How Much Time Should Employees Spend Sitting?

sitting down

New UK research shows employers the recommendations on how long staff should spending sitting down in the workplace. A study by Active Working CIC published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states people should try to spend around two hours a day standing up during working hours.

Data quoted within the research paper suggests that on average office workers spend up to 75 per cent of the day sitting, with more than half of that lasting 30mins or more. This sedentary behaviour is common in a vast array of jobs, with many workers spending their days tied to a computer screen. Even common tasks like getting up to get documents from filing cabinets are being eradicated as employees can do more without having to leave their workstations.

The health impacts of leading a sedentary lifestyle are well-publicised, with the onset of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease increasing due to lack of movement.

What counts towards the “standing” goal?

Though the experts recommend standing for two hours a day, this doesn’t necessarily mean it all has to occur at once. These periods of standing or walking can include anything from getting up to visit to WC, to taking a walk at lunchtime or even simply getting a drink from the water cooler. Anything that breaks up long stretches of time spent sat in a chair counts towards the goal.

However, two hours of standing is actually only the first step. In fact, the researchers long-term recommendations include a goal of four hours of standing in a working day, or around half of the time employees spend at work.

How to encourage standing at work

Workplaces can encourage periods of standing in the workplace by helping employees to understand the benefits of getting out of the chair. Technology is enabling even phone-based employees to be more mobile with cordless handsets and headsets that allow staff to move around more easily. There are also sit-to-stand desk solutions which enable workers to increase the height of their desk to a standing height while working.

Other businesses may choose to encourage active living with health, wellbeing and exercise groups at breaks or lunchtimes, getting staff on-the-go at available opportunities.

Improving the health and wellbeing of your staff all adds up to happier, healthier, more productive employees who take less time off sick – and that’s just good for business.

How To Stop The Spread Of Infectious Illnesses Throughout Your Workplace

Illnesses and infections such as influenza and norovirus are are very contagious, and can spread quickly in a workplace environment, leading to increased levels of sickness absence amongst employees.

Infection can be spread through indirect contact with a person with an illness. For example, when employees touch phones, computers, or other devices, germs can be spread from person to person with ease. Worryingly, some viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.

In work environments where many people work closely together it can seem as though the spread of these illnesses is unavoidable. However, there are things that can be done to minimise their spread, and their impact on the sickness absence levels within the company.

1. Regular hand washing
A process as simple as cleaning your hands can seriously reduce the amount of germs spread between people. Eighty per cent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, and by washing hands frequently and thoroughly, illnesses like these could be reduced.

As an employer consider educating employees about the importance of washing their hands after using the toilet, and before having lunch. The WHO provides the following infographic teaching how to properly wash your hands, and advises that the task should take as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.

How to wash your hands

How to wash your hands – by The WHO

2. Hand santisation
Encouraging the use of hand sanitiser amongst staff can also help prevent against the spread of illness. Consider installing hand sanitiser in company WCs or distributing bottles amongst staff. Non-alcohol based hand sanitiser solutions form a barrier on hands which protect against germs and bacteria, such as norovirus, for several hours.

3. Encourage infected employees to stay at home
To avoid transmission of viruses amongst employees, it is vital that those infected with the illness don’t return to work while they are still ill. Make employees aware that for illnesses like norovirus they should not return to work for 48 hours after their symptoms have gone. Returning early could be the difference between one employee sickness absence, and a large chunk of the workforce.

4. Keep on top of cleaning
If there is an outbreak of infectious illness amongst your staff it could be wise to draft in professional cleaning staff to clean and sanitise the area asap.

Illnesses do happen, but by following these simple rules for effective hygiene your workforce could protect itself against high levels of sickness absence, and the associated impacts to your business. For further information about reducing sickness absence, contact OHBM.

Musculoskeletal Disorders Leading Cause Of Sickness Absence and Productivity Loss


Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are the primary cause of sickness absence and productivity loss for businesses. According to a new industry report, employers need to be able to meet the needs of employees with MSDs, allowing them to continue working and prevent their condition getting worse, in addition to boosting engagement and productivity.

A musculoskeletal disorder may affect bones, joints or connective tissue – the most common of these conditions is arthritis. However, it is a common misnomer that this condition, and those like it, affect mainly elderly people. In fact, a study in 2011 showed that 37 per cent of those claiming Employment and Support Allowance reported an MSD as their primary health condition.

In 2012, the Taking the strain: the impact of musculoskeletal disorders report found over half of employed respondents reported a loss of earnings due to the condition. Three quarters of retired respondents said their condition had influenced their decision to retire, with the majority leaving the job market before the age of 55.

This wealth of research suggests that MSDs are of massive impact the workforce, with many sufferers citing lost earnings, a reduction in productivity at work and early retirement as consequences of this condition.

New MSD research

A new report published in autum 2014, entitled Self-management of chronic musculo-skeletal disorders and employment, explores the self management of MSD conditions. It found that employers often don’t go to the necessary lengths to ensure those suffering from an MSD can access the benefits of work. Social, economic and psychological benefits could enhance the health and wellbeing of staff and make sufferers more productive.

The report, by Kate Summers, Zofia Bajorek, Stephen Bevan, states: “Self-management can empower individuals with a better understanding of, and control over, their symptoms and provide them with the tools to ensure their condition is understood and accommodated by others.”

The study suggests that line managers need to be more aware of MSDs to ensure sufferers feel valued, and are well-integrated. Many MSD sufferers don’t seek support for their condition at work, for fear of being judged unable to properly do their jobs.

However, according to the new report, when line managers work with staff to develop mutually beneficial solutions those with MSD will see improved levels of wellbeing. In turn, this enables employers to benefit from improvements in engagement and enhanced levels of productivity.

If you’d like to talk about the effects of MSDs on your workforce’s productivity, speak to the team at OHBM today.


Health Surveillance Within Your Business

health surveillance

At OHBM we offer health surveillance programmes to help your business keeps its employees as healthy as possible. Health screening is important, because as an employer you have an obligation to ensure your business complies with statutory requirements like COSHH Regulations, HSE guidelines and more.

Why is health surveillance important for your business?

As recommended by the HSE you should screen individuals who are exposed through their work to known hazards. By doing this, you ensure your workforce stays fit and healthy, but ensure costs are kept to a minimum. Unnecessary screening means increased outlay for your business, and we are keen to avoid this.

When employees are fit and well they are more productive. When their employer takes and interest in their health, workers tend to feel a greater sense of well-being, and happier employees are great advocates for your business, allowing you to retain more staff.

OHBM’s health surveillance programmes

Our health surveillance programmes cover a wealth of potential issues, from hearing problems to lung-function tests. After a successful assessment, employees will be given a “fit certificate” which ensures your business is fulfilling its obligations to its employees and allows you to prove this to the HSE, or to your insurance company if it it required.

Our full list of programmes is as follows:

  • Audiometry (hearing tests)
  • Spirometry (lung function tests)
  • Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)
  • Skin surveillance
  • Medicals for night-shift workers
  • Driver medicals tailored to drivers of fork-lift trucks, company vehicles and more
  • Medicals for those working in a confined space or working at height
  • Food handler medicals
  • Display screen equipment assessment (DSE) and eyesight tests
  • Asbestos and/or lead medicals with an HSE-appointed doctor

For further information about health surveillance programmes for your business, speak to the team at OHBM today.

What Are Employers’ Responsibilities At The Work Christmas Party?

Christmas party

The office Christmas party is something most employers and employees look forward to, and with good reason, after all they are normally great fun, a chance for team bonding and more often than not improve staff morale. However without the correct forward planning, what should be a memorable and festive event could well turn out to be a complete disaster.

The reason for this is that there are laws and legislations that require employers to be responsible for their employees when on a work do, even if it is outside of normal working hours. Under these legislations, employers should be aware those they:

• Can be held liable for harm (under health and safety laws) or harassment caused to or by their employees, or for negligent acts of their employees.
• Have a responsibility for their staff’s actions, even outside normal working hours or outside of the normal working environment. Any social event organised by the employer is an ‘extension’ of the workplace – regardless of the place or time of the event
• Could fall foul of religious and possibly sexual discrimination laws. Since October 2010 the Equality Act continues to give protection from sexual harassment but now also gives protection to harassment on the basis of disability, age, gender reassignment, race/religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Drinking too much alcohol

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that alcohol is a big factor in Christmas party-related problems. There are some simple things you can do to try and prevent inappropriate behaviour at your Christmas party.

• If you are having a free bar, limit it so people don’t take advantage and have too much to drink – this lowers the risk of fights, accidents and harassment incidents.
• Try and find one or two staff who agree to stay sober, so that they can look out for any unwanted behaviours.
• Ensure that there are non-alcoholic options available
• Consider the needs of all attendees – Will workers be able to arrange childcare at the time of the party? Are there food requirements to meet all cultural needs? Have you taken into account physical support for any disabled staff? How will everyone get home?
• Tell staff what is expected of them and remind them of the disciplinary action should inappropriate be an issue.
• Inform all staff if they are expected in work, on time, the next day!

Christmas should be a happy time, so ensure your festivities allow it to stay that way.

OHBM At The CIPD Conference, Manchester

At Occupational Health Business Management, we were proud to exhibit at the CIPD Conference in Manchester on the 5th and 6th November.

The conference was a real success and we met some very interesting people there. Take a look at some of the images of our stand below:

CIPD conference CIPD conference

Thank you to all who attended CIPD Manchester

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to visit us at our stand, we’ll be seeing some of you again very soo. We’d also like to announce the winner of our prize draw.

Without further ado, let’s give a huge congratulations to…

Jessica Hannon, of Flint Bishop Solicitors

She has won an overnight stay at the Lakeside Hotel and Spa, on Lake Windermere, including a full English breakfast. Congratulations to her,  thank you to everyone who came to our stand and entered the draw.

Stay posted for information on our next conference.



Meet OHBM At The CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition Stand 425

At OHBM we’re pleased to announce we’ll be exhibiting at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. The event will take place on the 5th and 6th November 2014 at Manchester Central (formerly the GMEX). You’ll find us at stand 425 – and we’d love to meet you there.

If you’re developing a business, looking for ways to retain your talented workforce or get more of the right people on board, the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition is a must-visit event.

Event details:

Manchester Central (formerly GMEX), Petersfield, Manchester, M2 3GX

Wednesday 5 November: 09:00 – 17:00
Thursday 6 November: 09:00 – 16:30

Book your place at this esteemed HR industry event here.

In addition to the chance to meet the OHBM team and find out more about enhancing your occupational health strategy to make your business more productive, you’ll be treated to a number of illuminating speakers, including.

  • Adam Grant, from Wharton School of Business, Professor, and Author, ‘Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
  • Google’s Aimee O’Malley, Learning & Development Business Partner, Europe, Mid-East & Africa.
  • Alan Ovens, New Markets Director of CIPD
  • Amongst many others.

There will also be a series of seminars addressing key industry questions and issues, like “Creating Impact and Additional Revenue Through HR” and “Implementing Greater Performance Through Transformational Employee Engagement.”
It will certainly be a worthwhile day for developing businesses. We hope to see you there.

Is Your Business Doing Enough To Promote Screen Breaks?

Using screens in the workplace is associated with a wealth of problems, from neck, shoulder, arm and back pain to fatigue and eye strain. A high proportion of people who use display screen equipment in the workplace report aches, pains and general discomfort, and while the HSE says most of these conditions don’t indicate a serious problem, it makes sense to avoid them.

Employees who are taken care of and feel comfortable during the working day are much more likely to be productive. The key to working comfortably at a desk or in front of a screen lies in taking regular breaks, making staff change their posture rather than sitting in the same position day in day out.

A simple plan of action funded by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health could be an answer to this problem.

The industry body teamed up with Derby University academics to explore options that would encourage workers to take more breaks. They found that planning for breaks made the biggest change in screen workers’ behaviour.

During the study 195 people were split into groups. Group one was simply asked to take more breaks, group two told to draw up a plan for taking breaks, group three was given an hourly prompt from a buzzing device, while group four had a buzzer in addition to a formal break plan.

While the study found the buzzer didn’t increase break-taking by a significant amount, participants reported that the simple act of wearing the device encouraged them to get up more.

The key to enhanced break-taking seems to be the simple task of advanced planning. However, there were additional increases in taking postural breaks in offices where employees understood the benefits and were backed by senior management. There were also improvements when management made changes to the environment to support increased breaks.

If you like further information on break-taking and the benefits for screen workers, the OHBM team can help. Small changes to your workplace can lead to big improvements for your business.

Is Smartphone Use Causing Stress Within An “Always On” Culture?

Every year, 400,000 people in the UK claim work related stress is making them ill, according to Dr Alasdair Emslie, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine, as reported by the BBC. He says changes in technology are contributing to this stress. It’s not a surprise when you consider the “always-on” state many of us currently exist in, both in our work and personal lives.

Smartphones are a fantastic invention in many ways. They allow us to stay connected, do business from anywhere and everywhere and in theory increase our level of productivity. But is this “always connected” approach to business causing the work-life balance to go awry? Some experts think it is; that the increased demands of smartphone connectivity is making employees feel as though they’re unable to cope.

Increasing smartphone use

Ofcom reports that the amount of time we spend connected to media is rising. In fact, smartphones have caused our daily total media consumption to grow from 8 hours 48 minutes in 2010 to over 11 hours in 2014.

Many of us check our smartphones first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Three quarters of people are even reported to take their phones into the loo with them. Literally the only break from smartphones is sleep. Checking work emails and calls at all hours of the day isn’t giving employees the time and space they require to switch off, or spend time with their families or pursuing other interests.

Plus, according to a PwC report called The Future of Work – A Journey To 2022, we’re not working more productively even despite all of this extra data and connectivity.

The business consequences

If employees are expected to be constantly connected to their smartphones for work purposes, companies may well witness an increase in stress levels. Stress goes hand in hand with increased employee absenteeism, as well as unhealthy practices like drinking, smoking, and eating junk food.

On top of this, there is the problem of overworking. The European Working Time Directive caps the working week at 48 hours with an 11 hour break within every 24 hours. Employees won’t be operating under this legislation if they’re glued to their smartphones morning, noon and night.

Legislation and occupational health surrounding smartphone use is a serious issue for modern businesses – have you considered it carefully enough?

OHBM is a professional Manchester-based occupational health advisor. Please do get in touch with us for a free overview of your business’ occupational health.


Workplace Stress Can Increase The Amount Of Sickness-Related Absences

Stress in the workplace has the potential to increase employee absences and reduce productivity. And stress is a very common complaint in the UK, with psychological problems including stress behind 1/5th of GP visits.

Symptoms of stress are numerous, but may include:

  • Palpitations
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headaches
  • Strange Aches And Pains
  • Loss Of Appetite

It can also lead to unhealthy behaviours such as drinking, smoking, comfort eating and drug use – which are further damaging to health.

Did you know that good management practices can help reduce work-related stress? At OHBM we can help you implement these practices within your business.

Contact us now for a chat about your organisation and how we can help.