New data has revealed one in five UK employees are sitting for more than eight hours each day, contributing to the decline in physical or mental health experienced by 79% of employees in the past year.
The findings place UK employee health in the ‘high’ to ‘very high’ risk category*. This is particularly concerning as Diabetes UK** report that more people than ever are at risk of type 2 diabetes due to their working habits.
The UK-wide Health, wellbeing & habits study asked over 1,000 employees for insights into their health status over the last year, and was conducted by disposable vape retailer Vape Club. The aim was to discover how changing working patterns are affecting employees’ health and wellbeing, and how UK companies can better support their workforce in this area.
The study found that employees who do at least 2.5 hours of exercise a week were less likely to experience negative physical or mental effects from their work. Only one in seven workers in the East Midlands gets this much exercise, making them the least active in the UK.
The findings also raise concerns about the impact of hybrid working on employees as it continues to be the working norm in the UK. Compared to office working and work-from-home (WFH) employees, hybrid workers were found to be the most likely to spend over eight hours a day sitting at their screen. They were also the most likely to work outside of their contracted hours.
What can companies do?
A staggering 85% of employees want their company to be more proactive in boosting employee health, wellbeing and healthy habits.
33% of employees think training managers to provide better support is the answer
32% of workers believe in promoting the use of sick leave when people are struggling with physical or mental health
25% of employees want access to stress management training
Companies also benefit when contributing to their employees’ health and wellbeing: it leaves 38% feel more productive at work. A third (33%) of employees feel engaged with the work they do and 31% say they’re less likely to seek job opportunities elsewhere.
Chris Myers, clinical specialist Physiotherapist and owner of Complete Physio, says: “It’s important to encourage employees to ‘move’ regularly during the day, so offering things such as a sit-to-stand desk can be a great idea. Sitting still all day in the ‘perfect posture’ won’t actually help you.
“It’s also beneficial if employees get outside on their lunch break and get some fresh air or have a walk: there is a lot of research which links physical and mental health. A lot of employers also offer wellbeing perks such as gym membership, pilates or yoga classes.
“Employees should try to schedule breaks into their day at appropriate points. This will help them focus, but also give their bodies and minds a break. Having some social interaction will also reset their thinking and help them become more creative.”
Lyndsay Hirst, physiotherapist at Your Pilates, says: “One of the impacts of someone sitting for 8 hours a day is the effect it has on their musculoskeletal health. I tend to find those who are desk based for long periods of the day are weaker in their posterior chain of muscles.
“It’s really important to change positions regularly during the day. I am a big fan of the desk that can be adjusted to standing. Businesses should consider standing meetings or even sitting on the floor (where possible), just to alter the hip and spine positions.
“There are lots of companies investing in the health of their staff. For me, allowing them time to do a workout during the working day is one of the best things they could promote!”
A fifth of UK workers risk diabetes by sitting for 8 hours a day