Sitting is the new smoking
Arguments for ABW are now also supported by the need to reduce sedentariness in office workers. ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ is the phrase that has been reported widely in the media in recent times3. This comment implies that there are serious health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including sitting at work. In 2008, smoking was responsible for 5 million deaths across the world, whilst inactivity caused 5.3 million deaths7.
The adverse health effects of a sedentary lifestyle include musculoskeletal discomfort, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease cancer, and mortality. It was previously thought that regular moderate exercise offsets the negative aspects of sitting throughout the day at work, though latest research indicates that this is not true7.
Health risks associated with sitting
There have been recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses that have been published regarding the health risks of sitting. As cited in Comcare’s “Benefits of Movement – Be Upstanding”8, the five main health risks associated with sitting are:
- Musculoskeletal pain;
- Metabolic syndrome (this relates to the risk factors for developing diabetes);
- Cardiovascular disease cancer; and
Furthermore, one Australian study published in 2009, reported that the office based workforce included in the research spent in excess of 70% of the working day sitting9.
The health risks on standing for extended period of time are widely published however it is important to differentiate between extended standing and alternating between sitting and standing.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, work tasks that require people to sit or stand for periods of two hours or more at a time may affect health and safety, productivity, and job satisfaction7.
As awareness in society is realised, organisations are looking to ways to enhance movement amongst their sedentary workforce.
What ABW brings: The good & the bad
The benefits of having a flexible work environment as reported by Morrison and Macky4, can include things raising brand equity, encouraging collaboration, networking and the exchange of knowledge and skills, improving productivity and mood, and cost savings, to name a few. These have been well researched and documented since the turn of this century.