A recent report from the University of Cambridge highlighted the dangers involved in a nine-to-five office lifestyle, warning that adults who sit down for at least eight hours every day can lead to serious health impacts.
Sedentary working lifestyles are in fact causing 90,000 unnecessary deaths a year. The inactivity created by working cultures which encourage employees to sit at desks for prolonged periods of time is responsible for increased risk of heart disease, strokes and cancer, the report says.
Employers looking to take workplace wellbeing seriously must therefore pay close attention to the office culture they encourage, enabling employees to escape the confines of the nine-to-five desk culture. The long-term health impacts of failing to take action to change these desk-bound working practices means that employees will increasingly examine their employer’s willingness to make changes to their office environment.
Firms may be under the impression that making changes to working patterns is an unattainable goal. Yet even brief spurts of activity, such as walking to the coffee machine or a different part of the building, can have an impact on employee health and wellbeing, according to the Cambridge University study.
Spaces designed for collaboration between team members – breakout spaces and meeting rooms – can help employees to build more active time into their day. Utilising different areas in the building to interact with colleagues not only encourages collaborative working but helps teams to move away from desk-bound working. Decision makers must consider the benefits and positive impact on the culture of the office before ruling out creating such an area.
Implementing flexible working strategies can also create the change in behaviour needed to combat the issue of inactivity. By enabling employees to move between different locations as part of their working pattern, flexible working policies help to break the habits of desk-based businesses, for the ultimate benefit of all employees.