Jobs that require workers to stand for much of their workday are potentially just as harmful as jobs where employees do a lot of sitting. Employees in the medical field, schoolteachers, sales professionals, retail workers, food industry workers, pharmacy workers, clerks and cashiers, and other standing employees spend a lot of time on their feet. That could spell trouble for their health. Promoting a healthier workplace environment for your standing employees could mean better productivity for your business and fewer health complaints from your workers – meaning less sick time off. As an employer, you want to do all you can to help your standing employees stay healthy and on their feet.
How can working in a standing position impact your employees’ health?
The impact of prolonged standing on your workers will depend on how much they’re required to stand at work and how often they can take breaks or change positions.
Some standing work positions limit how much a worker can move or which body positions they’re able to assume. When an employee’s movement is restricted, they’re more likely to have health complaints.
Staying upright for longer lengths of time requires more effort than you might think. It also reduces circulation and blood flow to the muscles needed to exert that effort. In turn, the reduced blood flow means your workers will tire and fatigue more easily and get sore more quickly, particularly in the muscles needed to remain upright, i.e., the legs, neck, and back.
They’re also likely to experience swollen legs and feet and painful varicose veins as blood collect in their legs. The joints often become stiff and locked in the hips, spine, feet, and knees. Over time, the constant immobility can cause the ligaments and tendons to degenerate.
In a worst-case scenario, prolonged, continuous standing on a regular basis can also contribute to cardiovascular problems.
The key is preventing these issues and finding ways to improve workplace conditions that promote better health among standing employees.
5 Ways Employers Can Help Standing Employees
While standing employees are ultimately responsible for their own health, employers can help their workers while on the job. Improving the workplace and giving workers opportunities to change positions can benefit the health of standing employees.
Here are five things you can do:
Implement a training program to educate standing employees. Standing workers don’t often realize the direct impacts of being on their feet. Consider bringing in an occupational therapist or another qualified health professional to advise workers on proper footwear and posture, avoidance of unnecessary strain, proper lifting, movement, and standing techniques, and other sound workplace practices they feel are beneficial. Educating your employees also puts some of the responsibility on them, encouraging them to take charge of their health.
Install appropriate floors for standing workers. Metal and concrete floors are bad for employees who work on their feet all day. Rubber-covered floors or wooden or cork surfaces are better. You’ll also want to ensure that all floors in the workplace are level and not conducive to slipping. Anti-fatigue mats with slanted edges are also good to put where employees do much of their standing.
Allow and encourage rest periods for standing employees. Breaks and rest periods are important and allow workers to move around. Movement and walking, in particular, help get the blood flowing and counter the impacts of continuous standing. Some employers go as far as to have a fitness room for workers to exercise. Others have a lounge where workers are able to lay down for a while and put their feet up. Some have both options to give their employees greater freedom to choose what will help them at various points throughout the day.
Have workplace aids to reduce strain on standing workers.If possible, provide your worker with a workspace that allows some room for movement and the ability to change body positions. This might mean installing portable footrests that allow an employee to shift their body weight from one leg to another. Standing workers tend to lean on one side or another, putting added weight on one side of the body. Having a chair or seat nearby so a worker can switch positions from time to time is also a good idea. An occupational therapist can also make other suggestions to help improve work areas.
Provide a circulation booster for workers taking rest breaks.A circulation-boosting product such as Revitive increases leg circulation and blood flow. What’s more, Revitive is an FDA-cleared medical device that can help decrease pain, cramps, tiredness, aching, and swelling in the feet and legs. Some employers find that having a Revitive booster available for workers to use in the break room encourages its use and increases employee performance, comfort, and long-term health.