The challenge of sedentary work environments – how to stay healthy
Many workers spend a large part of their working day sitting, including administrative and call centre workers, as well as people in particular areas of sales and manufacturing. This is defined as sedentary work and it involves prolonged periods of inactivity, and an absence of whole body movement.
Even if workers manage to undertake their recommended 30 minutes of active exercise a day, if they still remain sedentary for the rest of the day, they will have an increased risk of health problems.
The human body is designed for movement and should alternate between sitting, standing and activities, such as walking, regularly throughout the day.
Benefits of moving
Benefits of sitting less and moving more include:
- lower risk of musculoskeletal pain, discomfort and injury, particularly of the lower back and neck
- reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
- lower risk of eye strain or fatigue
- healthy maintenance of the circulatory system and digestive tract.
It is important to consider both a mix of design and work organisation improvements to make sure workers are well supported to reduce risks associated with sedentary work.
Design well-planned work areas
- Use adjustable height workstation equipment and furniture (take a look at the Guide to the selection and use of sit stand computer workstations).
- Positon printers and bins away from work areas to encourage incidental movement.
- Allow enough space for people to stand at meetings and training sessions.
Improve the work organisation
- Encourage a standing-friendly culture in the workplace, e.g. include opportunities for standing during meetings and training sessions.
- Schedule breaks and task variation during the work day to break up long periods of sitting or standing in one position.
- Consider potential work-related stress factors, such as work demands, and how these impact sedentary behaviour.
- Conduct training for management and supervisors on ways to reduce sedentary work.
- Last updated
- 10 May 2017