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Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace

August 17, 2016 by Niki Evans-Ward0

Working in an office all day can kill!

Working in an office all day could increase risk of premature death by up to 60% according to a lancet study which used data from over 1 million adults[1]. Many people in office jobs spend much of their time inactive, skip lunch breaks, work long hours which contributes to a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of sunlight. Inactivity and a lack of vitamin D contribute to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, obesity and some cancers to name just a few.

Niki Evans-Ward

According to a BBC poll in 2013 53% of employees work through their lunch break, often working 8 or more hours with little movement and no daylight. Long working hours means many employees do no exercise at all during the week and many studies show that inactivity is twice as many deaths as obesity[2]. Combined with around 20% of adults may have low vitamin D status[3].

So is this the responsibility of the employer or employee? Currently companies are not accountable for health relating to inactivity, but as the working population age increases the impact of poor health will become more of a burden to both employer and employee. One study estimated that inactivity is costing the UK economy £1.7bn per year[4]. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are linked to low productivity levels[5].

If anyone ever tells you that hard work never killed anyone the evidence is stacking up to suggest it does! However, there are lots of things you can do improve office health and making the most of the summer sunshine by taking a walk or even just lunch outside can contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

  • Get out in the fresh air –  Around 10 to 15 minutes a day between April and September without sunscreen sustains vitamin D levels for most people
  • Go for a good brisk walk – only 60 minutes exercise per day can counteract sedentary lifestyles. A 30 minute brisk walk at lunchtime will contribute to your daily total
  • Eat more healthily – Taking the time to eat lunch can make you more mindful of what you are eating and allow you to make better choices. Which can lead to a healthier lifestyle and also help prevent an energy slump in the middle of the afternoon
  • Take a break – Taking a break for 15-20 mins is proven to maintain energy and concentration levels
  • Visit your colleagues – walk to speak with a colleague rather than emailing can improve relationships as well as getting you moving

“He sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”, Dalai Lama.

  5. J Occup Environ Med. 2012 Feb;54(2):117-21. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318240df1e. Impact of vitamin D deficiency on the productivity of a health care workforce. Plotnikoff GA1, Finch MDDusek JA. Center for Health Care Innovation and Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

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