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AJ Products and ukactive investigate how to tackle sedentary behaviour in the workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on an already critical aspect of working life: that of employee health and wellbeing. While awareness of the dangers of sedentary working was already increasing, these unprecedented times underline the importance of companies taking a more comprehensive approach to support the physical and mental wellbeing of their workers by providing guidance and resources to protect staff, both on site and working from home.

AJ Products UK and ukactive have teamed up on a report to examine the impact of working practices on employee health and wellbeing. Tackling sedentary behaviour in the workforce is a comprehensive study into the state of workplace health that looks at the risks associated with long hours spent in sedentary positions at work, whether that work is office-based or remote, and what can be done to improve activity levels among the working population.

The report investigates how our office spaces must change as well as what companies can do to support remote workers and ensure wellbeing practices are sustained away from the physical workplace. It also examines real-world solutions based on case studies from businesses running successful wellbeing programmes to provide a ‘best practice’ guide for other companies to follow.

AJ Products is a supplier of workplace furniture and interior solutions that focuses on ways to solve the problem of a sedentary workday. As a ukactive partner, the company is committed to making workplaces healthier and more active through an innovative and ever-growing range of sit-stand furniture and by raising public awareness of the health risks of prolonged sitting. A combination of over 20,000 quality products, expert knowledge, in-house design and manufacturing, and high service levels allows AJ Products to offer smart and ergonomic solutions for any workplace.

ukactive is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that exists to improve the health of the nation by getting more people, more active, more often. It provides services and facilitates partnerships for a broad range of organisations, all of which support its vision and have a role to play in achieving its goal. ukactive serves over 4,000 members and partners from across the public, private and third sectors, from multinational giants to local voluntary community groups. It does so by facilitating partnerships, campaigning and providing outstanding membership services.

Work stress and negative health outcomes associated with sedentary behaviour have reached substantial proportions within western industrialised societies at great cost to businesses as well as employees. Tackling sedentary behaviour in the workforce demonstrates how simple measures such as equipping offices and homes with better furniture and encouraging employees to increase their physical activity levels can mitigate the negative health effects associated with sedentary behaviour during the workday. It looks at how interventions around workplace design have been shown to reduce sitting time by as much as 40 minutes over an 8-hour work day while other evidence shows taking multiple standing breaks or engaging in some physical movement throughout the day can be more beneficial than having moderate to vigorous activity for a singular set amount of time.

The report also features case studies from businesses of all sizes that highlight health and wellbeing strategies that have worked effectively as well as how these programmes have been adapted in light of COVID-19 to provide the same level of care to employees working from home. Whether interventions are centred around fitness challenges, online wellbeing workshops or in-house workout classes, the case studies highlight the need for each business to consider what types of interventions would be most effective based on employee preferences and demographics. It also calls attention to the need for companies to promote flexibility, permissibility and a positive working environment to ensure that employees feel comfortable to take part in these interventions and prioritise their health.

David English, Managing Director of AJ Products shared his thoughts. “Working on this report with ukactive has really highlighted the struggle that many businesses face in order to fully support the mental and physical wellbeing of all their staff. Not only did we look at the risks of sedentary workplace behaviour, we also considered the reality for many businesses in order to put forward practical suggestions that they could adopt. 2020 has, of course, presented its own unique set of challenges and underlined the important of strategies that work for both office-based and remote workers. We’ve seen that tangible and budget-friendly solutions are needed for companies to feel confident to implement their own wellbeing policies. They need to be sure that their investment will have a genuine impact on their staff, but also that it will result in positive growth for the business itself.”

Anna Davison, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, ukactive added, “Now, more than ever, prioritising the health and wellbeing of the workforce is hugely important. The right working environment, both physically and culturally, is critical to creating a healthier, happier and more productive society. This report shows that there is little disagreement that workplace wellbeing programmes work and are needed; this is unchanged by recent events, but we can also learn from those events. Workplaces must play a proactive role in reducing sedentary behaviour and increasing activity among UK adults. This report demonstrates that it is possible; there are businesses out there that have made a difference to the lives of their staff and who have been able to adapt these ideas to current working circumstances.”

Tackling sedentary behaviour in the workforce comes at a critical juncture. With the rise of homeworking and increasingly flexible working patterns, employers have a unique opportunity to reshape their values and play a more proactive role in supporting the physical and mental health of their employees. This report gives businesses an insight into the importance of prioritising employee health and will act as a guide on how best to implement successful practices to support the wellbeing of our national workforce.

To download the full report for free here: Tackling sedentary behaviour in the workforce www.ajproducts.co.uk


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