Strategies to move more and sit less at the office

Posted: Wed, 14 Jun 2017 12:17

By Lee Goodwin, M.A. in Physical Activity and Health

Sitting for lengthy and uninterrupted periods during a working day has been associated with poor health and chronic disease in office workers. To counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting, guidelines recommend that office workers gradually work towards standing and moving for two to four hours during an eight-hour working day (halved for part-time employees). Interchanging between standing, moving and sitting throughout the day helps maintain a flexible balance, which is optimal for employee and organisational health in the long term.

As an office-based worker, I set myself the challenge of achieving two to four hours of standing and moving per day at work. However, I quickly came to realise that meeting the recommendations in practice was no easy task. It was in this light that I was inspired to quite literally take a stand. I set out to investigate strategies that could be used to support office workers in achieving and maintaining the recommendations in a sustainable way. My research revealed a wide range of strategies that can be put into practice by organisations and employees to move more and sit less at the office:

Organisational strategies

  • Promote and encourage standing and walking meetings as part of normal working practice
  • Place printers and bins in a central location away from workstations
  • Promote and encourage the use of friendly walkways and stairwells
  • Introduce wireless headsets to enable employees to stand and move while on the phone
  • Install sit-stand height-adjustable workstations or desks for employees to use
  • Introduce height-adjustable hot desks that employees can share
  • Provide standing tables in communal areas, canteens and meeting rooms
  • Identify representatives as spokespeople to support employees in moving more and sitting less
  • Those in managerial positions should lead by example by also engaging in numerous strategies
  • Suggest, allow and encourage strategies for employees to move more and sit less

Individual strategies

Individual strategies that can be used during periods of working

  • Instead of e-mailing or calling, walk over and talk to colleagues to deliver the message in person
  • Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up more regularly to use it
  • If meeting with one or two people, try a walking or standing meeting instead
  • Use printers that are further away
  • Stand up while talking on the telephone or mobile phone
  • Stand to greet a visitor to your workplace or when conversing with a colleague
  • Stand while sorting and filing paperwork
  • Stand while you read
  • Stand up at your sit-stand desk or workstation when checking e-mails or during formatting work

Individual strategies that can be used when taking a break from working

  • Stand up to get water more regularly
  • Walk to a bathroom that is further away
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift
  • Use your lunch break to go for a walk

Organisations of all sizes can play a key role in ensuring that employees move more and sit less at the office. In some cases, office workers may depend on organisational acceptance, allowance and intervention to engage in individual strategies on a continual basis. The good news is that a range of strategies are cost effective and do not interrupt working tasks. So why not firstly try out strategies that require no or little financial investment and centre on productive working? Test out numerous strategies, monitor what works best, and review whether the integration of additional strategies would be necessary for the successful achievement and maintenance of the recommendations in the long-term.

Additionally, organisations could consider establishing policies to normalise and emphasise a moving more and sitting less culture. This form of intent sends a strong message to employees regarding the cultural acceptability of being more active at work, and places organisations at the forefront of innovation to optimise worker health and well-being.

Lee Goodwin is a research associate working at the Institute of Sport Science and Sport, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He is an expert in the field of workplace health promotion and disease prevention. Originally from Suffolk, Lee is passionate about supporting UK workplaces in moving more and sitting less for the benefit of employee and organisational health. To view Lee's research in full, please visit the Friedrich-Alexander University Library OPUS under

Tags: Sit Less, Move More, Stand