The cost of workplace sickness in the UK totals £77.5 billion a year. While the face of the office looks a little different right now, if this challenging year has taught us anything it’s that we all need to take our workplace health a little more seriously going forward.
This is especially the case as employees begin to return to their regular working environments. One such way to do this is to promote physical health through the design of your office. Here are our top tips to point you in the right direction.
The simple fact is that humans weren’t designed to spend all day sitting down. Yet due to the nature of office work that’s where we mostly find ourselves. Often, long hours spent slouching over our computers can result in back, neck or shoulder pain. Low back pain, in particular, is costing £3.5 billion a year in lost productivity and is one of the most common reasons people visit their GP.
Employers can nip such problems in the bud by ensuring all employees have a comfortable work set up, that’s correctly adjusted for their height. Screen height adjusters may also be needed, as ideally, your eyes should align with the top of the monitor. Feet should be kept firmly on the floor, and our backs should be upright – never slouching or leaning forward!
The right chair, desk, monitor, keyboard and mouse set up is essential here. A visit from occupational health can advise you if you’re unsure. It’s well worth the investment rather than having employees off sick for issues that could have been avoided with the correct setup.
Promote Free Space
Due to the constraints of your building size, it’s tempting to try and fit as many desks as possible into a tiny space. What you have to consider is whether the space vs the number of people allows for free movement. Or whether the design is the equivalent of an overcrowded goldfish bowl.
From a work satisfaction perspective, nobody likes to feel as if they are ‘just another number’ which sitting in a tightly packed row can definitely encourage. In terms of mental health, not being able to hear yourself think isn’t great either. So when things return to normal and we are allowed to sit in close proximity again, make sure the approach is not excessive.
Most people shriek at the mention of stretching – let alone pilates or yoga! However, given how easy it is to develop pain, joint stiffness or even repetitive strain injury from working in an office, why wouldn’t you encourage even simple movements? By embracing it as essential maintenance for your health and wellbeing, you can save your employees a lot of pain issues later down the line.
There should be ample opportunity for your employees to get up and move around your office. They could also start the day off with a few stretches, which you can find for free on YouTube. Once you remember there is a skeleton, joints and muscles within each of us, you will start to make a real difference to changing attitudes. But by sitting in the same spot all day and ignoring pain, things will only get worse.
Design breakout/ lounge spaces
Breakout spaces are there for people to get away from their desks and take a quick break from the everyday grind! It’s important for your employees to take breaks throughout the day, especially if they’re sitting in front of a computer all day. Giving your eyes a rest and stretching your legs in a breakout space is ideal for giving your body and your brain the 5-minute rest that it deserves every now and again.
While regular breaks are good for the body and your mental health, it can also be a legal requirement. Depending on your working hours, when you have your lunch and a few other factors, you could be legally required to take a break from your screen for a while. This helps to protect your eyes and can actually make you a little more productive during the day because you’re mitigating the possibility of burnout.
Consider Building A Workplace Gym
This one is a little ‘out there’ we know. But, workplace gyms is something that a lot of companies have embraced over the years, due to the way it creates more productive employees that are also happier and less stressed. Even if it’s just an exercise bike, a few weights or even a climbing wall – it will encourage your employees to get up and move, not to mention prioritise their physical health.
When you think about it, one of the top reasons for not going to the gym is a lack of time due to work. While this might show how dedicated your employees are, it isn’t doing you nor them any favours, especially given how important exercise is for all aspects of our health. But, if your employees were able to fit in a quick workout before work or even during their lunch break it would make a huge difference.