The sedentary office: the need for more pragmatic guidelines

Letter to the Editor by: Dr Kelly Mackenzie, Specialty Registrar in Public Health / Academic Public Health Fellow

In response to:  JP Buckley & A Hedge et al (2015). The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity.

We welcome the development of quantifiable targets relating to workplace sedentary.  However, given the low quality evidence, it was expected that the recommendations would have been more pragmatic.

For desk-based workers, an initial target of two hours per day of standing/light activity eventually progressing to four hours per day, would be difficult to accumulate without the use of environmental and/or ergonomic adaptations such as adjustable-height desks.  As these interventions have a relatively high initial cost (around £300-1000 for an adjustable-height desk1), this recommendation is unlikely to be achievable in most workplaces.  Financial gains due to increased productivity and decreased absenteeism can be made to offset these costs, but tend to only be realised in the longer-term, so will not provide a viable justification for many organisations.

Instead, initial recommendations need to provide realistic targets that involve no/low cost changes that can be accumulated incidentally throughout the working day e.g. by encouraging standing/walking meetings.  The recommendations could then be taken up by a range of organisations, hence promoting maximal public health benefits.

References:

  1. Height Adjustable Desks.com, https://heightadjustabledesks.com/ (Accessed on 16th June 2015)

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