Monitoring employee stress and physical activity

20 Apr

Taking phone calls standing up is a great way to decrease the amount of time spent sitting every day.

When people think about stress, they often picture a frantic emotional or physical state that increases heart rates, causes perspiration and makes focusing on a single task difficult. However, in today's workplaces, physical stress looks very different than it used to. Multiple studies have emerged in recent years indicating that sitting at a desk all day is almost as bad – if not worse – for the body as smoking. The stress placed on the body by being sedentary all day can dramatically decrease employee health and productivity.

How much time is spent sitting?
The Annals of Internal Medicine published findings from a study on the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on health completed earlier this year. Sedentary is an adjective used to describe an inactive person or way of life. As many office workers know all too well, a large portion of the day is spent sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, the study, "Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," found that despite efforts to exercise before or after the workday, sporadic activity does little to undo the damage that sitting for 8 to 12 hours every day does to the human body.

Pain Management and Injury Relief noted that on average, adult workers spend 9.3 hours per day sitting down. This number has steadily increased over the past 150 years; in the past, our ancestors spent 90 percent of their daylight hours moving or walking. Today that number is as low as 40 percent. In fact, 50-70 percent of people spend at least six hours sitting down every day, whether at a desk, in front of the TV or participating in other leisure activities.

The impact of sitting still 
The sedentary time study noted this passive stress increases the likelihood people will develop a variety of diseases in their lifetimes. High cholesterol, slowed blood circulation, cardiovascular disease, obesity and colon cancer are more likely to emerge in people who sit for 8 to 12 hours every day. In fact, one's risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases by an alarming 90 percent with that type of sedentary lifestyle.

Fixing stress with active company culture 
Since the workplace often enables sedentary lifestyles, it's important that businesses provide employee engagement ideas pertaining to health and wellness programs to decrease physical stress. A corporation that weaves physical activity into its culture elicits greater achievement from individuals and develops more productive teams. Businesses should consider offering discounts on local gym memberships or paying a portion of an employee's enrollment in a marathon or charity run. Establishing a company sports league or playing recreational sports each season is another way to not only boost activity but camaraderie as well.

Companies that may not have the funding or resources to provide extensive training or health programs to employees can still encourage a more active lifestyle. Standing desks are becoming more popular among offices around the world, as it provides a convenient and healthy alternative to sitting down all day. Workers who have invested in a standing desk actually found they were less stressed, according to Pain Management and Injury Relief. Aside from burning more calories, standing up at work made 87 percent of workers more energized and 71 percent more focused.

Employees can also find moments throughout the day where standing could take the place of sitting. Phone calls can be taken standing up and meetings with a few colleagues could take place on a walk as opposed to a conference room.

Any method used by a business to get employees up and active is worth the effort. Those workers are the future of the company and managers should be investing in their health every day. 

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