A new study proves that over half of all workers are overweight, contributing to a less productive workplace.
The office lifestyle may seem fast-paced, but the sedentary nature of deskwork is the cause of more than half of American workers’ declining physical fitness. Our friends at CareerBuilder shared with us results of a recent study indicating that 55 percent of workers categorize themselves as overweight; 31 percent of them feel like they have gained weight on the job.
Tobias Lee, Chief Marketing Officer at Thomson Reuter Tax and Accounting, agrees with the reality of these statistics. “I think [the study] seems accurate,” Lee said. “We are a sedentary culture once we check into the office. Time waits for no one and neither does our metabolism, so as we age, many of us don’t adjust our life and work styles, seeing the inches pile on.”
The study cites management, workers 35 and up, women and IT professionals to be team members who are more likely to gain weight from office lifestyle.
Wellness Director Susan Thompson agrees with this data. “I’m not surprised to see that males are working out more regularly than females,” she said. “They will generally always feel there is a long list of work or family needs that they must prioritize, always over doing something for themselves.”
Other habits that contribute to poor physical office health include indulgent afternoon treats as well as reliance on instant messaging, allowing a worker to stay in his or her seat rather than walk across the office.
Vinnie Avila, Owner of New Image Fitness, confirms that these small details can contribute to the larger issue.
“If you think about it, humans are creatures of habit,” Avila said. “Monday through Friday, you wake up at the same time, have the same breakfast and head to the office. [Workers] then get caught up in work, have a fast lunch, have a late dinner and unwind by sitting around on the couch. It’s a vicious cycle to break out of.”
Poor physical health also can be associated with decreased productivity. Avila says poor nutrition and lack of exercise leads to less energy, making it an important consideration for managers and executives.
Lee, who manages teams of employees, feels that it is best to set the example for his team. In his personal office, he has workout equipment and a treadmill desk, allowing him to keep moving throughout the day.
“As managers, it’s not our job to manage the health of our employees, but I do think it is important to help cultivate an environment that might allow for opportunities,” Lee said. “I believe healthy employees are happier.
Incentives & Habits
Many companies today are noticing these statistics and beginning to take preventative measures, incorporating fitness incentives into job benefits. Currently, 28 percent of workers say their company provides some sort of physical health benefit, be it gym memberships or classes or programs to encourage a healthy work lifestyle, for example.
Thompson points to National Instruments, which added an onsite health center in 2009, managed by Cooper Aerobics, which offers primary care and personal health coaching to employees. She says the employees see the value in using their lunch breaks for health, rather than sacrificing time after work that could be spent with their families.
“Many employees from different departments will meet each other for the first time because they join a weight loss support group or basketball team through our fitness center,” Thompson said. “Employees have told me they do not want to work anywhere where there is not an onsite fitness or health center.”
While many companies still do not offer fitness benefits, there are ways their employees can manage personal physical fitness from the office. Avila offers a method of goal-setting to help jumpstart a workout program, but advises that getting fit involves a lifestyle change.
“Always be SMART about your goals,” he advised. “Make them Small, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.”
He recommends making small changes in daily office life, like taking the stairs, getting up to stretch every hour and finding reasons to move.
Jaclyn Crawford is the Assignment Editor at Forefront Magazine.