Why sitting is the new office health epidemic

Is your health starting to suffer from sitting down at work all day? Take a look at this interesting piece from Employee Benefits Advisor about the effects that sitting down all day can have on your health by Betsy Banker.

In the continuing conversation about employee health, there’s a workplace component that isn’t getting the attention it should— and it’s something that workers do the majority of every workday.

Sitting has become the most common posture in today’s workplace, and computer workers spend more than 12 hours doing it each day. Science tells us that the consequences are great, but our shared cultural bias toward sitting has stifled change. Many employees and company leaders struggle to balance well-being and doing their work. And it’s time for employers to do something about it.

Rather than accept the consequences that come as a result of the sedentary jobs employees (hopefully) love, it’s time to elevate the office experience to one that embraces movement as a natural part of the culture. Such a program will address multiple priorities at once: satisfaction, engagement, health and productivity. Organizations of every size and structure should embrace a “Movement Mindset” and say goodbye to stale, sedentary work environments.

There are many benefits to incorporating the Movement Mindset:

· Encourages face time. As millennials and Generation Z take over the office, attracting and retaining top talent is a key initiative for companies. Especially in light of the Society for Human Resource Management findings that 45% of employees are likely to look for jobs outside their current organization within the next year. Research has shown that Gen Z and millennials crave in-person collaboration, and users of movement-friendly workstations (particularly those ages 20 to 30) report being more likely to engage in face time with coworkers than those using traditional sit-only workstations.

Standing meetings tend to stay on task and move more quickly. Their informal nature means they can also be impromptu. Face time has the added benefit of building culture and social relationships, increasing brainstorming and collaboration, and creating a more inclusive work environment.

· Keeps you focused. For those who sit behind a desk day in and day out -- which, according to our research, about 68% of workers do -- it can be a feat to remain focused and productive. More than half of those employees admit to taking two to five breaks a day, and another 25% take more than six breaks per day to relieve the discomfort and restlessness caused by prolonged sitting. It may not seem like much, but considering that studies have shown it can take a worker up to 20 minutes to re-focus once interrupted, this could significantly impact the productivity of today’s office workers.

It’s time to connect the dots between extended sitting, the ability to remain focused and the corresponding effect these things have on the overall health of an organization. Standing up increases blood flow and heart rate, burns more calories and improves insulin effectiveness. Individuals who use sit-stand workstations report improved mood states and reduced stress. Offering options for employees to alternate between sitting and standing during the day could be the key to effectively addressing restlessness while improving focus and productivity.

· Addresses sitting disease. The average worker spends more than 12 hours in a given day sitting down. In the last few years, the health implications surrounding a sedentary lifestyle are starting to come to light (like the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and early mortality). It’s a vicious cycle where work is negatively affecting health, and poor health is negatively impacting engagement and productivity. Not to mention, the benefits span long and short term, with impacts on employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as health and healthcare costs. Offering sit-stand options to incorporate movement back into a worker's daily regimen is a great way to offset those implications, while showing employees that their health, comfort and satisfaction are important to the company. Plus, a recent study found that if a person stood for just an extra three hours a day, they could burn up to 30,000 calories over the course of a year — that’s the same as running 10 marathons or burning off eight pounds of fat.

Our sit-biased lifestyles are beginning to be seen as an epidemic; it’s the new smoking, and office workers who spend their days behind a desk are at great risk. Providing a sit-stand workstation is more than just a wellness initiative. It offers significant opportunities for companies to retain and attract talent, improve a company's bottom line, and offer employees a workspace that gives them the ability to move in a way that can actually improve productivity.

Embracing the Movement Mindset can turn the tables on the trends, going beyond satisfaction to create a cycle where work can positively impact health and good health can improve engagement and productivity.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Banker B. (2017 March 27). Why sitting is the new office health epidemic [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/why-sitting-is-the-new-office-health-epidemic?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000


What Percentage of Your Life Will You Spend Exercising?

Original post benefitspro.com

How much of your life will you spend exercising?

Reebok and Censuswide, a global consulting firm, studied exercise habits of people in nine different countries and came to the conclusion that the average person spends 0.69 percent of their life working out.

Or, as the shoe company chose to frame it: Of the 25,915 days the average human lives, only 180 will be spent on fitness. “25,915” is the name of Reebok’s new brand campaign focused on encouraging exercise.

To be sure, “fitness” is not the same as physical activity. Manual laborers throughout the world burn calories effectively without ever getting a gym membership. Reebok acknowledges that fact, pointing out that the average person still walks or runs the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference nearly twice in their lifetime.

But in an increasingly mechanized world in which more and more workers spend their days in offices, it is more important than ever for people to make a conscious effort to get exercise.

"As a brand dedicated to promoting and supporting health and fitness around the world, we felt compelled to shine a light on the disparities between what we may aspire to achieve and what we're willing to do about it," said Yan Martin, vice president of brand management at Reebok.   "It gives us a renewed urgency to get out there and live fuller, healthier lives. If we all traded in 30 minutes of phone time for a jog, we could actually help change the dynamics of global wellness."

To highlight the point, Reebok calculated that 41 percent of the average person’s life is spent engaging with technology. That amounts to 10,625 days in a lifetime.

In addition, the average person will spend 29.75 percent of his life sitting down, 6.8 percent socializing with a loved one, and 0.45 percent having sex.


Wellness Programs Benefit Employers, Employees

Original post benefitspro.com

Offering employee wellness programs isn’t just an exercise in altruism for employers. It pays off where most companies would value it most: the bottom line.

According to Forbes, companies are jumping on the wellness program bandwagon right and left, to varying degrees. In fact, Society for Human Resource Management statistics indicate that in 2015, 80 percent of employers offered preventive wellness resources and educational information, with 70 percent providing full strategic wellness programs.

But while companies are happy that such programs pay off in healthier employees — 59 percent of employers offering such programs believe they’ve resulted in improved worker health — those programs also pay off in ways that have more to do with the balance sheet than the scales.

The cost of wellness programs is nothing to be sneezed at, but on the other hand, employees involved in them often shift their diets to healthier foods, quit smoking, have a better mental outlook on life, and watch the pounds come off through diet and exercise. That means they’re less likely to have to take so much advantage of company-provided health plans, if they’re reducing or eliminating some of the risk factors that could send them to the doctor more often.

Healthy employees might exercise more and weigh less, but they’re also more engaged, and thus more productive. Better health can also keep them on the job longer, with better results and better job satisfaction. They’re less stressed, miss fewer days at work and don’t look for a new job as often; all those things add up to an 8 percent improvement in productivity.

All of that can translate, for most programs, to dollars and cents: a return on investment of approximately 3:1. It can, however, go as high as 6:1, thanks to reduced health care costs that result when workers are eating better, exercising more, and forestalling some of the conditions that can result in mega health care bills — and equally mega premiums.


Americans Don't Do Much to Avoid Hearing Loss

Original post benefitspro.com

Have you ever even heard of healthy hearing habits?

If not, you’re probably not alone. Relatively few Americans appear to pay much attention to their ears, according to a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of EPIC Hearing Healthcare.

The survey found that only a quarter of U.S. adults have had their hearing checked in the past two years.

In contrast, nearly two-thirds of Americans make a trip to the dentist at least annually. Three-quarters wear some type of corrective lens — either glasses or contact lenses — to address poor eyesight.

The survey also revealed that very few understand the risks to hearing presented by a number of different conditions and behaviors, including diabetes (22 percent) and smoking (14 percent).

Granted, it’s hard to believe that evidence showing how smoking harms hearing would be the game-changer that gets people to quit their habit, considering that people are more than aware of the other substantial health risks linked to tobacco use.

But overall hearing health would likely improve if the topic was more often emphasized by physicians and other health experts. According to EPIC, only 8 percent of employer-based wellness programs include hearing health.

But according to EPIC, only one in five people who would benefit from hearing aids actually have them. Even worse, people who don’t discuss hearing issues with their doctors often do not adopt habits to prevent hearing loss.

Hearing loss is often a problem that snowballs, explains EPIC. Dr. William Luxford, medical director of House Clinic. He says that people who begin to lose their hearing engage in behavior that exacerbates the problem, such as turning up the volume on their TV.

“A lot of people aren’t aware how important preventive care is for their hearing health,” he says. “Regular, comprehensive hearing exams by an audiologist are the best way to establish a baseline for your hearing and ensure any hearing loss is caught early so further damage can be prevented or minimized and hearing can be improved as quickly as possible.”


How to Bridge the Wellness Disconnect

Original post benefitnews.com

HR executives and business leaders are not always aligned about employee well-being or wellness solution buy-in, new research shows, signaling a need for adviser help to bridge the disconnect.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Seventeen percent of HR executives versus 30% of business leaders think employee well-being is” very good,” according Optum Health’s Seventh Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, conducted by the Optum Resource Center for Health & Well-Being.

On the other hand, 41% of HR executives versus 32% of business leaders say wellness solutions are important to the benefits mix.

Seth Serxner, chief health officer for Optum says it is important for benefit advisers and consultants to make sure that both HR executives and business leaders are all on the same page when it comes to understanding their wellness programs.

“[Advisers] might think they have everyone on board when speaking to HR executives,” Serxner says. “However, when HR goes to pitch this program to a CFO or members of the C-Suite, they may need to adjust how they present the business case.”

While HR managers view some of the non-financial productivity and moral factors that are important in a wellness program, the non-HR managers are focused on the bottom line, ROI, cost containment and healthcare cost issues, he adds.

“[Non-HR managers] tend to think the population is healthier and more well than the HR folks,” Serxner says. “So they may not think there is as much of a problem as the people who are closer to the data and understand the health risk condition of the population.”

Optum’s survey did find that wellness budgets are not decreasing, but are actually increasing. Twenty-eight percent of employers increased their wellness program budgets, according to the survey, up from 22% last year.

Serxner says advisers should use the data gathered in this study to help ground their clients in respect to what is happening within the client’s respected industry and with their peers.

“Clients will ask, ‘where do I sit in terms of culture of health, how am I doing with how I am investing my money,’ and what we find is it is very helpful to share some of these benchmarks about what other clients are doing and what the trend over time has been,” Serxner says.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Optum surveyed 554 benefit professionals at U.S. companies across a variety of industries, which offer at least two types of wellness programs to employees. The size of respondent companies ranged from 20% small companies with two to 99 employees, to 38% jumbo employers with 10,000 or more employees.


Why Do Some Workers Get Away with Bad Behavior?

Original post benefitspro.com

Researchers from Baylor University are seeking to explain why some workers get away with sleazy behavior on the job.

After three studies that included over 1,000 employees, they are convinced they have found an answer: You can get away with breaking the rules or acting less-than-honorably as long as you’re productive. A valuable worker can afford to cross the line occasionally, while those whose performance lags cannot.

It’s an intuitive answer, but one that is no doubt often overlooked by disgruntled employees who wonder why they are being disciplined by their superiors or ostracized by coworkers while others have not.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Matthew J. Quade, a Baylor professor of business, wrote that productive workers who ignore rules or act unethically present a dilemma to employers because of their “contrasting worth.”

“The employees’ unethical behaviors can be harmful, but their high job performance is also quite important to the organization’s success,” he explained in the study, which was published in Personnel Psychology. “In this vein, high job performance may offset unethical behavior enough to where the employee is less likely to be ostracized.”

But that calculus is often flawed, argued Quade. If a worker is regularly engaging in unethical behavior, the employer will likely pay a big price for it down the road. As any observer of the subprime mortgage crisis might say, the short term gains of crooked business are often more than offset by major losses later on.

Unsurprisingly, the study authors concluded that employers should establish that they have no tolerance for unethical behavior from employees, no matter how good they are at their jobs.

Furthermore, they argue, employers should make clear that workers can come to organization leaders with complaints about unethical behavior from colleagues. This point is aimed not only at stopping poor behavior, but to prevent divisions among coworkers.

Another recent study found that employees are more likely to be stressed and unhappy at work when they perceive a lack of “organizational justice,” meaning that rules are not applied consistently or fairly.


Wellness: Get a Lunchtime Workout, Even if You Can't Leave the Office

Original post washingtonpost.com

It can be one of the most exhilarating things you do during the workday, but nailing the lunchtime workout can be tricky. Should you eat before or after? How much should you pack? Shower? No shower? And most important, how much exercise can you pack in during a lunch hour?

The good news is that there are all sorts of tricks for getting the most out of your midday workout and several products that make it easier to navigate.

How to prepare

The key is to have a plan. The night before, pack a light bag of just the essentials: a change of underwear, travel-size deodorant and wet wipes — if you won’t have time for a shower.

Need to shower no matter what? Consider throwing in a bottle of dry shampoo to cut down the amount of time you spend away from your desk, said Tami DeVitis, an instructor at Vida Fitness in the District. She also recommends (if your hair is long enough) wearing a ponytail that requires no maintenance post-workout.

Another way to stay prepared is to keep a pair of sneakers and toiletries in your desk at work. That way, you can just grab what you need and go. Personal trainer Lee Jordan has noticed clients bringing no more than what can fit into a rolled-up T-shirt. In other words, pack light.

You also should consider arriving at the office a little early just in case it takes you longer than expected to get ready, said DeVitis, who teaches several lunchtime classes.

What to eat

Scarfing down a hoagie right before a run might not be the best idea, but you should eat something, said Nancy Clark, author of “Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.”

“The goal is to enter into your workout with a normal blood sugar level,” Clark said. “If you’re exercising at a pace you can maintain for a half-hour, your body can digest the food and use it during the workout. You could eat five minutes beforehand; it all depends on your tolerance level.”

If you’re planning a high-intensity workout of burpees or jump squats, she recommends eating a hearty breakfast. For less strenuous exercise, Clark said, it’s perfectly fine to eat a banana or half of your lunch before getting started.

What you eat post-workout is also very important. To recover from a tough routine, Clark says, down a smoothie, peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk or any other mini-meals with a balance of carbohydrates and protein.

“Protein builds and repairs muscles, but it does not refuel muscles. Carbs fuel, so you actually want three times more carbs than protein,” Clark said. “The mistake people make these days is just having a protein shake after the workout, but you’d be better off having a fruit smoothie to get carbs andprotein.”

Where to work out

If you’re lucky enough to work near a park or somewhere with good trails, going for a run outdoors is a great way to break up the workday. Too cold? Hit the treadmill at the gym and add in some intervals — one minute of sprints followed by a 30-second jog for several rounds could help you get the most out of your run.

Circuit training is another option for burning calories that could also build muscle if you throw some weights into the mix. Jordan recommends four to five sets of compound exercises, the kind that work two or more parts of the body. You could, for instance, grab a pair of dumbbells for a squat with a bicep curl or lunges with a lateral raise.

“You can either time your reps, say 45 seconds or a minute, or do a set number, say 10 or 15 squats with a curl,” said Jordan, an American Council on Exercise-certified health coach.

If designing your own routine is a lot to ask, there are apps for that. Nike Training Club, Sworkit, Spitfire Athlete and a host of other apps have cardio and strength-training routines that you can do in 30 minutes.

Even Fitbit, the wearable fitness monitor, is getting in on the act. This month, the company released Fitbit Blaze, a touch-screen tracker that comes with access to the workout app FitStar. The app offers diagrams that show you how to execute the moves in each routine.

Game for a class? Just about every gym has a variety of ­45-minute classes, allowing you enough time to get in, get to it and get going.

“Consider classes where you don’t get as sweaty, a barre class. You’re going to sweat, but you can clean yourself off and go,” DeVitis said.

Leaving the office in the middle of the day is a no-go for some folks. In that case, Jordan recommends heading to a stairwell, one without traffic, for a quick workout. All you need is a pair of sneakers, if that much, to do a few sets of calf raises on the stairs. Or you could do high-knee runs or squats or sprint up two flights for eight-to-10 minute intervals.


Technology: Talking to a Financial Coach Reboots Financial Wellness and Narrows Gender Gap

Original post businesswire.com

In a year marked by increased market volatility and slow economic growth, it’s not a surprise that overall financial wellness levels remained virtually unchanged. Employees appear stuck, hitting a brick wall with debt, lack of emergency funds and inadequate retirement savings. However, the latest study from Financial Finesse shows that the way forward to improved employee financial wellness – and to narrow the financial Gender Gap – could be human-to-human coaching, with technology playing a supporting role.

The Year in Review: 2015, an analysis of employee financial trends based on anonymous data collected by workplace financial wellness firm Financial Finesse, describes a year where most employees have been treading water in terms of their financial wellness. Overall financial wellness levels were unchanged at 4.8 out of 10 vs. 4.7 in 2014.

The study shows that while technology was helpful in increasing employee awareness of their financial vulnerabilities, online interactions alone did not improve employee financial wellness. By contrast, employees who had five interactions including conversations on the phone or in person with a financial planner professional showed substantial progress. Those repeat interactions with a financial coach appear to help an employee get “unstuck,” and advance in key areas. For these regular participants:

  • 80% have a handle on cash flow, compared to 66% of online-only users
  • 72% have an emergency fund, compared to 50% of online-only users
  • 98% contribute to their retirement plan, compared to 89% of online-only users
  • 48% are on track for retirement, compared to 21% of online-only users
  • 64% are confident in their investment strategy, compared to 42% of online-only users

Employers who offer financial wellness programs consider tailoring communications to address these vulnerabilities in particular:

  • 58% may not be saving enough for retirement, with only 16% of Millennials on track to achieve their retirement goals.
  • 51% don’t have an emergency fund. While this declines with age, a worrisome 25% of employees 65 and older still don’t have an emergency fund.
  • 34% may be living beyond their means. For employees with family incomes of $100,000 or lower, less than half pay off their credit cards every month.
  • 33% may have serious debt problems. Debt may be hurting African American and Latino employees the most, with 75% of African American and 66% of Latino employees saying getting out of debt is a top concern.
  • Concern over market volatility is high. Many employees grew nervous about their retirement plan savings and turned to their financial wellness program for guidance on how to handle these market fluctuations.

3 ways gamification can improve your team’s well-being

Original post benefitsnews.com

What does a big, fancy word like “gamification” mean anyway? Simply put, it’s the idea that game-like rules and rewards make the hard stuff fun. And smart leaders now use it to engage and motivate their employees.

Well-known game designer Jane McGonigal says “living gamefully” helps people bring curiosity, passion and balance into their lives. It gives them a higher purpose so they keep moving forward in their mission even when obstacles block their vision.

Gamification is the reason fitness apps work. When the buzzer signals that you hit 10,000 steps, you win. Even performance reviews contain elements of game design – when your employees exceed all their goals and move to the next career level, you both win.

Let’s go for that big win. Help your employees achieve their goals and improve their health by introducing these gamification strategies.

3 gamification strategies to implement:

1. Wellness quests. As noted above, wearable technology makes tracking exercise so much easier. But gamification for health doesn’t require that level of sophistication — you can make a game out of almost anything when you keep score by pencil. Challenge your team members to sneak extra exercise into their day. Have them jot down a checkmark every time they take a stretch break. Heat up competition by posting results on a whiteboard for all to see. Add rules or creative complexities as time goes on and the activities become easier. The more quests employees complete, the healthier they’ll be.

2. Social communities. We all need a little help from our allies. We crave support from one another, and we’re willing to dig in deeper when we know others are rooting for us. So it’s no surprise that social interactions and competitions help employees stay motivated and happy. Hook your employees into healthy activities with team vs. team challenges, photos, comments, nudges and cheers. Recognize accomplishments in ways that best fit your company’s culture – whether that’s sending around leader-board rankings each week or letting peers nominate each other for special badges.

3. Power-ups. The journey to well-being is never over — but it’s nearly impossible to keep going if you don’t hit milestones. This is when you need to activate “power-ups” — the quick tasks that feel like small wins. Remember how satisfying those power-ups were in your video games of childhood? Encourage your employees to take baby steps toward their goals. For instance, they may not have time for a lunchtime workout, but can they sneak in a few jumping jacks before every meeting? How about simply standing up for two minutes? Or taking a mid-meeting plank break? Achievements like these provide a burst of feel-good energy and intrinsic motivation to help us stick with lofty commitments.


4 ways to maximize the benefit of your workday breaks

Take a look at your workday. When do you take a break? How long is your break? What do you do on your break? Do you take more than one break? Do you feel recharged after your break?

Those questions were the focus of a study done by 2 Baylor University researchers. Emily Hunter, Ph.D. and Cindy Wu, Ph.D. are associate professors of management in Baylor's Hankamer School of business. The pair surveyed 95 employees between the ages of 22 and 67 over a 5-day workweek. Each person was asked to document each break they took.

Their empirical study - "Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery" - was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The research defined a break as “any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks.”

When compiling the total of 959 break surveys, Hunter and Wu were able to provide a greater understanding of workday breaks. Their findings offer suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes when on the clock.

Key findings of the study include:

1) Best time to take a workday break: Mid-morning.

A typical work day may have you counting down to lunch, but the study found an earlier break is more successful in replenishing energy, concentration and motivation.

“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study says. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

2) What to do on your break: Something you enjoy and not necessarily non-work related.

The study found no evidence that non-work-related activities are more beneficial. Instead, do things choose to do and like to do which could include work-related tasks.

“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do – something that’s not given to you or assigned to you – are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.

3)"Better Breaks" = Better health, increased job satisfaction

Employee surveys showed those that took mid-morning breaks and did things they preferred led to less somatic symptoms like headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.

The study also found the employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and a decrease in emotional exhaustion.

4) But how long should the break be?

The study wasn't able to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break, but it did find that more short breaks with associated with higher resources - energy, concentration, and motivation.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” Hunter said.

Hunter and Wu believe the results of the study benefit both managers and employees.