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Inactive, stressed Brits cost businesses 27 days of productivity a year EACH

It’s not the smokers, drinkers and unhealthy eaters costing businesses the most money in lost productivity, according to the latest ONS statistics.

Data for the 2016 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) survey indicates that the highest cause of lost productivity across Britain's industries is lack of physical activity and high stress levels.

The study concluded that inactive, highly stressed employees lose up to 27 days of productivity a year (compared to the national average of 23.5).

The financial impact of this lost productivity is huge, with an estimated £57 billion lost on average every year.

And now an even bigger study looking at over one million individuals has been published in the Lancet saying we need to ramp our activity levels up to one hour of exercise a day - not the 30 minutes previously recommended.

lancet study physical activiety sky news Sky News reports on Lancet study

This major Lancet study found that people who sat for eight hours a day but engaged in an hour of physical activity had a much 'lower risk of death' compared with those who sat for eight hours a day without the hour of activity. 

"There has been a lot of concern about the health risks associated with today's more sedentary lifestyles," says lead author Professor Ulf Ekelund, the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Norway and the University of Cambridge, UK. "Our message is a positive one: it is possible to reduce - or even eliminate - these risks if we are active enough, even without having to take up sports or go to the gym."

But how easy is it to add an extra hour of exercise to your day?

Posturite's CEO Ian Fletcher-Price believes there's an even simpler way to reduce the risks of prolonged sitting.

"How many people reading this article are really going to start adding an hour of exercise to their daily routine? If it's not something they're already doing, giving up an hour of precious free time is a big jump," he says.

"For busy people - people who commute, people with children or other commitments - an hour every day could be too big of a commitment to realistically sustain. It's much easier and far more realistic to incorporate physical activity into your working day. Get a sit-stand desk, walk at lunch, take the stairs, park further away. Sit-stand desks are now widely accepted and, with affordable options like the retrofit desks readily available, they offer a far more effective solution for mitigating the effects of sitting than squeezing in an hour of exercise every day."

This is good news all round - not just for individuals but for the businesses employing them. As the (unrelated) wellbeing survey found, inactivity paired with high stress levels is a productivity killer:

  • 73% of employees nationally claim to suffer from at least one dimension of work-related stress.
  • Industries with higher levels of productivity losses typically have higher levels of work-related stress among employees.
  • Physical activity levels in the healthcare industry fall below the national average of 64.4%, with only 62.2% of people classified as physically active.
  • The industry with the highest level of stress and lack of physical activity was transportation, shipping and logistics - also the third least productive.
  • The high-tech industry storms ahead with just 19 days lost to lack of productivity a year (compared to the national average of 23.5) - it also has the least stressed-out and most physically active employees.

Discussing the results, Shaun Subel, Strategy Director at VitalityHealth, said:

“Although alcohol consumption, poor diet and smoking have a significant impact on long-term health, it is clear to see that day-to-day productivity loss centres on physical activity and stress levels. 

“We would urge all companies, and especially those in sectors suffering from acute productivity loss, to invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. Reducing workplace stress and encouraging employees to stay physically active should help increase productivity levels and protect the business bottom line.”

Google is well-known for investing in health. Here's their indoor 'cycle hallway' Google is well-known for investing in health. Here's their indoor 'cycle hallway'

Chris Bailey, Partner at Mercer, added: “It’s no surprise that new tech firms without legacy working practices have lower levels of stress, and lower lost productivity, whilst more established industries sometimes struggle to implement change and create a healthy working environment.”

At Posturite we've advocated the concept of ‘active working’ for many years. We believe physical activity should underpin staff policies and form an integral part of business life. Throughout our 25 years in business, we've seen the companies most willing to invest in the health and happiness of their employees rise above the rest.

We've put together a visual business case for starting active working policies, with the installation of sit-stand desks at its core.

You can download it for free as a starting-point here:

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Alternatively, go right ahead and browse our range of sit-stand desks, starting from just £292.56.