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Workstations – sit less and move more in Queensland workplaces

The Office of Industrial Relations continues the health and safety webinar series with 'Workstations – Sit less and move more in Queensland workplaces'.

This webinar discusses:

  • the health risks of too much sitting
  • the relationship between sitting and exercise
  • strategies to reduce sitting time in workplaces
  • resources that are available.

Watch the webinar, or download the presentation (PDF, 1.48 MB). This content is protected under copyright.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 20MB)

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Donna Lee and Bell Leahy

Slide 1
Slide 2
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for attending today's webinar series. The topic and expert speaker for this session is brought to you by the Office of Industrial Relations. The Office of Industrial Relations is committed to driving initiatives across the whole Scheme that improve safety, wellbeing and return to work outcomes for both employees and workers. My name is Allicia Bailey. I'm the Manager of Engagement Services for the Office of Industrial Relations and I'll be the Facilitator for today's webinar.
Slide 3
Just to let you know that at the end of the presentation there will be an opportunity for Donna and Bell to answer some of your questions. So we encourage you to make the most of this opportunity throughout the session. If you have questions just simply type them in the chat box on the right hand side of your screen and we'll collate those. A copy of the webinar will be emailed out to you and it will be made available on our website as well. So please feel free to share this resource with any of your networks that you may feel – that you feel sorry, may benefit from today's session.
Slide 4
So let's get straight into it. During this webinar Donna and Bell will focus on the health risks of too much sitting, the relationship between sitting and exercise and strategies to reduce sitting time in workplaces. So I now have the pleasure of handing you over to Bell and Donna.
Slide 5
Bell Leahy:
Thank you Allicia. Well it's a pleasure to be here and the dream team of Donna and myself are excited to help you go through today's webinar. So the outline today is to talk through what is sedentary behaviour, why it's really important to you and also to the workplace and really looking at some effective strategies to help you sit less and be more active throughout your work day.
So to get you warmed up for the standing ovation which is sure to occur at the end of the session we will ask you to stand throughout the session to make sure that you're looking after your metabolic health.
Slide 6
So kicking things off we'd like to really understand why you've tuned in today. So before we launch in we do have a quick polling question. So have you tuned in for a) to better understand the risk mainly for your office workers, b) to better understand the risk mainly for your plant operators, so if you think of, you know, your dozer operators, that sort of thing, c) to better understand the risk mainly for your transport drivers or d) for personal interest? So we'll just give you a good 10 to 15 seconds there to just pop an answer in for me there.
So we've just got about 10 seconds remaining. So if you could make sure you're not on Facebook and make sure that you are giving a polling answer that would be wonderful. Okay. Lovely. So while the results are just coming in I'll just see if they've popped up now. Just a few seconds more thinking time.
Okay. Fabulous. We have the results in. So we can see that around 80% of you are mainly interested in understanding the risk for your office workers which is great to know. There's about 7% of you interested mainly for your transport workers and then around 15% just for personal interest. All right. Well stay tuned. We will do our best to make this as relevant for you as possible. Make sure that you have fall-off-your-chair excitement if you will.
Slide 7 So what is sedentary behaviour? Sedentary behaviour is basically any waking behaviour which expends very little energy. So for any of the technically minded amongst you it's basically activities which have a really low energy expenditure of less than 1.5 mets or metabolic equivalent. So these are activities such as driving, watching TV, things like computer work and if we actually think about your average day it's scary just how much time we do spend sitting across the day.
Slide 8 So I want you to think of what you did yesterday. An average office worker's day might look a little something like on your screen. You might get up around 7:00, sit for breakfast, sit on your way to work, whether it be in the car, whether it be in the train or the bus. You get to work, you sit some more for the morning part before you do your lunch. Then you have lunch, you're sitting some more, sitting in the afternoon, you go home, sitting on the way home in transit. You may or may not do some exercise, whatever that be, you know, swimming, running – who knows whatever your hobbies are, and then to unwind you might sit some more. Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit. So for many adults this adds up to about 15.5 hours of sitting alone and this is just looking at sort of your standard office worker. Consider your workaholics or people that really spend a lot and lot of time sitting across their various activities throughout the day. Think of your partner, your family, your friends. How much sitting do you think they would do?
Slide 9 So over to you again, our audience. I would love to know how many hours you spent sitting yesterday. So if you could just fill out this polling question. So a) 0-4 hours, b) 4-8 hours, c) 8-12 hours or d) more than 12 hours? So I'll just give you a couple of seconds there to fill that in for me. Thank you.
So just give you another 10 seconds or so to just pop in that answer for me. See how many of you are diligently standing or sitting across your day.
Whilst we're just waiting for those answers to come through this might be a great opportunity for you to stand up if you can and if you're able to. Fabulous. We just had some people in this own room to do some standing which is great. Love to see you sort of do a few star jumps if you can. No, no, no. Too far. Okay. So what we have, we have the results in. So for most of you 51% were sitting for about 8-12 hours yesterday. So not too many of you are sort of sitting for those really, really long hours, 12 or more hours. That's about 13%. A quarter of you are sitting between four and eight hours and only 8% of you are sitting less than four hours which is really quite exceptional I think.
Slide 10 So I guess it comes as no surprise when we look at the averages. So most of us, so around 60 – sorry, spend the day – 60% of the day sitting. Apologies. So if we compare that to the poll that's pretty much on par with the answers of the audience there. So we spend about 9.5 hours sitting total a day. We might be doing light incidental movement for about a third of the day and then only a very small chunk of our day is spent actually exercising.
Slide 11 If we look at how work has changed over time this does have a large influence in why we're sitting more. So you can see from this graph here in the 1960s there was quite a lot of metabolic equivalence or the amount of energy that we're burning throughout our work day. So you can see that was around the 2.5 marker and then more recently it's really dropped down quite substantially. So in the 1960s one in two men were physically active at work and now it's only one in five. If you think about how much your own role has changed in the last few years I know for myself we're definitely moving towards a paperless environment. So even tasks such as filing where again once you might be getting up away from your desk is more moving towards everything which is based at a computer.
Slide 12 So what I'd like to do now is watch a short clip called Let's Make Every Day Harder. So this is a neat little clip and keep in the back of your mind this might be something for you to show your workplace.
So that was just a neat little video which really nicely summarises a lot of the content that we go through today. But stay tuned because it didn't give you all the answers. I'm now going to pass it over to Donna to continue the knowledge experience of today.
Slide 13
Donna Lee:
Hello. Thank you very much Bell. What we'd like to do is go about okay now that we do sit more what does it mean for us and what it means for our health? So research into this area started in the 1950s when they looked at the UK bus drivers and they were found to have a higher rate of coronary heart disease compared with their more active bus conductors. Since then there has been much more research particularly in the last while. A clearer picture is developing but we still need more work to produce the stronger links.
On this slide you've got a list of the associated health risks of sedentary behaviour. It's probably not a list that you want to have. Starting at the top with musculoskeletal symptoms. One of the common activities of sedentary behaviour is sitting, prolonged sitting and it's quite well established that sitting for long periods and particularly in awkward postures can lead to musculoskeletal injuries particularly low back pain.
The others on the list is more related to cardio and metabolic issues. The high amount of sedentary behaviour is linked to poor health. Significantly it leads to increased waist circumference, increased body mass index, increase of disease risk markers like glucose and triglyceride levels.
In a recent review of studies it showed that people who sit for long periods a day regardless of how it's measured, for example they might classify it as if you sit more than eight hours a day, if you watch more than three hours of TV a day and they compared it to people who don't sit very much in the day, for example who sit less than three hours a day. Those people who have had high sitting through their day had twice the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
We'll be talking more about the metabolic changes and metabolics a bit later but obviously with increased activity can lead to weight gain and development of obesity.
Very recently in 2014 to 2015 there's been more studies on the association between high sedentary behaviour and increased risk of cancer. In particular colon cancers come as quite notable with workers who have been in sedentary roles for more than 10 years have doubled the risk of colon cancer. Also it's mentioned that there's a link between endometrial, lung, breast and ovarian cancer.
All these findings, particularly the recent findings takes count of any moderate or vigorous exercise the sample group has done. So with the session we've outlined that even if you find your 30 a day these results are independent of that. So it looks at – but why does it happen?
Slide 14 Let's have a bit of a look about what research is showing may be happening. These are the potential mechanisms of harm from excessive sitting. Some of it seems interrelated but we'll try to paint the picture for you. Firstly insufficient dynamic muscle activity. This is related to insufficient energy expenditure and lack of movement and postural variation. With reduction in dynamic muscle activity as well as changing the metabolic or the chemical processes in yourselves it also affects blood flow, metabolism of carbohydrates and is also associated with risk biomarkers, what they look at in your body to see if you're at risk of cardio or metabolic disease. We'll explain more about the metabolic pathway in a moment.
Obviously insufficient energy expenditure means that the energy requirements are low, so obviously linked to weight gain as we mentioned before. Plus also there's slowdown and changes in your metabolism and that has been linked to cardio, metabolic and cancer health. As we know with the lack of movement and lack of postural variation it leads to prolonged stress on the body structure such as the ligaments and the intervertebral discs which basically the stress is more than what the body can tolerate and this leads to pain, discomfort and possible injury. It also leads to muscle fatigue and compromised circulation.
Also another factor that we'll explain a bit more as well is the prolonged sitting without a break. Another part is reduced effort of gravity and other mechanisms. As well as the muscle activity you use when you get up from sitting to standing, even the simple act of sitting and moving into standing, there's cardiovascular reflex which restore blood pressure and counteracts pooling of blood in your legs which is a good thing. So therefore if you do sit for long times it leads to reduced blood flow in your legs and widening of the blood vessels which have implications for cardiovascular risk. So even standing up is helpful.
Slide 15 Over the next two slides we'll explain a little bit more on the mechanisms of injury. Okay. Importantly the new research is showing us it's not how much we sit for but how long we sit for one time without having a break is particularly important. This figure in the coloured line shows a simple depiction of a person's activity during the day. The sitting is in the red, standing in the yellow and stepping is in the green. You can see that like a lot of people they have two longer periods of actually – of not getting up through the day – in the morning and in the afternoon. Research shows that sitting for these long periods without getting up are particularly detrimental because they're linked to higher waist circumference and higher levels of blood fats and blood sugars.
Slide 16 To understand why this happens we'll move onto the next slide. So this picture shows us of an EMG. It's an electromyograph and where they put electrodes on the body to measure the amount of activity and they would be doing this on the thigh muscle. So you can see from the sitting position there's very little movement. It's pretty much flatline. Standing there's some movement with extra colour and extra movement and taking of the steps is more as well.
In standing the muscle is working two and a half times harder than when you're sitting. What happens with these muscle contractions they assist the body to take up the glucose and use it for energy. So the more contractions the more effective your body is. Our body's metabolism was made for this.
Mark Hamilton within the last 10 years has come up with [00:20:40] studies with rats and what they did, they found out the link between muscle activity and cardiovascular disease. Without the movement it suppresses an enzyme. It's called lipoprotein lipase. This enzyme is important in the breakdown of fats and sugars in your blood. So that means without that breakdown more fats and sugars remain in your blood and that leads to cardiovascular disease. So with this study that even standing up and moving gets you moving from your breakdown of the blood fats.
Slide 17 So that's just an overview about what happens to your body when we don't – when we sit for too long and back to Bell to explain a bit more about our activity levels.
Bell Leahy: Thanks Donna. Well isn't that great news for fidgeters that if we are moving more we're looking after our health. An important distinction to make is really understand the difference between physical activity, so your exercise and sedentary behaviour. So traditionally as Donna said, research has focused on wide-ranging benefits with physical activity which stems back to the original UK bus driver study. So we know that there are many, many, many health benefits of exercise and I am the first person to admit I am extremely biased even though I am an Exercise Physiologist. So some of these benefits include improved mental health particularly relating to depression and anxiety and also a range of benefits reducing your cardio metabolic diseases.
So sedentary research has only really come to the forefront in the past 10 years or so but the health benefits of exercise and looking after sedentary health risks are distinctly different. Let's have a look at the guidelines.
Slide 18 So as I mentioned it's only a relevant recent phenomenon. So previously the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines were literally just relating to exercise alone. However last year in 2014 for the very first time we see an inclusion of guidelines relating to sedentary behaviour. So as Donna said we really want to minimise the amount of time we spend in prolonged sitting and also making sure that we're breaking up this sitting down. So we really want to sit less throughout the day and stand up at least every 30 minutes. Now is a good time to get on your feet if you haven't done so already. But it's important to remember that we do not want to throw away our chair either and Donna will go into that in a little more detail in a moment.
So as I can see just from the guidelines as well – I may as well go through them while they're on the slide there – so the Physical Activity Guidelines – interesting to note that the moderate activity we are aiming for is around 2.5 to five hours each week. So traditionally it might have been the 'find your 30' but really what we're looking for now is find up to an hour of moderate exercise each day. I will just sort of mention that these are a summarised version. There are more guidelines as well which you can find and will be emailed as part of the end of the webinar today.
Slide 19
So it's time for another polling question to make sure that everyone is still awake. So what I would like to understand – does your workplace currently have any strategies or policies in place to address the sedentary health risks? So we're just looking for a simple "yes" or "no" answer. So I'll just give you a couple or seconds now to tell me "yes" or "no".
So you've got another five seconds to submit your answer there. We always find it really interesting to understand whether workplaces do have anything in place and really the creativity that comes out from different workplaces putting things in place to look after their workers and really reduce their sedentary health risk.
So we're just waiting for our beloved technology to compile the results here. Fabulous. So they've just popped up for me now.
So we can see that around 42% of the listening audience have some sort of strategies or policies in place to help reduce the sedentary health risk. Wow. That is fantastic that so many of you are so proactive or your workplaces are so proactive at reducing this risk. But we can see that there's still a whopping 57% that aren't doing anything.
Slide 20 So let's understand the best ways of putting stuff together to help reduce the sedentary health risk. But before we do so it's also I guess important to think about the workplace context. Donna explained in depth around the physiology of why we really promote standing more and sitting less however if we look at the whole workplace there are many, many benefits to reduce this health risk. So we can see that there's reduced absenteeism or time away from work, improved productivity, reduced presenteeism. So presenteeism essentially when you're turning up to work and you're not firing on all cylinders. Think of the common cold or managing a long-term chronic health condition. Reduced injury, musculoskeletal injuries of course there and another benefit of course is attracting talent, okay, and maintaining that sort of employer of choice particularly if you can make your sedentary health program as part of a broader workplace health and wellbeing program.
So if we just sort of flesh out just one of those benefits a little bit further, if we look at reduced absenteeism one particular study was conducted recently and what that found was that workers with a chronic health condition who experience injury or illness are more likely to be absent from work with up to nine times the annual sickness absence of healthy individuals. But even if you could just make a few more people within your workplace that much healthier there's going to be benefits to your business's bottom line.
Slide 21 So now we want to understand I guess the most effective ways to reduce those sedentary health risks within your workplace. So it may come as no surprise but the best evidence out there suggests a multicomponent approach. So multicomponent basically means you're targeting the organisational factors, you're targeting the physical environment factors and you're targeting individual factors. For the safety buffs amongst you if you are thinking about the hierarchy of controls here obviously organisational change and physical environment are really the higher order strategies, the more effective design controls here whereas the individual strategies I guess are a little bit more of your softer strategies. So in other words if you're just relying on individual strategies alone they aren't as effective without incorporating design controls as well. So we need to make sure the individual is supported though. The organisations must have supporting infrastructure and the right culture to have the best outcomes.
I know that Donna and myself when planning this webinar we actually went for a quick short walk around the block as a little bit of a brainstorm before we thought how we can wow you, the audience.
Slide 22 So comparing these different approaches can be a useful thing as well. So recently in 2014 there was a study which looked at comparing these different approaches. So basically what they did, they had around 60 people at the one workplace and they split them into three different groups. So the first group was only given height adjustable workstations. So basically that was the only thing that they had in place. The second group, this is the group that had that multicomponent approach. So in terms of things that they tackled within the organisation, they really looked at sort of changing the culture. So they had consultation with the management, staff information sessions, fortnightly emails from managers to really encourage employees to make sure that they're standing more and being more active throughout the day. In terms of the physical environment they also had height adjustable workstations. In the individual strategies they had face-to-face coaching from an allied health professional to help get the right setup for them. They had follow-up telephone calls to support them and also were given sort of individual feedback. So you might not be able to tell from that picture but basically this is what an individual would receive. So you can see again the red is the sitting, the yellow is light activity, the green is where you're stepping. So an individual was – sorry, everyone involved in the study was wearing an Active Pal. So what an Active Pal is it helps objectively monitor someone's sitting time. So it's not just relying on our old grey matter to remember how much we might be sitting across the day.
So low and behold you might pick it, but the multicomponent group had the most reduction – the biggest reduction in daily workplace sitting time. So the reduction was actually 89 minutes. So that was almost three times greater compared to the height adjustable workstations alone. I will just put a caveat that that's not 89 minutes of not doing work. That's still 89 minutes of productivity but they're just not sitting whilst doing it. So you can see that that is a huge improvement. Rather than just lumping the height adjustable workstations in a workplace they really looked at supporting the workplace – sorry, really looked at supporting the employees to make that effective change.
Slide 23 So what are some great ideas? If we're looking at organisational strategies it comes as no surprise if you want any change to be effective regardless of what it is your management must be committed. They must lead by example. I know myself my manager will often stand up during our team meetings which is really great to see. Having some staff information sessions, making this is in work time, make sure you're distributing some information around it. There's been plenty of articles in the newspaper over the last few years around – you might recognise the sort of tagline "sitting is the new smoking". Having champions for change – so these are the people that are really driving the program, really making sure that everyone is sort of encouraging each other to look after their health.
You might have some standing time on meeting agendas and making sure that this is consistent. This is the new normal. So don't give Bob or Mary a funny look if they stand up at your next team meeting. Making sure that it's a real sort of team-led approach if you like. So of course like any change, any cultural change within a workplace it needs to be done consistently to see that change. So you can see this little picture here. You know, you might have a prestart meeting or a debrief meeting at the start of the day. You'll see that this is a quick standing meeting as well and just on that note if you're someone that might sort of be – have your day followed by meetings, research has been shown to find that if you actually have a standing meeting it goes shorter. Hot tip for you all.
So that's the organisational strategies covered.
Slide 24 If we then look into physical environment sort of changes you can make of course sit to stand workstations is a very popular one that has popped up and of course this is only sort of relating to office workers. Unfortunately you know, for your people that might be working operating plant we don't sort of have that luxury of having plant which is able to be operated whilst standing. You know, just going back to the office workers, making sure that you've got a centrally-located printer and bin so you know, not everything is literally within arm's reach at your desk. Maybe headsets to allow you to be able to stand when talking on the phone. So you can see that some of these options don't have to cost the earth and they are relatively easy to implement.
Slide 25 Now we're going to look at some individual strategies. As you can see Obama, if he can find time to stand through his workload I'm pretty sure that we all can. In fact I just saw recently there was an article on Malcolm Turnbull and saying that he has changed his PM's office to also include a sit to stand desk which is great to hear. So we're looking at these individual strategies, as I mentioned standing during phone calls or perhaps when you're speaking to a colleague. Maybe you can walk to a colleague's desk instead of just always emailing. Activity monitors – there are plenty of prompts that you can do. There's a myriad of apps you can download from your phone to just give you that regular prompt, making sure that you're standing up. Supporting each other – I know that every time I see my colleagues stand up it's just a little prompt for me to think "When's the last time I stood up?" Making sure, you know, that you're having a little bit of a buddy system if you like.
Slide 26 So now I'm going to pass it back to Donna and she's going to talk about some strategies which we've done recently to help workplaces build their capacity to reduce their sedentary health risk.
Donna Lee: Thank you very much Bell for that.  So considering all that's been said what can work health and safety do to assist workplaces? We want to be able to reduce the risk at the shop floor for workplaces. This example of some current projects that we've been involved in that you may be interested in is firstly the Sit less, move more – Train the champion resource kit. We're working with the University of Queensland to produce a toolkit for workplaces to put in place a program to reduce prolonged sitting and it covers off on those three levels that Bell was talking about as well – organisational, the physical environment and in individual. Currently the toolkits are being finalised and mid-way through the pilot stage. We're hoping to make it available through our website at a later stage when it's finalised. So please watch this space.
We've written the Ergonomics guidelines for sit to stand computer workstations which we'll talk about in a bit more detail after this slide. We also have another project working with the University of Queensland which looked at the physical activity and nutrition with a focus on the sedentary nature of work for both short and long-haul truck drivers. There's some video case studies available on our website as well through Shifting Gears.
This is an emerging area so I would strongly suggest that you can keep an eye out for new material that comes on our website and the resources that we have put through on the last – the end of this presentation.
Slide 27 A bit more about ergonomic guidelines for the sit to stand workstations. Before I go onto the detail for that as Bell mentioned don't throw away your chair. We know that our body was made to move. It wasn't made to sit all day, it wasn't made to stand all day and it wasn't made to move all day. So getting that right balance and getting our work done is the challenge.
What happened is that it's becoming clearer that the use of sit to stand workstations does reduce sitting time. We've had a lot of people in industry that have said to us "Help us. Which one do we choose and how do we use it?" So we wrote this guide and with the intent to help people select a workstation that's quick to use, easy to change between sitting and standing because when it's easy to use it will be used. It's suitable for the worker and their task and how it does fit with the existing office layout and future plans for the office area.
We did this in consultation with industry and the University of Queensland and it's based on the experience that we have in actually using sit to stand workstations. So instead of just Googling 'sit to stand workstations' and going for the first one that pops up we've outlined a number of features about the different types of sit to stand workstations. The first one on your left is a full desk and the whole workstation can be lowered and raised. Basically the setup's very similar to what you have in your normal desk.
Firstly I'd like to also point out that the setup of the workstation is very important as well. We've got more detail with the Ergonomics Guide to Computer-based Work and that outlines more detail about monitor position, keyboard position, height and the way you set up the rest of your work area and the height of tables etc.
Sorry before we go on, just back sorry, back to the previous slide. We also have a table-top style which is a separate unit positioned on a non-adjustable table top. So basically your standard desk and putting a unit on top. It can be like the model in the middle where it's a full base model or else it can be a smaller one that's actually mounted on through the back or the front through the mounting device. So you'll see a few of these on the market
Slide 28
Then to go through the features of the different types, they're outlined in more detail in the link that we'll provide for you on selection of ergonomic sit to stand workstations. But essentially what we'd like to do is just make sure you check the heights of all the desks that it suits workers, particularly taller workers. For full desks the majority of the workers can have a desk that can be raised up to 1200mm but if you have very tall workers you need to account for a little bit more.
For the other table top ones they tend – if you have a very tall worker you may need to jack up your desk a little bit more to be suitable for them. There's obvious advantages from both different types of desk. Just be wary that there are different mechanisms and those that might experience back pain. So if you work in rehab and have clients that do require one particularly with the generation of monitors, not the current one but the previous ones, some of those units can be very heavy and be difficult to raise.
Just check out what the sitting and standing positions are like. We found some of the models had a very different height from where the keyboard is in the different sit to stand positions. With that one important part that has come from recent research with computer based work is having forearm support and it's set in the ergonomics guide to computer based work but with that having about 10-15 centimetres away from the – the keyboard to be 10-15 centimetres away from the edge of the desk is important. Then you can actually rest your forearm on it while you're keying or using the mouse. This will take the load off your shoulders and your neck.
Check that there's enough forearm support in the unit that you have. I'm quite a leaner so it gives it a good test. Also check the monitor depth. Because of the physical limitations for it make sure that the monitor stays at least an arm's length away from you. Taller workers will obviously need a greater distance and it's something that if you can just say measure the arm length for your taller worker that might help when you're looking at the different monitor heights particularly if you have to buy for a number of them.
There is a price difference between the units but please do speak to suppliers particularly when buying in bulk because you might be surprised about what you can get for it.
Slide 29 So once you've selected the right one for you and also the task as well, using the sit to stand desk is just as important as well and as we said before, check out the ergonomics guide for computer based work. One factor that people do find surprising is the privacy between workers. I remember usually what happens is when one worker sits your colleague might be standing. So looking at each other's work etc it is an issue. Look at your screens and strategically place pot plants etc. They may help with your privacy.
Gradually build up the time you are standing and listen to your body. You may start with short periods even working up to 30 minutes at a time. That's great. Current research is recommending if you do office-based work for example an eight hour day ultimately aim for four hours of the day to be standing or moving. Then that will change according to your work schedule. But importantly alternate between standing, sitting and moving.
As mentioned by Bell and it's very important is a multi-level approach. So not just a standing desk but everything else associated with it. Some people find that their legs get a bit tired from standing and they would wish to use anti-fatigue mats. Yes that can help. Just check out if you have carpet and underlay and a very cushy anti-fatigue mat it may make it too cushy and people do find muscle fatigue with that.
If you do have one I would suggest you have a lightweight one because we've found that people who move it to put their chair in so they can actually sit have a risk of injury and we don't need a new injury on top of that. A suggestion is have some comfy footwear that you might keep at work to enjoy the standing and very importantly is the training and information for users. We find the actual use of it's improved once people understand why they're using it and how to use it. We've found that people even with a sit to stand desk not using it because they don't understand why it's important for them.
Another part is that we've found that people with the sit to stand desk, for example some of the table top models, they were putting their keyboard on the top and then they were actually typing with their hands at shoulder height and they didn't realise that it was a problem. That may seem silly about it but you just have to walk around an office and have a look about how it works.
Slide 30 So hopefully those hints will put you in good stead for it and we'd like to wrap up the session with a few key messages. Importantly sit less and move more through the day. Even just standing up every now and again will help. Aim to reduce your overall sitting time and this is not just at home but at work as well. Aim to sit less than 30 minutes at a time. That looks like the recommendation at the moment from current research. As Bell said there's many business benefits to reducing sedentary behaviour and very importantly as with all workplace health and safety programs use a multicomponent program for the best results. Please watch this space for more information on this topic.
Bell Leahy:
Thank you very much.
Slide 31
Thank you so much Bell and Donna for that and I think it's really good that you've provided a lot of actual practical strategies which is what everyone's asking for. So appreciate your advice and your knowledge on this particular topic.
We have got a couple of questions that I'd like to throw out to you. So just jump in with the answers if that's okay just as we wrap up. So first of all we've got a question just if you're able to share any sample policies on these type of issues if you actually have one.
Bell Leahy: Sure. Thanks Allicia and it's great to see some questions coming in showing the interest in the topic matter. So yes we do have some sample policies however these are more on health and wellbeing policies. But you can make sedentary health a standalone or really make it part of your policy, your health and wellbeing policy. We'd be happy to email these as well as the other resources which will be emailed at the end of the session.
Beautiful. Thank you. We've got another comment that standing workstations in the office are currently being under-utilised and the feedback received is that staff find that it's a little bit too inconvenient and it's quite disruptive when actually switching to and from sitting and standing sort of workstations and switching from monitors to laptops. Do you guys have any tips or strategies for how to sort of overcome this level of disruption? Is it a matter of education or is it a matter of just staff buy-in? Do you have any comment?
Donna Lee:
There's probably a couple of things to say about that. As we said you know, we've seen in workplaces where it has been introduced and people don't really appreciate why it's being used to do it, why they need to use it. But importantly it's part of a cultural thing about the acceptance of standing because we find that people feel awkward when they're doing it because no one else is doing it in the area and that's why coming down from one management commitment support leading the way with the demonstration that they do it and with their managers and support with the team. That helps as well.
I'm not quite sure about the equipment that you've used as well. So if there's some usability issues for that, that might be looked into as well because the aim is to have equipment that's easy to use and that suits the worker and the work task. So I have come across where the setup doesn't suit that worker and you know, standing workstations is a great thing but it's not the be all and end all for everyone for it. So that's why you need to look at what the work task is for. So I hope that answers some of the questions for that part.
Bell Leahy
Just to add to that I guess ultimately you need to make sure that you're making it easy as possible for the workers. So I mean we've seen in a number of workplaces like a hot‑desking style arrangement and of course it's not really as practical or as feasible for most people to be able to do that throughout their day to utilise the sit to stand desk. So always just making sure that people know why they're doing it, making it as easy as possible and as socially acceptable as possible.
Facilitator: Thank you for that guys. Do you have any tips, so I guess strategies in terms of pitching this to management if you have a cohort of employees who are really engaged, really passionate, want to see this actually happening but management is kind of the issue? Do you have any strategies for how other people can sort of overcome and get them on board?
Bell Leahy: Well Allicia that is a perfect segue for us to talk further around our UQ sit to stand study. So currently we've put together a Train the Champion Toolkit and what this includes is actually a business case study. So we've done all the legwork for you to help get your management on board. We've already included the productivity benefits, how it's easy to roll out for their workplace and basically to make it as receptive to them as possible what's the value in them doing so.
I do actually have to say that because we're piloting it, it's not actually available for wide use yet but watch this space. We will be releasing it as soon as possible and there are a variety of resources which do show the productivity improvements. Again some of these will be emailed at the end of this session today.
Facilitator: Thank you. I think another person has also sort of enquired if there's any resources that could help sort of with a pack or sort of putting these resources together. So I think that would be a perfect resource for that.
Bell Leahy: Again watch this space and get excited.
Facilitator: Okey-doke. Just going to pick out another one. We've just got another minute or so that we can. Do you have any comments regarding some government departments requiring med certs before the purchase of sit to stand desks or is your sort of strategy a bit more holistic in that you want to sort of get everyone on board?
Bell Leahy: You need to make sure that it's suitable for the worker. So not all workers will – it will be the best fit for them. So of course if they've got any underlying medical conditions which may not be appropriate for them to be standing at any length of time but really I guess rather than sort of overcomplicate the issue essentially it's moving more. As Donna said it's not about throwing your chair, it's not about sitting all day and we all do benefit from moving somewhat more. Of course you know, as Donna said again if you're looking at that musculoskeletal injury perspective, absolutely make sure that someone has the right setup for their desk to minimise their risk of musculoskeletal injury. I might just hand it over to Donna to see if she wants to add anything further.
Donna Lee: Yes. Thanks for that Bell. Going on from whether it's – we do do it from a holistic point of view from our provision of advice for it rather than individual worker. The decision to make it based on a medical certificate is probably a workplace specific decision for it. They may look at the costs etc for that part but I guess the purpose of this session today was going on you know, the overall benefits for reducing our sitting time. So Bell?
Bell Leahy: Yeah. Interestingly enough we have actually seen a number of people also incorporate a sit to stand desk as part of their return to work program. So I'm sure you would have seen a lot of it in the press recently around the benefits of workers getting back to work earlier and this is one of the ways that you could do so. If you've got a worker that may have had a lower back injury which is very uncomfortable for them to be sitting down and sitting down for long periods, this could be part of their staged return to work process to incorporate that sit to stand desk to really get the best outcome for the worker and the best outcome for the workplace.
Facilitator: So I know our sort of mandate within the Office of Industrial Relations is specifically focused on workplaces, employees and workers but just on a whim do you guys know if there's any sort of initiatives for sit to stand to be implemented in school environments? Or do you know if there's been research or if there's been any initiatives to get this rolling?
Bell Leahy: Well in terms of I guess the sort of whole of government approach for schools I can't actually answer one way or another. But there's so much interesting literature out there to talk about the role of moving more and the academic benefits of that. I know just recently I read a study, an American study that introduced the concept of basically cycling while reading. A lot of students who previously might not have shown much interest in reading or may be a little bit I guess, behind their class in terms of their development with reading, as soon as they were actually using this cycle as well as reading their I guess sort of interest in reading and also their own sort of skill level greatly increased. So you know, whilst that is a strategy they're using in one school it's not necessarily something that we'd suddenly encourage, you know, all workplaces to go and get treadmills or sort of cycling desks or anything because ultimately it's not the message that we sort of want to showcase. But I know that some schools have introduced sit to stand desks.
Facilitator: Very good. In terms of using these I know it sort of sounds a bit simple, like sit or stand when you're doing your work. In terms of standing correctly are there any particular guidelines that people need to be aware of so that they are doing it in the most effective way?
Donna Lee: Yes. That's a good question. Please look at the Ergonomics Guide to Computer based work. It gives you the setup for setting up your computer based work in sitting but you translate that straight into a standing posture as well. So in the recommendations where you have your desk and for the majority of the people it's just under – if it's standing up – just under elbow height where they position their keyboard. As we talked about forearm support and monitor position is important as well. So if you've followed those good principles it could be said whether you're sitting or standing as well.
Facilitator: Okay. I think that's probably all the time we have for questions if that's okay and thank you to everyone who actually submitted and participated. It's good to sort of have that live conversation with access to these particular experts.
Slide 32
So if your question wasn't answered and you absolutely have a dire need to ask something please email us at and we'll work with Bell and Donna and try and get a response out to you.
Again I'd like to thank you both for coming and thank you for offering such an interactive and engaging webinar.
Slide 33
As you may know and as we say every time we are really, really committed to supporting Rehab and Return to Work Coordinators and we've established a community on Facebook. So make sure you join that and to make sure that you register for e-bulletins and any of our resources so that you get all of our regular comms and you don't miss out on any particular sessions that we are offering.
Slide 34
There are more upcoming webinars for the year which you can now see on the screen and registration for these are open. So get in early because we do have limited spots. I'd like to thank you guys so much for participating in today's webinar. Your feedback is always valuable so please take 30 seconds to complete the survey that we'll shoot you through to and we'll talk to you soon.
Thank you.

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