What does the working day look like in your company? For the majority of businesses, work is a sit-down occupation. But did you know that sitting for 6+ hours during the workday puts people at a higher risk for anxiety and depression?(1)
With workplace stress on the rise, employers can’t afford to ignore the impact that the working environment has on their employees. But the good news is that simple physical changes can have a significant effect on mental wellbeing. And with April being Stress Awareness Month, it’s a good time to highlight where positive action can be taken. We caught up with Michel Spruijt, General Manager, EMEA at Ergotron to take his views.
Tackling stress is an urgent issue for businesses
According to stress.org.uk: “Workplace stress is directly responsible for 37% of all work-related ill health cases, 45% of all working days lost due to ill health, 70% of doctor visits and 85% of serious illnesses”(2). And it’s getting worse. Nearly a third of organisations report an increase in stress-related absence over the past year and two-fifths a rise in reported mental health problems(3). And that’s not surprising as stress is a significant factor in mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
For businesses, workplace stress means increased absenteeism and that’s expensive, with the average cost of a ‘sick day’ at £522 a day(4). It also drives up the cost of healthcare insurance as claims increase.
How does the physical workplace come into it?
For employers, figuring out if workspaces are having a positive or negative effect on wellbeing is often an overlooked aspect of workforce management. For SMBs, it often falls in that awkward gap between facilities management, HR and finance. But bad workspaces can increase the amount of stress that employees feel. Conversely, well-designed working environments can contribute directly to people feeling better.
The positive power of standing up
While mental and physical health are often thought of separately, our minds and bodies are completely connected. Ergonomics can play a significant role in mitigating both mental and physical stress. Research proves that you can improve the mood of employees by equipping them with a sit-stand desk. It sounds simple but the act of standing up and using your muscles pumps fresh blood and oxygen to the brain, which releases mood-enhancing chemicals.
In fact, 100% of workers reported positive effects on mood states after reducing sitting time(5). After seven weeks of using a sit-stand desk, workers were still reporting improved mood states. So, the benefits clearly last. Even better – swapping to sit-stand desks isn’t an expensive or disruptive exercise for employers. They can re-use existing desks by putting a sit-stand converter on top. This clever piece of equipment enables monitors, keyboard and mouse to be smoothly lifted so it’s comfortable to work standing up or sitting down. And it’s recommended people switch between positions every 30 minutes. This change directly cuts the risk of anxiety and depression that’s linked to extended sitting. And standing more tones muscles and can even reduce common aches and pains – another positive that contributes to overall wellbeing.
Movement improves everybody’s mood
Incorporating movement into the working day has been shown to enhance employee enthusiasm and job satisfaction(5). Introducing initiatives like desk yoga and office-based exercise sessions helps employees move for short periods. But to give employees more freedom to move while still focusing on work, monitor arms are a great solution. With existing monitors securely attached to fully adjustable arms, employees can position their screens however it suits them. They can work sitting or standing, and collaborating with colleagues is much easier as screens can be moved to allow everyone to see them.
Feel good – do better
Performance pressure is another factor that can contribute to people feeling stressed. More than ever before, we work in fast-paced roles with high expectations. To thrive and succeed, employees need an environment and equipment that helps them work smarter. In the same way that standing improves an employee’s mood, it also promotes greater mental awareness. This leads to improved concentration and productivity. For the employee this can make it easier to hit targets and achieve goals, reducing stress. For the business, the initial investment in a sit-stand environments is soon recouped in improved company-wide performance.
Be a business with a reputation for caring
Sit-stand desks and monitor arms have the power to reinvent workspaces and transform how employees feel at work – increased energy, reduced stress and improved mood. Best of all – people feel the benefits of this equipment immediately and those benefits last. Businesses who reduce workplace stress are rewarded with lower sickness and absenteeism, and better staff retention. It will help with recruiting the next generation of talent too, as 83% of students and graduates said they would be more likely to apply to a potential employer that was open about its mental health commitments(6). Investing in an environment that promotes wellbeing means a happier, healthier workforce and positive reputation as a caring employer. With Mental Health Awareness week coming up in May, we’re likely to hear more about the positives of proactively supporting people and inspiring them to perform at their best – and that’s relevant for every business.
(1) Kilpatrick, M., Sanderson, K., Blizzard, L., Teale, B., & Venn, A. (2013). Cross-sectional associations between sitting at work and psychological distress: Reducing sitting time may benefit mental health. Mental Health and Physical Activity. 6.2, 103–109. Retrieved from https://
(3) CIPD Absence management survey report 2016.
(4) HSE 2015/2016
(5) New Balance Associates & Wellness & Prevention, Inc. (2012). New Balance Associates Increase Engagement and Energy Levels with Workplace
Movement Program. Wellness & Prevention Program Designed to Enhance the Way Organizations Approach the Workplace. [Press
Release]. Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/5/prweb9533576.htm