Let’s face it. Even in the best companies with the best practices, when things happen slowly enough, they can go quietly unnoticed.
Whether positive or negative, small changes can slip by unobserved, slowly growing until they can no longer be denied. Good habits are like baby steps forward, gently adding up over time. Detrimental practices are the painful opposite, gradually increasing from nuisances to crises.
There’s an elephant in the room, and it happens to be continually sitting down.
There’s an elephant in the room, and it happens to be continually sitting down. The culprit for our specific predicament is our entrenched professional culture of inactivity. We sit too much and we move too little. You’re likely sitting as you’re reading this. The majority of American professionals complete the bulk of their work from an office chair. In times prior this may have slid by without concern, but unfortunately we now know better than to sit pat with the status quo.
Office inactivity has gained the stained reputation of cigarettes, as prolonged sitting is commonly being compared to smoking due to its wholesale damage to our health. Research is continually released displaying the correlation between sustained sitting and a plethora of health concerns, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and increased all-cause mortality. If that’s not enough, it hits our companies where it really hurts; efficiency and bottom line. Unhealthy employees are more frequently absent, less productive, and more expensive to insure. Idle workplaces have also been found to be less creative and energetic, resulting in reduced productivity, and as a result, lower profits.
Don’t believe me? Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
If most businesses knew that they could reduce their healthcare spending while simultaneously improving employee productivity, we likely wouldn’t have the resistance to change that hinders so many otherwise-progressive companies. Improvement is possible, and it’s easier to implement than you might think. I know, because I’ve had to fix this problem myself firsthand.
Even at LifeSpan, a company specializing in personal health, we realized that it was time make a change. Research has shown that exercising every night isn’t enough to undo the damage inflicted by chronic sitting. Our company had to evolve. We had to grow. We had to get our employees educated, engaged, and empowered, and we had to do it in a way that made movement in the workplace an accepted culture.
Getting employees to accept this philosophical change required dedication from management and implementation at an individual level. There is no
one size fits all approach to wellness or increased activity.
We informed all of our staff of our commitment to improve their health and fitness. We made it clear that we wanted to help them lower their risk factors and improve their health on their own terms and in their own style, rewarding them along the way for their efforts. If they were interested, they would be provided enrollment in LifeSpan’s wellness software, provided weekly information about health topics pertinent to their interests, and given practical ways to improve their activity levels.
To help guarantee success, we made under desk exercise equipment available in all of our company’s common spaces, and when requested, paired with each individual’s traditional desk. Active workplace desks were also visibly placed in the offices of upper-level management, displaying the company’s collective acceptance of the movement. For those who preferred to use customary desks, or did not have standard office positions, activity trackers were made available to record motion throughout the day. Regardless of how information was collected, via the desk’s Bluetooth capabilities or through activity monitors, incentives were provided to every individual who accomplished a daily step goal and to those who improved their activity the most from month to month.
To put it simply, we made real, achievable changes that displayed to our workforce that we truly cared about their health.
To put it simply, we made real, achievable changes that displayed to our workforce that we truly cared about their health. Our genuine dedication was met with impressive employee commitment, as 71% of our staff participated in the program. There was no sweating, no raucous behavior or disruption of our professional environment, just a gentle pace towards better living. After 20 weeks, 30 employees had accounted for over 23 million steps, or roughly 12 thousand miles. During this time we noticed substantial increases in workplace energy, employee productivity, and office morale.
The end goal of continued cultural change has been overwhelmingly positive, as activity levels have remained high despite the first stage of the program coming to a close. When we begin round two in the coming months we anticipate that we will grow in participation, and ultimately, achieve even better health year round.
There was no sweating, no raucous behavior or disruption of our professional environment, just a gentle pace towards better living.
LifeSpan’s success with an active workplace isn’t magic and it's not exclusive. Our results are possible for every business that’s willing to break away from convention and address the growing movement of workplace activity. Through the use of our under desk exercise equipment, your employees can see an improvement in their overall health and productivity. Feel free to visit us online, give us a call, or come see us in person at one of our many upcoming convention appearances. We’d love to share our tactics and provide you with proven methods for success.
Peter Schenk is the president and CEO of LifeSpan, a Salt Lake City-based company that provides easily-implemented workplace activity strategies to improve the health of companies both big and small.