There is pressure being placed on employers to make their workplaces “healthier”. NICE released documents on this earlier this year, and this week the Scottish Executive have published their take on matters.
What is the good employer to do? The recommendations focus on employers increasing the amount of exercise that employees take in the course of their work. Move the photocopier further away to make people walk more! Increase the distance between the water fountain and the desk! Put up signs beside the lifts to encourage people to take the stairs instead! Encourage short walks at break times! Move meetings further away!
NICE say these guidelines are evidence based, but there is nothing about how much time employees lose for the company while they are walking an extra mile or two a week. Or are people to work longer hours to get the same amount of work done? That doesn’t sound too “healthy” to me. Nor is there much in the way of long term evidence for these changes. There are many behavioural studies successfully examining how to encourage exercise that can demonstrate short term gain – but it is long term increases in movement which generate most health benefits.
I am dubious. My email correspondent in Virginia alerted me to this article in which he is
featured. It is a different and rather more vigorous idea: constant walking at the desk, via a treadmill underneath it.