How Tech Companies Are Encouraging Their Employees To Be More Active

The fight against sedentary behavior starts at the office


Working in an office building for a growing tech company that develops innovative products and changes the world is the dream job of the century. However, experts say that office workers are risking their health. Sitting at desks for prolonged periods of time encourages sedentary behavior (SB), which is one of the rising health threats of the modern world.

In a recent study, the British Heart Foundation revealed that most office workers spend less than 30 minutes standing at work and the rest is spent at their desk, including the lunch break. At the same time, nearly 80% of the workers interviewed said that they were aware of their sedentary behavior and fear that it affects their health. Their fears aren’t unfounded because doctors warn us of the same thing; working an inactive job and a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of premature death and chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Inactivity is also tightly connected with binge eating and obesity, pushing the average office worker into a vicious health cycle. Fortunately, employers have understood the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and we can now look at some great examples of technology companies that have incorporated active policies during work hours.

Employers are handing out sports watches to office workers

Although the first solution that comes to mind regarding fighting inactivity is going to the gym after work, experts say that being active after work does not compensate for eight or more hours of sitting. Instead, workers should watch their activity levels at work and alternate between periods of sitting, standing and walking. To help that, Pegasystems started an extensive office wellness program and gave their employees Fitbit sports watches to track their activity levels. During office hours, employees even compete to see who can make the most steps. Apart from that, there is a general attempt from tech companies and health organizations to change workplace culture and encourage physical activity at the office.

Tech companies are incorporating gyms on premises

Tech giants such as Apple, Google or Facebook are known for their futuristic premises and amazing break rooms. The latest trend is to offer on-premise gyms and wellness areas so that employees can be active at work. For example, Google has gyms, free fitness classes and specially designed areas where employees can play sports indoors. Tech company Genentech has an entire fitness campus and SAS has an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Needless to say, these workplace additions are extremely popular, not only among employees, who appreciate the chance of doing something other than sitting, but also among employers. Working out during breaks increases productivity levels by 15%, enhancing focus and problem-solving.

Team building activities

Ideally, sedentary employees should be active at work, but not all companies have the same budget as the tech giants in Silicon Valley. Most cannot afford the infrastructure costs of setting up an on-premise gym or wellness center. Although not as efficient, working out after hours helps as well, which is why more and more employees have replaced barbecues and movie nights with social netball. In London, mountain climbing and other sports-based team building sessions are very popular too.

The benefits of this transition are bigger than one could ever imagine. Apart from encouraging co-workers to get to know each other better and develop their team spirit, sports and physical exercises boost the immune system and reduce work absenteeism.

Small changes in the workplace environment

Having a large office building with an indoor gym or swimming pool is perhaps the dream project of every business owner. One hopes to grow their company and help their employees at the same time. Planning sports-based teambuilding activities such as netball is only the first step towards having healthier employees.

In the long run, creating a sustainable wellness program and consolidating the company’s fitness corporate culture is the most effective way of mitigating the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Contrary to common belief, this is not an extremely costly endeavor and even on a small budget, managers can still help their employees.

Small changes have an impact as well, especially on the mentality, because workers need to reshape their idea of a typical workday. For example, workers should be encouraged to get up during breaks, have a walk around the office building, play darts with co-workers or stretch for a little while.

Some tech companies have also changed the chairs at the office to allow employees to alternate between sitting and standing. These so-called “active chairs” are easy to set up and doctors recommend them for business owners who don’t have the budget for at an office gym but would like to encourage their staff to be more active. 

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