We hear so many ‘buzz words and phrases’ within the business world, but how many of them are actually worth listening to?
One phrase which is currently on the lips of many managers is something called ‘active working’.
‘How is this possible’, we hear you ask!
Can you really be physically active and work at the same time? Yes, you really can, and there are some major benefits to actually trying it.
We are all very aware that a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy, both in your regular life and at work. Think about it logically, when you’re working in an office, you’re sat down at a desk for around 7 to 8 hours per day. You will have a break time, but how many of you actually get up and go somewhere during that time? Or, do you simply move to another room and sit there?
This is still being sedentary, and it can damage your physical and mental health quite drastically over time.
What active working encourages is moving around, sitting, standing, and actually giving your body a workout of sorts, whilst doing your job. This boosts concentration, gets the blood flowing, helps time pass faster, and all of this is super-positive for both the employee and employer.
This guide is going to give you the low-down on everything active work-related, and we’re also going to show you how you can start to incorporate it into your organisation. It’s far simpler than you might think.
First things first, let’s break it down.
What is Active Working?
We’re covered a little of what active working is, but understanding what it looks like can be difficult if you’ve never seen it in action. Active working isn’t about running marathons in your break time and it’s not about jogging or rollerblading around the office, it is about utilising clever ways to move your body whilst working.
For instance, making use of new innovations, like treadmill desks. These allow you to have a little gentle exercise whilst doing your job.
If you don’t want to be quite that active, simply standing can be enough. A sit down and stand up routine helps to boost blood flow to the brain, as well as giving the body a gentle workout too.
Think about when you’ve been out for a walk at break time in the past. When you returned to work, did you feel more energised and focused? Very likely so. Did you feel absolutely shattered and ready to lay down? Unless you were sprinting laps, it’s unlikely.
The subtle boost to your concentration is actually far bigger than you might think.
So, active working isn’t about donning your gym clothes and sweating, it’s about subtle movements which break up the day and give you not only more productivity, but better health too.
A recent initiative called ‘Get Britain Standing’ really highlights the problem of sedative lifestyles, and how many employees actually want to be more active during their working day, and even enjoy it!
For instance, according to Get Britain Standing, 90% of employees surveyed believe that they should be able to be more active in the workplace, and that 32% of surveyed managers are very aware of the potential health risks to workers who have a sedentary-style job.
The problem is, awareness isn’t enough, because there isn’t a lot being done about it! Only 2% of surveyed employees have the tools for an active working lifestyle, e.g. a sit and stand desk. We’ll talk about these in a bit more detail later on, but they’re one of the best ways to be able to concentrate on your job, but still get a boost of activeness into your day. Out of those surveyed who have tried sit and stand methods in the past, a huge 80% actually want to continue using it.
That really says a lot about how useful active working can be for the employee, but for the employer, productivity is the main gain.
Is it Really Dangerous to Sit For Long Periods of Time?
In a word, yes!
You might think that sitting down is good for you, because you’re resting and not exerting yourself too much. In some ways, that is correct but when you think about it more deeply, sitting for a long time, usually hours in one go, is robbing your body of nutrients, oxygen, and the general ability to stretch. Even if you exercise after work, e.g. you hit the gym for an hour, you’re not reversing the effects of the sedentary work you’ve done all day long.
This study in 2015 by the Annals of Internal Medicine in the USA showed that an active lifestyle outside of work doesn’t counteract damage done by sitting still for six or more hours every working day.
Your cells aren’t able to regenerate as effectively, your muscles are lacking nutrients, your brain becomes foggy, and overall you feel sluggish. This is vicious cycle, because by feeling sluggish, you don’t want to stand up even more! Breaking the cycle is therefore vital.
What Are The Health Benefits of Active Working?
The health benefits of adopting an active working mindset are exactly the same as the benefits which come your way when you adopt a generally more active lifestyle. Any type of movement is better than no movement, it’s really that simple. Small changes can sometimes build up to large accumulations, e.g. taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, walking to work a couple of times per week instead of driving or taking public transport. These methods don’t cause a huge shift in your lifestyle, but they do a lot for your health.
Let’s list the benefits and then talk about them in a little more detail, to show you how this helps in the workplace too.
- A lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Lower chance of obesity and being overweight – this in itself has risks
- Lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol
- Helps to lower the risk of developing type II diabetes
- Strengthens the musculoskeletal system, e.g. joints, bones, and muscles
- Helps you to recover faster from illness, injury, or after surgery
- The ability to sleep better, which has a million other benefits attached to it!
- Increased mood, less chance of anxiety and depression
- Helps to manage stress levels
- Gives a feel good vibe, as the body releases feel good hormones during and after exercise. These are also ideal for managing stress too!
- Better focus and concentration, due to increased blood flow to the brain
- Increased productivity, and higher concentration also means less chance of mistakes
Of course, what we shouldn’t fail to mention is that a healthier employee, due to getting more exercise, is far less likely to take a sick day. Sick days cost businesses a huge amount in lost revenue and lost time every single year. By raising awareness of general health and wellbeing, and doing everything you can to encourage employees to take you up on methods, such as healthier eating routines, exercise, stopping smoking cessation programmes, counselling and ‘let’s talk’ sessions, you’re actually preventing these sick days from happening, or at least happening quite so often. Nobody is never sick, we should raise that point, but by being stronger in your body and mind, sickness is less likely quite so often.
Another reason? It’s quite fun! It’s boring to work in the same way every single day, especially over a long period of time. Nobody loves their job to the point where they’re singing and whistling with joy for the entire time they’re in the office, let’s be honest!
By mixing things up and going opportunities for change, you’re helping to relieve possible monotony.
When you use this in conjunction with other morale-boosting methods, you have a happy and healthy workforce.
How Does All of This Help a Business And It’s Productivity Levels?
We’ve touched on a few ways already. Firstly, sick days. Let’s break the down into figures, so you can really understand the impact of sick days on a business.
According to the 2017 Britains’ Healthiest Workplace Survey, an average of 30.4 working days are lost every year due to employee sickness, for every employer. This also encompasses employees who are working at a substandard level, due to chronic illness.
This survey took in around 32,000 UK workers, and spanned over several sectors.
That’s the equivalent of closing shop for a month, and losing that entire month’s profits.
Now can you see how much money sickness can cost a business, and whilst sickness can’t be eradicated completely, it can be reduced by encouraging staff to be more health aware, and getting them more active throughout the day. Of course, encouraging healthy eating is also something you can think about, perhaps with a water fountain in the office, offering healthy snacks, such as fruit, and also ensuring the workplace canteen has healthy menus in place. All of this, when used in conjunction with regular exercise, can help to maintain and even lose weight, and bring all of the above benefits we talked about in our last section.
Productivity is also the big winner for a business. When an employee feels more upbeat and healthy, they will work harder for you.
It’s really that simple. It’s the same deal as morale. By putting into place these methods to help staff become more active, you’re showing them very clearly that you care about them and their welfare. We want to do more for the people who care about us, it’s basic human nature.
On another productivity note, active working allows an increased in focus and concentration. This means less mistakes, more work done in the same amount of time and bingo! Greater profits at the end of the month!
The benefits to a business really are far greater than you might think at first, and whilst you will need to invest a small amount of cash in the equipment needed, it is an investment that is more than worth the rewards that will come your way as a result.
Where to Begin – How to be More Active in The Office
We’ve talked about how and why, so now let’s get practical! If you want to grab the productivity and overall health benefits of active working, you need to know how to start incorporating it into your office space.
First things first, before you make any drastic changes to the working conditions of any of your employees, consult with them.
This is basic courtesy, but it’s also another way to ensure that morale stays high. Nobody likes big changes being made without being told about them, and for members of staff who have been in your organisation for a long time, this could easily equate to a worry that things are changing too fast. Nobody likes change, but people embrace it when they understand why it’s happening.
Have an information session and explain to your employees what you’re thinking of doing. Ask for opinions, see what they think, and take every suggestion seriously. You could even set up a focus group to bring more suggestions forward. More heads are better than just one!
Raising awareness of general health and wellbeing is easy, and can be done via information sessions. Installing new equipment and accessories however may take a little more time.
The sitting and standing idea is one of the most common methods you’ll hear about these days, and that is for a very good reason. Sitting and standing office solutions are a real office trend for 2019, and they are surprisingly easy to work with.
Here are a few methods you can think about incorporating into your existing office space.
1. Sit And Stand Desks
There are many benefits to standing for periods of time when you’ve been sitting for most of the day. Sitting for a long period of time can put pressure on the lower back, increase the chances of repetitive strain injury, and let’s face it, the day doesn’t go too fast!
By alternating between sitting and standing, you’re stretching out your body, and helping to deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to the body and brain. This increases focus and concentration and it also gives your employee the choice of when to sit and stand, versus how they feel.
For instance, you might have a member of staff who likes to stand up for long periods of time, but you might also have a member of staff who just likes a quick stretch and then they’re good to go. A sit and stand desk therefore gives each member of staff the choice of whether they want to sit or stand and when they want to do it. These height adjustable desks can be lowered or raised according to specific needs, and are ideal for fitting the personal requirements for your employees, because not everyone is the same height!
2. Stand Height Tables
You could also utilise stand height tables, which are usually fixed height tables, a little like a bar table. These often come with stools and sometimes with screens. These are great for meetings, training sessions and brainstorming, because the extra focus will bring creative new ideas literally to the table! These are for standing (or short-term sitting) only, and in this case staff who want to spend time standing and doing their work can do so.
A study in January 2018 conducted by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed that periods of standing versus periods of sitting can increase weight loss. For instance, by simply standing up for a period of time to work, a person will burn around 0.15 extra calories per minute. This equates to a good loss over time. Due to the activity of standing, a person is also much less likely to suffer from strokes or heart attacks.
A good idea is to have a selection of stand height tables in your office, and the staff who want to utilise them can do so, on a rotation basis.
3. Treadmill Desks
A great way to burn some calories and do some work! Treadmill desks are a relatively new innovation, and they’re certainly not for everyone, but they’re also a proven way to lose weight, boost concentration, and also boost mood. Before you panic about running and operating equipment, that’s not the case! A treadmill desk is set to a slow walking pace, and the person using it will stroll whilst working, with the desk adjusted to their specific height.
The downside of a treadmill desk is the size and cost. These are quite large, so it’s likely that you won’t be able to purchase one for every person. Perhaps one or two in an office is enough, and then these can be used on rotation.
4. Desk Risers
A desk riser is a great way for a business to utilise the benefits of standing desks, without having to spend quite so much cash.
A desk riser is a piece of raising equipment which sits on a desk and can then be used to lift up the desk surface, e.g. the computer keyboard and screen, to standing height. These then collapse back down to the regular sitting level. In many ways, these are a budget version of the sit and stand desk, and are an ideal option for smaller businesses.
5. Walking Meetings
Not a piece of equipment per se, but an actual innovative idea which could have fantastic benefits for your business!
We lose a lot of time in meetings which aren’t necessary, sitting around boardroom tables when we could be using our time more wisely. Think about it logically – how many meetings do you attend every year which you could have simply read the notes of and not bothered wasting two hours on? Firstly, only have meetings which are necessary and you’ll save time and boost productivity.
If you want to incorporate the health and wellbeing side of things, what about walking meetings?
These types of meetings are really only for small get-togethers, e.g. three or four people perhaps. You would then grab your notes and head outside for a wander whilst you discuss the issue at hand. Make use of voice recording equipment to note down what was said and decided, and then minutes can be typed up at a later date.
There are some great benefits in walking meetings, especially if you go outside. Not only do you get the active side of things, getting away from the regular conference chairs, but you’re boosting ideas and creativity by being in nature and being in the fresh air.
There is a reason why people go outside for five minutes of fresh air when they’re stressed or need to wake up quickly, and that’s because it focuses and sharpens the mind almost instantly. By having your meeting outdoors, you’re likely to waste less time because you’ll get straight to the point, but you will also benefit from fresh, creative ideas and problem solving too.
6. Walk to Work Groups
If you have several people who live relatively close by, around no more than one mile away, why not create walk to work groups?
Rather than taking a car or using public transport, encourage your staff to walk to work together, bagging the benefits of exercise, but also helping to form teams and bonds between colleagues.
You could even have a competition to see which group can walk fastest, and they win a price at the end of the week! Active working doesn’t always have to be about moving around whilst actually doing the work, it can be around moving around on the way to or from work, as well as during break times.
7. Out of Work Sports Teams
If we’re going to boost morale at the same time, why not think about forming sports teams which meet outside of working hours?
This is going to give your employees a real sense of being a team, and will also help them be healthier and more active overall.
There are sure to be other similar companies close by and you could create a league, competing against each other! This can be anything, from hockey to football, tennis to bowls!
Of course, you could also offer reduced gym membership to your employees, to help them use it either in their lunch hour or after work too.
Accessories to Help Create an Active Working Environment
Now we know about the sit and stand revolution and we’ve mentioned a few ways to incorporate a more active way of working and living into your office space, it’s time to think about investing some cash.
Some of the methods we talked about don’t involve changing anything about your working space, but some of the methods do.
These do come at a cost, but the investment of cash is worth it for the gains you will receive. There are also many innovative ways you can redesign your existing office space, perhaps to make room for the odd treadmill desk!
Bench desks are ideal for utilising desk risers, as well as the usual office desk choices you will find in every single workplace.
These are a lower cost way to use the sitting and standing method, and it could be that you can give every one of your staff one of these risers, to allow them to choose their sitting or standing position throughout the day.
A treadmill desk is probably going to be the biggest investment, and as we mentioned before, it’s likely that offices will opt to purchase just one, and see how things go. Not everyone will like to use this, but some may find it the ideal way to boost brain and body.
The best office furniture doesn’t always have to be standard, and if you find that your overall employee performance is boosted by such equipment, the investment is more than worth it. Of course, having quality sit and stand desks and tables also means that you need the same supportive chairs for the periods of time when your staff are sitting down. You will find many different ergonomic choices and operator chairs around, and it’s really a case of what fits in best with your office space and what your employees prefer the most.
We talked before about consulting with your staff before making changes to the way they might like to work, and perhaps a good idea is to have a taster session. Hire a sit and stand desk and let them try it out. Send a newsletter around and highlight the benefits, and show your employees what you’re trying to achieve. By doing this, you’ll boost that allimportant morale, and you’ll get their support for the changes you want to make.
As you can see, creating an active working environment doesn’t have to break the bank, and there are simple additions you can make to the furniture and boardroom tables you already have, which will make a huge difference. The biggest challenge is changing mindsets, especially if you have a workforce which are quite ‘stuck in their ways’. It’s possible! Not everyone likes change, but by going about it in the right way, you can change attitudes and encourage a more active lifestyle for your staff moving forwards. Ironically, by incorporating these new endeavours into your workspace, you’re also creating a more high-end office environment for your employees to enjoy!
Active Employees Create a More Productive Organisation, Which Equals Higher Profits
That statement is the basic truth of the matter. A business thrives because of its employees. Yes, you need a good product or service, and you need loyal customers and clients, and yes, you certainly need a fantastic market strategy, and to know how to use the Internet to its greatest potential, but none of that is worth a penny if you don’t have quality staff at the helm.
By looking after your staff, by placing them first and ensuring that their welfare is high up on the priority list, you’re not only protecting against those costly sick days, but you’re also doing something far more important – you’re showing them that you value them, you’re showing them that they’re important to you, and you’re showing them that you will do whatever you can to make their working environment safe, comfortable, and healthy. Never underestimate the power of morale. A low morale organisation is on the fast route towards failure, it’s really that simple. When employees don’t feel valued, they’re far more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and be off work with various sickness ailments. They’re also not going to be in the best frame of mind to work harder for you, and they won’t be in the mood to come up with creative answers to tough questions. New ideas aren’t forthcoming, and they simply go to work, do the basics of what they need to do, count the hours, and go home.
How is that an enjoyable experience?!
On the other side of the coin, employees who are high in morale will be the very reason why a business thrives and grows.
New ideas come, creative answers arrive, staff want to work together, they want to work harder, they push for promotions and strive for better things within the organisation. They work for you and not against you. Stress is low, anxiety and depression is reduced, sickness is minimal, and everyone is pulling in the same direction – for productivity and profits.
Making changes which are designed to look after your staff, but also to boost productivity in the end, is vital. You can do this by choosing the right furniture choices for their comfort and support, by encouraging them to learn and develop, and by helping to encourage their health and wellbeing. Active working is one very positive step towards a more productive organisation, and it’s far easier to implement than you might think. The methods we’ve talked about in this article so far aren’t difficult, and whilst some do cost a little cash, it is no more than replacing regular furniture you need in your office. It’s about shopping around and finding the best deals for you.
For instance, look locally. There are many office furniture Bromley bargains to be had, just as there are in Manchester, Birmingham, the list goes on!
By making the health and wellbeing of your employees a priority, you’re making your business productivity and growth a priority too.