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Recommendations to office workers from a doctor who faces spinal diseases on a daily basis

Back in 2015, an international group of experts developed instructions for people working in the office, mainly sitting in front of a computer. There is still no competent translation of this guide, but I tried to summarize it. Perhaps this will be interesting for employers who are sincerely worried about their subordinates, or who are happy to improve their efficiency.

The main rule, repeatedly mentioned in these recommendations: employees should spend at least 2 hours a day on their feet during working hours. According to the Soviet hygiene rules, people who spend the working day in a sitting position should ideally spend at least four hours on their feet, but in this guideline, experts have established a minimum time, less than which an employee simply should not be on his feet: "two hours of walking or standing". This recommendation was published as part of a set of clinical recommendations published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, intended for employers and office workers, and is aimed at neutralizing health risks that occur during prolonged sedentary work in the office.

“Office workers usually spend 65-75% of their working time in a sitting position, of which more than 50% is the usual forced position at the computer. Modern studies show that a simple behavioral solution to this problem can be a recommendation to increase the motor activity of these people during their working day”, the authors of the clinical guidelines write. A growing number of studies link a sedentary lifestyle, including time spent on sedentary work, with an increased risk of developing a number of serious diseases and an increase in mortality. Such diagnoses as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer are much more common in people with a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity.

According to retrospective studies, increasing mobility and reducing the time spent in a sitting position can reduce these risks. Based on these studies, the authors of the clinical guidelines formulated their recommendations. What is interesting: we all know that there are a large number of professions that involve sedentary work for more than four hours a day (hospital staff, teachers, retail workers, employees of public catering networks, etc.), but it is office workers, including state employees have the maximum harm from physical inactivity, and the new guideline is primarily aimed at protecting their health, " the authors conclude.

The main recommendations contained in the new guideline for the organization of work of office workers are as follows:

At least two hours a day, the employee must be on his feet (standing or walking).

Prolonged standing still should also be avoided, as it is also harmful to health.

Employers should inform employees about the dangers of excessively long stay in a sitting or stationary standing position.

Employers should also promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle: a balanced diet and smoking cessation.

All of the above can be painlessly implemented in our country. But in their recommendations, the researchers went further: one of the important tips in the guideline is the requirement to legislate these norms and fine the employer for non-compliance with these instructions. And since the beginning of 2017, in two Western European countries, exceeding the terms of sedentary work entails penalties for the employer. In those countries, there is a growing interest in changing the working environment, in order to get away from a long sedentary lifestyle. Many companies now provide office furniture that allows you to both sit and stand at work at an office desk or computer, allowing the employee not to break away from his business when changing the position of the body. Despite the fact that a number of companies have already started investing in these changes and creating a more active environment for their employees, many companies ignore these useful reforms. The essence of the new clinical guidelines is to bring these efforts to a common denominator.

The group warns, however, that simply replacing furniture in the workplace may not be enough to achieve the desired level of physical activity. These changes should not be superficial, indicative, and should not be a “passing hobby” - the authors of the guideline believe.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Balkovoy 

Spine neurosurgeon