An active approach to work

‘Active working’ has become a hot topic in recent years – so much so that a campaign exists to promote the concept of incorporating healthy movement into the working day. The Active Working campaign (activeworking.com) seeks to educate on the perils of sitting at a desk for long stretches of time – we’ve all seen sensationalised headlines about how sitting down is the new cancer; it sounds ridiculous, but research shows that it’s not as far from the truth as one might think.

Research-based evidence, gathered internationally, has shown that prolonged sitting – regardless of a person’s usual level of physical activity – can lead to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, muscle degeneration, backache, thrombosis and obesity. It can also have a deeply detrimental impact on mental health. According to GetBritainStanding.org, ‘A variety of studies warn that sedentary lifestyles are likely to be causing as many deaths as smoking.’

A 2017 survey by Active Working showed that 60% of office workers spend six or more hours sitting down during the average working day, while 90% spend at least five hours sitting. 78% of respondents added that they wanted encouragement and better education regarding the impact of sitting for long stretches, and about the benefits of alternative ways of working.

The main solution that Active Working highly recommends is the use of standing desks. Many office workers simply have to have a workstation to be based at and this is, most often, a desk. However, desks have evolved, and dealers will be aware by now that standing desks are increasing in popularity as workers are demanding better health benefits in the workplace. This is particularly true of younger generations entering work, who are likely to favour a business which offers this kind of equipment. Companies of all kinds within the business supplies industry are beginning to see real benefits of standing desks – both for themselves and as an attractive selling point for customers.

“On average, office workers spend 40 hours a week at work, with the majority of that time spent working at a desk,” says Simon Howorth, marketing and communications manager at Dams. “In fact, the average office worker spends over five-and-a-half hours every single day sitting down at work. It now costs the UK economy more than £1bn every year in sick days due to back, neck and muscle problems – and that figure is still rising. So, in order to be more proactive and productive at work, there are some simple steps that office workers and employers can follow to combat inactivity and achieve good health.”

Dams, as a leading furniture business in the industry, has been an especially vocal proponent of standing desks, and fully understands why and how they are needed and used.

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“When people need to sit down and work, it’s vital that employees have a chair that can easily adapt to suit their physical requirements,” Simon continues. “This will help people to be more comfortable when sitting at their desks so that they can focus more easily on their work, which is essential for creating a productive working environment. Employees who aren’t comfortable are more likely to move around a lot in their chair and attention will be focused on their discomfort, rather than on their work.

“Many employers are now providing workers with height-adjustable desks, allowing staff to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Having the option to stand, as well as sit, during the work day has been proven not only to benefit the health of the user but also of the business, dramatically improving the health, wellbeing and energy levels of employees. In addition to the numerous health benefits provided by periodic standing, studies show that height-adjustable desks promote creativity, team interaction, collaboration and the willingness to share ideas.”

VOW’s VOW To Guide, Four steps to making the most of a sit-stand desk, highlights what dealers and customers alike need to remember when acquiring and setting up a standing desk. Checking that the product in question meets the customer’s specific needs is vital – have you, the dealer, asked all the right questions to ensure this particular desk suits its purpose? The idea is to make the customer’s life easier, after all.

The guide also reminds dealers and users that anyone at a standing desk must ensure it’s at the right height, otherwise many of the health benefits will be lost; a dealer creating a service out of ensuring that desks are correctly adjusted to the specific user is more likely to gain return business and loyalty. Crucially, it’s important to remember that users don’t need to stand up all the time – easily adjustable standing desks should allow workers to switch between the two and promote movement throughout the day.

“Put simply, a healthier workforce is a happier, more motivated and more productive workforce,” Simon concludes. “Many people would like to make their health a priority and businesses can help take care of that goal for them by adopting the principles of active, smart office design. With a few changes to the office setup, employers will be introducing a general sense of wellbeing within the office environment as well as helping to boost employee productivity levels.”

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