Evolution has seen humans adapt to the numerous changes in modern life, but health experts and scientists all agree that sitting down at a desk all day is still bad for our bodies... and also our minds, as it slows the flow of oxygen around the body and to our brains. Simply put, our bodies weren't built to be so inactive for so long. It is a problem, therefore, that so many jobs these days require people to sit at a desk in front of a computer for hours on end. Research shows that sitting down all day for work can lead to obesity, stress and other health problems which impact people's quality of life on a daily basis. As a consequence employees become less productive.
The good news is that employers can make small changes to reverse the negative effects of sitting down all day. Some are actually incredibly simple and completely free to introduce. Read on for some suggestions.
Standing desks are nothing new. You can easily adapt an existing desk to switch between sitting or standing at relatively low cost, or you can invest in desks that can be controlled electronically to suit individual employees' height. If standing up doesn't work for some of your staff, then maybe look at offering them the large inflatable gymballs that they can sit and bounce on while working. These help engage some of the postural muscles that wouldn't normally be used when sitting on a chair, and they can be as active as they like while perching on it.
Stretch (and yawn)
Anybody who has a cat will know that stretching is something their pet felines do with some regularity, especially after taking a nap or after a burst of exercise. The reasons cats - and many other animals - do this is because it feels good. It feels good because stretching is good for our bodies as it boosts blood and oxygen flow. So why not encourage your staff to stretch regularly by ringing a bell every few hours and asking everyone to stand up and stretch out. According to one article, the benefits of regular stretch breaks include reducing stress, lowering risk of injuries, improving balance, and helps wake us up if we're feeling a little drowsy.
Just like cats also do, try encouraging your employees to yawn. Yes, really. When we yawn we actually give ourselves a little reboot as yawning "cools the brain" and prompts us to breathe in more oxygen. Counteract any drowsiness it may leave you feeling by stretching or going for a quick walk.
In-house exercise breaks
Nowadays you don't need to go to a gym to workout or break into a small sweat. You just need a yoga mat, or enough space for to jump up and down in or stretch your limbs out. See if you can create an area in your office for employees to go and stretch, do yoga, some other exercises or to just drop and give you 20 jumping jacks. With some sources saying that just five minutes of exercise can be better than 30 minutes, use your Findmyshift rota to actively schedule in 5 - 15 minutes of exercise time for each of your employees during their shift, and leave it up to them what they do, as long as they get away from their desk and aren't just sitting down somewhere else.
Have walking meetings
If you regularly have one-to-ones with your employees, why not make them walking meetings? If your local area - and the weather! - suits it, go outside for a walk with your employee as you talk through whatever is listed on your agenda. Use your phone to take notes and go at a pace that suits you both. If you can't get outside, then see if you can create a "lap" within your workspace. With research suggesting that walking prompts more creative thinking, you may be surprised at the business benefits as well as the health advantages of walking meetings.
Give your staff pedometers
Competition may not motivate all of your staff, but for some the possibility of "winning" is too tempting. If you can afford it, buy pedometers for your staff and have monthly competitions of who takes the most steps. This will encourage staff to be more active both during working hours and when they're not at work. The Harvard Health Letter found that pedometer use really does motivate people to exercise, and you may also find the healthy competition among employees is good for business by encouraging more competition and productivity at work too.
Facilitate productive breaks
If you can't introduce any of the above suggestions in your business, you can at least make efforts to ensure your staff take productive breaks. Block their break-time out in the staff rota, don't give them work to do that will eat into this time, and if possible, make it easy for them to be active in their breaks by encouraging use of a local gym, mapping out some nice short walks in the area, or simply allowing staff to take breaks together so they don't just stay stationary at their desks.