move, stand and be more active- without having to be told. “
Colin Stuart, Managing Director of Baker Stuart, www.bakerstuart.com
The letter was subsequently published in part in the Daily Express and the Telegraph.
What do you think about the sedentary epidemic?
What are your views on the ‘sedentary epidemic’? How do you think the health risks could be avoided?
*In an earlier version of this post we mistakenly attributed the authorship and publication of the post to Public Health England. This has been corrected.