Sit-stand desks appear to boost job performance

By June Shannon Heart News   |   11th Oct 2018

Workstations that allow employees to stand, as well as sit, appear to have a positive impact on job performance and psychological health – new study.

Sit-stand workstations that allow employees to stand, as well as sit, while working on a computer reduce daily sitting time and appear to have a positive impact on job performance and psychological health, according to a new study in The BMJ.

The results revealed that employees who used the workstations for 12 months, on average, reduced their sitting time by more than an hour a day, with potentially meaningful benefits.

High levels of sedentary behaviour have been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers) as well as death and have been shown to be detrimental for work related outcomes such as feelings of engagement and presenteeism.

Office workers are one of the most sedentary populations, spending 70-85 per cent of time at work sitting.

Therefore, a team of researchers based in the UK, with collaborators in Australia, set out to evaluate the impact of (Stand More AT (SMArT) Work) an intervention designed to reduce sitting time at work.

The trial involved 146 office workers based at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust of whom 77 were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 69 to the control group over a 12-month period.

The average age of participants was 41 years, 78 per cent reported being of white European ethnicity, and the majority (80%) were women.

"Employees who used the workstations for 12 months, on average, reduced their sitting time by more than an hour a day, with potentially meaningful benefits."

.

The intervention group were given a height adjustable workstation, a brief seminar with supporting leaflet, and workstation instructions with sitting and standing targets. They also received feedback on sitting and physical activity, an action planning and goal setting booklet, a self-monitoring and prompt tool, and coaching sessions. The control group carried on working as usual.

Workers’ sitting time was measured using a device worn on the thigh at the start of the study (baseline) and at 3, 6, and 12 months. Daily physical activity levels and questions about work (e.g. job performance, engagement) and health (eg. mood, quality of life) were also recorded.

At the start of the study, overall sitting time was 9.7 hours per day. The results show that sitting time was lower by 50.62 minutes per day at 3 months, 64.40 minutes per day at 6 months, and 82.39 minutes per day at 12 months in the intervention group compared with the control group.

Prolonged sitting time was also reduced in the intervention group.

The reduction in sitting was largely replaced by time spent standing rather than moving, as stepping time and physical activity remained unchanged.

The results also suggested improvements in job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, presenteeism, daily anxiety and quality of life, but no notable changes were found for job satisfaction, cognitive function, and sickness absence.

"Our successful Chairs can Kill campaign, which ran just last month, highlighted the dangers of prolonged sitting times for our health,"

Mr Enda Campbell, Workplace Health Promotion Officer , Irish Heart Foundation

The authors said this was a well-designed trial and their results remained largely unchanged after further analyses. But they acknowledged that their findings may not apply to other organisations, and that self-reporting of work-related outcomes may have affected the results.

Nevertheless, they say the SMArT Work successfully reduced sitting time over the short, medium, and longer term, and positive changes were observed in work related and psychological health.

Commenting on the study Mr Enda Campbell, Workplace Health Promotion Officer at the Irish Heart Foundation said, “our successful Chairs can Kill  campaign which ran 2018 highlighted the dangers of prolonged sitting times for our health.”

“As part of the campaign we published research conducted by Ipsos MRBI which found that people in Ireland spend on average 3.6 hours every day sitting down at work, school or college but almost three fifths (59%) reported that their school/college/workplace did not create opportunities for them to sit less during the day.”

“While sit-standing desks are useful they may not be an option for everybody. The good news is that there are other ways to reduce sitting times throughout the day from standing during your commute, taking breaks away from your desk or holding walking meetings,” Mr Campbell said.

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