Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Peter Clark


11 Jan 2019


Did you know that people who sit for 13 hours a day have a 200% greater risk of death than those who sit for 11 hours or less?

Yes, that’s right. Your chair is killing you. At least, that’s what research in the Annals of Internal Medicine says.  

Worryingly, no one’s quite sure why sitting is so deadly. It might be because humans are designed to be upright. Our insides work better that way. Or maybe chronic sitters lead less healthy lifestyles.

Either way, the sitting epidemic has an impact on health & safety in your workplace. You may have a duty to protect your employees from their office chairs.

Here are a few steps some businesses have taken to encourage standing, and one thing you really should do…

Make standing fun

Well, maybe fun is too strong a word. But you can make standing part of your workday.

Take stand-up meetings. It’s a regular meeting, except everyone stands up. It keeps people alert and often makes the meeting more efficient.

Bear in mind that some employees may have difficulty standing. So it’s not for every workforce and situation.   

And you definitely don’t want to go down the route of one unnamed business and introduce mandatory ‘planking’ for meetings. That’s where you do the entire meeting on the floor in a raised push-up position. Again, not for everyone...

Standing desks

Stand-up desks are all the rage at moment. They let you adjust the height of your desk so you can work while standing or sitting.

There’s a range of standing desks to choose from. The most basic are raised platforms for your monitor and keyboard. It’s a simple (and cheap) solution, but not always practical. Your staff will need to rearrange their desks and wiring each time they want to change positions.

More advanced desks have raising mechanisms built into them. Some manual models let you adjust the height by cranking a handle. Others use an electric motor. Stand-up desks can be pricey though—from £100 for manual to around £500 for electric models.

Many businesses invest in one or two standing desks and let their employees take turns. Less organised businesses let staff members fight over them.

Treadmill desks

Yes, these are a thing. Google uses them. And it’s exactly what you’re picturing, a standing desk with a treadmill attached to it.

Most go at around 2 to 4 miles per hour, so you don’t have to worry about your workers breaking a sweat. They’re designed to run quietly too, but users are recommended to wear soft-soled footwear to muffle the sound of footsteps.

But again, it’s not a cheap option. A treadmill desk could set you back well over £1,000.

Here’s what you should do

Don’t rely on gimmicks. The best thing to do to protect staff is to inform and educate them on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.

Do a thorough workstation assessment for new starters and highlight the risks of sitting too long. Provide training and resources on how to be more active during the day.

Remember, your employees have the right to one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break if they work more than six hours a day. Encourage them to exercise this right and go for a walk.

Good health & safety management will reduce the risk of harm at work. Which, after all, is your legal duty as an employer.   

Whether you’re considering ergonomic furniture or enforced exercise, Croner helps you keep your staff healthy and your business on the right side of the law.

For FREE practical advice on how to meet your health & safety duties, call Croner on 01455 858 132.

P.S. Please don’t enforce exercise in the office, that’s really illegal.

About the Author

Peter Clark joined Croner in 2018 as a Senior Health and Safety Consultant advising clients all on matters of health and safety compliance. Peter has over 15 years’ experience as a health and safety practitioner in many varied industry sectors including Manufacturing; Printing; Construction; Agriculture; Retail; Education; and the Care Sector.

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