Sit-stand working – will it work for you?

August 23, 2016    Andrew Peers     , ,

Sit-stand working has been the mainstay of many of our European neighbours for more than 20 years, but it’s only just started to catch the UK’s attention now.

Sit-stand working is the idea that we should change our position, between sitting and standing, every twenty to thirty minutes to promote better health and wellbeing.

Although new to the UK it builds on the idea that we have more mental and physical wellbeing when movement is a regular part of our lives and it seems there’s plenty of data to back that up.

Research tells us that our sedentary lifestyles are killing us. Too much sitting is proven to increase our risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, make our waist size larger, affect our mental health and decrease concentration. All of this costs business too – increasing sick days, reducing productivity and motivation and ultimately putting one of your greatest assets (your people) at risk.

We sit in cars, at our desks and on the sofa every day and the workplace is by far the biggest contributor to our bad habits. For businesses looking to improve their workplace environments to increase engagement and productivity, this is not good news and a problem that cannot be ignored.

Sit-stand desking is one of the furniture industry’s responses to this issue. These desks enable the user to change the height setting as they see fit throughout the day. Many desks even include technology to remind users when to move, to show how many calories have been expended by standing versus sitting and can remember a user’s individual height setting preferences too.

Costing close to £1000 per desk it’s easy to see why adoption across the UK is proving gradual. Businesses are looking at sit stand pilots to gain first hand experience of the product and the behaviour changes this requires before making the investment. This staggered approach certainly helps to calm the nerves of those holding the pursue strings, but it’s real value is in fostering new behaviours. A staggered approach helps cultural and behavioural adoption.

A handful of sit-stand desks, whether introduced openly as a trial or put specifically in one area or department, provide a talking point. Employees want to try them out. Eventually they become ambassadors and spread the word. It quickly turns into an appetite and business case for more and before you know it employees feel they’ve discovered the power of sit stand for themselves.

Here’s some tips, courtesy of our friends at sit stand desking manufacturer Staverton, on how to get your people sitting less and standing more:

  • Introduce standing meetings. You’ll find that people make their points quicker, the meeting is more efficient and everyone stays focused. You might need to clear a meeting room to make this work, or could invest in higher meeting tables to make standing mandatory.
  • Put an internal comms programme in place to explain the health risks. If you make employees aware that sitting contributes to a wide range of health problems you’ll be surprised at the response you get. You may want to support this with the introduction of other health incentives and education.
  • Educate employees about how standing can be incorporated into the working day. Writing a board report might be better sat down, but powering through a list of phone calls might be better suited to standing. Where possible encourage people to incorporate different positions into their day-to-day tasks.
  • Give your employees timers so they can take responsibility for their movements. Even if you haven’t got sit stand desks at this stage, a timer will encourage your employees to move more at set intervals – perhaps take a quick walk round the office or make a visit to another department instead of sending an email.
  • Put in a pilot. If you can, invest in a bank of sit stand desks and invite different departments to use them for a set time period. Ask the team to report back about their experiences and monitor their behaviours. This will help identify what help is needed to ensure effective behavioural change and can give you confidence ahead of any roll-out investment.

There is real value in happier, healthier workplaces. Healthier employees are more efficient, engaged and productive. Healthier workplaces have lower staff attrition, lower sick days and better bottom lines. It’s too soon to say if the UK will become sit stand champions like Denmark, Sweden and other parts of Europe, but it is clear that doing nothing is just not an option.

To find out more about workplace wellbeing and how to write a wellbeing agenda, download our Workplace Wellbeing whitepaper, which is full of guidance and advice:

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