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Sitting Is A Silent Killer: Help Employees Avoid Sedentary Risks In The Workplace

While you might envision a high-risk workplace as one that places employees in frequently hazardous situations—such as handling machinery, dealing with dangerous substances or performing heavy lifting—recent research revealed that sedentary behaviour (e.g. sitting for extended periods) is one of the largest culprits of work-related injury and ill-health. Indeed, over 80 per cent of UK office workers reported spending between four and nine hours a day sitting at their desks, totalling 67 sedentary days each year. 

And excess sitting carries consequences—over 30 per cent of employees reported taking at least one day off work in the past year due to neck or back pain, 50 per cent of which were triggered by spending too much time behind a desk. What’s more, sedentary behaviour can lead to a wide range of long-term health complications such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Prolonged sitting has even been linked to nearly 10 per cent of deaths each year. Even if your organisation requires employees to sit behind a desk for extended periods, you can still play a role in encouraging workers to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Don’t suffer the costly ramifications of a sedentary workplace—consider the following well-being guidance:


  • Encourage standing - Allowing workers to stand up throughout the day can help decrease their risk of back and neck pain, increase proper blood flow and improve their ability to focus. Consider implementing sit-stand desks at employee workstations and having standing meetings rather than having workers sit back in a chair.
  • Get moving - Ensure employees are moving throughout the day by providing short breaks for workers to stretch and walk around. In addition, allow for a long enough lunch break that gives employees time to achieve their daily exercise.
  • Promote well-being - Make sure well-being is a main priority in your workplace by ensuring proper ergonomics at employee workstations, offering discounted memberships to local gyms or fitness classes and holding various events that promote physical activity, such as a company walk or run.


Contains public sector information published by the HSE and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
© 2019 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved. This publication is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as compliance or legal advice. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly.