Tag: health

Sitting is the new smoking

Recently it was widely reported in the media that all employees at Apple’s new spaceship-style headquarters in Cupertino, California would be getting desks that give them the option of working sitting or standing – a trend that is rapidly catching on in South African offices too.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that rapidly increasing numbers of their clients are asking for new desk installations that can accommodate workers who prefer to mix up the work day by standing and sitting.

“In the past year we have had a nearly 50% rise in demand for desks that give office workers the choice of sitting or standing,” says Andrews.

He adds that the financial services and insurance industries in South Africa in particular have jumped on the trend, with some firms replacing the workstations for every staff member.

“The return in efficiency in having staff that are able to adjust their posture at the push of a button, has more than outweighed the capital expenditure. In our experience height adjustable workstations are a simple way to provide for the well-being of an organisation’s most valuable asset – its people.”

Sitting all day is seen by health professionals the world over as the new smoking. Sitting is killing people slowly by taking a huge physical and mental toll on the mind and body. Often workers sit for eight to ten hours a day which is a dangerous habit.

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time contributes to risk of metabolic syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, heart attack and stroke risk and overall death risk, among others. Those who sit a great deal also have lower life expectancies and slower metabolism.

Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health in Australia, found that sitting for 11 or more hours per day increased risk of death by 40%, regardless of other activity levels.

“People mistakenly think they can shrug off the effects of a long day by hitting the gym after work but you can’t,” Andrews warns.

So how can office workers protect themselves?

1) Ask for a standing desk and set it to the right height. “There really is no need to stand all day. Ideally though, at least every other hour, workers should work standing for an hour,” Andrews advises.

2) Office laps. Talking a walk around the office or even outside if time permits helps combat the strains of sitting. Try and walk at least every hour.

3) Active meetings. “Most meetings are too long anyway. Taking a loop around the block while talking to colleagues will get the circulation going and shorten the meeting.”

4) Desk exercises. Stretching your arms and legs at your desk are a simple way to keep moving even while you’re seating. Arms reaching for the sky and extending legs forwards help improve circulation.

5) Set reminders. Increasingly smart watches can detect if the wearer has been sitting too long and sends an alert to the user to get up and move around. “Alternately a colleague buddy system of reminders is a good way to remind yourself to get up move every hour,” says Andrews.

He adds the typical sit/stand desk look exactly the same as normal desks but come fitted with a lever or button on the side. All workers need to do is simply flip the lever and adjust the desk to a comfortable standing height and the reverse to set it back to sitting desk level.

Wellness at work is a increasingly dominant theme in any discussion about the workplace but for many it’s a broad buzzword without much science behind it.

But Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says that thanks to a new research project called Wellness Together carried out by Sapio Research and that included 1 000 respondents, it is clear that productivity, creativity and profitability can be affected by employee conditions.

“The survey provides evidence of strong correlations between people feeling good about their workplace and a positive outcome for business. To achieve true ‘wellness’ attention must be given to every component that can impact mental and physical health.

“This means building structures, company cultures and of course also furniture and fittings because all these factors fit together and are important to people and the businesses they work for.”

Trim notes that the survey evaluated 6 key attributes of wellness in the workplace:

1. Movement

Musculoskeletal problems, namely those related to the back, neck and upper limbs, account for the second biggest reason for absenteeism from the workplace – after colds. “High performing companies are more likely to have facilities that allow people to adjust their work station to best suit them. This can mean anything from the height of the desk to having the option to sit or stand while working. It is important to move around and change environments every so often. This helps prevent dips in concentration, and could help prevent back and neck problems.”

2. Lighting

Harsh or overly bright lighting is considered a far greater distraction for employees that low level or soft lighting. “Yet lighting systems that have the ability to change their colour tone as the day progresses are the least common features in an office,” Trim notes.

“Having glare control and variable lighting is found to be a strong characteristic of more profitable businesses. Human-centric lighting is a major benefit to the most successful organisations.”

Lighting that responsive to circadian rhythms is the next major trend expected in lighting technology.

3. Personal storage

The survey revealed that personal storage at work is a contentious issue. “Increasingly people are bring more things, and often more expensive things, to the workplace,” says Trim. “Gym gear, tech, and sometimes cycling gear all needs to be stored somewhere throughout the day. Banks of personal lockers are becoming a standard facility in big cities overseas and we expect that trend to catch on South Africa too.”

Trim added that the survey also showed that despite the trend towards hot desking, the majority of people in study (53%) stilled wanted their own desk. “But these days fewer people have their own desks. But giving all employees – whether permanent or mobile – individual storage, as well as providing office storage, will help them maintain a sense of control, belonging and a sense of well being.”

4. Noise and acoustics

Shrieking laughter, loud conversations and traffic are distracting. And being listened to on the phone is annoying.

“Providing quiet working spaces is one of the most important characteristics of companies that consider themselves to be innovative, creative or simply focused,” says Trim. “Quiet work spaces are one of the biggest differentiators between high and low performing companies according to the survey.”

But Trim also notes that is also important for businesses to offer areas where staff can talk openly and discuss ideas. “Having the choice is extremely important.”

5. Air quality

Not only is fresh air the single most successful way in mitigating dips in concentration, but the survey showed it to be one of the most differentiating factors of the most productive and innovative companies. “Good quality ventilation and air movement is therefor a vital characteristic of a healthy office,” says Trim.

6. Staff empowerment

“Companies can make their staff feel empowered in a host of ways and this can have significant outcomes for business,“ Trim notes.

“The act of consulting with staff, and letting them have a say on their environment, is a major differentiator between high and low performing companies. This suggests that consulting with employees on issues of importance will lead to greater profitability.”

Trim cautioned however that employees won’t necessarily choose the factors that are prevalent in profitable companies without guidance and awareness of the implications of different choices. The role of an expert guiding staff choice is therefore essential.

The dark side of blue light

By Sam Upton for Two Sides

There’s a question that’s been asked since the early beginnings of digital communication over 30 years ago.

That question has been the focus of many debates, discussions, articles and research papers, as well as arguments between billions of parents and their children all over the world. It’s preoccupied governments, academics, companies, organisations and brands, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. The question is simple: Is digital harming our health?

The amount of digital information that’s being created, consumed and shared every day is staggering. In just one minute of an average day, Google receives over 4 000 000 search queries, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video, Facebook users share 2 460 000 pieces of content, and Apple users download 48 000 apps. By the time you will have finished reading this article, those numbers will have increased further.

All this content consumption brings with it a host of potential health issues for the user. Anxiety, depression, addiction, isolation, narcissism, all are becoming more and more common, particularly amongst the young. And while the mental strain is certainly troubling, there are also physical issues linked to excessive computer use, such as vision impairment, neck strain, hearing loss and insomnia. While it’s undoubtedly a channel that solves a lot of modern-day problems, it also creates a few.

With the debate around the consumption of digital media getting louder, Two Sides commissioned a global survey in June 2017, which asked over 10,700 consumers in ten countries about their attitudes to digital and print media, and how worried they are about the amount of time they spend on digital devices. What they found was a clear concern about digital media and a desire to ‘switch off’ and enjoy print more.

When asked if they are concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health, 46% of UK consumers agreed, while 47% agreed that they spend too much time on digital devices. While these results are intriguing in that they go against the modern assumption that people prefer digital, it’s when we delve deeper into the demographics that things start to get really interesting.

Looking at the different age groups for each question, you’d expect the younger demographic to be more at ease with digital, relaxed with their exposure to online media. But 74% of 18-24 year-olds stated that they spend too much time on electronic devices, compared to 48% of 35-44 year-olds and 29% of those 55 and over. Meanwhile, when asked if they were concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health, 58% of 18-24 year-olds and 67% of 25-34 year-olds agreed.

With results such as these, it’s clear that people are becoming more and more concerned about the amount of digital content they consume. Social media, plus online video, news, shopping and reading take up a large amount of our day, an amount that’s increasing every year. The most recent IPA Touchpoints data shows that the average UK adult will spend almost eight hours a day consuming media – of that, 2.5 hours is spent on social media and a further 2.1 on the internet.

There are a number of reasons why people should be concerned about the amount of digital content they consume. The most obvious is that too much screen time at night disrupts sleep patterns. The blue light emitted by tablet, smartphone and e-reader screens suppresses the level of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, making sleep more difficult, which can lead to more serious health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Harvard University neuroscientist Anne-Marie Chang recently compared the effects of reading on a light-emitting device compared with a printed book, and found a marked difference in the sleep patterns of the two sets of people. “Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep and had higher alertness before bedtime than those people who read printed books,” she explains. “We also found that after an eight-hour sleep episode, those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up.”

On a more anthropological level, neurologists have discovered that too much time spent online can rewire the human brain to prioritise sensation over thought, stimulating the reward mechanism and the production of dopamine – basically encouraging us to behave like gamblers. This mindset means that people addicted to screens are hard-wired to seek sensations and avoid boredom to such an extent that, a 2014 study for Science magazine found, many people would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.

But all is not lost. The adverse health effects of too much digital content can be countered by the simple action of reading a print publication. Indeed, it appears that the respondents to the Two Sides survey already know this, with 69% agreeing that it’s important to ‘switch off’ and enjoy printed books and magazines, a figure that doesn’t vary significantly across the age groups.

So print, which is kinder on our eyes, brains and sleep patterns, could be an effective cure for those suffering from digital overload.

To download the global report, as well as the Key Findings from the UK survey, go to www.twosides.info/Survey2017

No, the debate over the risks of cell phone radiation isn’t over yet. The US National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program has published details of draft studies which suggest that normal cell phone radiation levels aren’t harmful to humans. The research subjected rats to very high levels of RF radiation at 2G and 3G cellular frequencies, and produced results where there was no clear pattern of harm even at the exaggerated radiation levels.

In one study, some male rats subjected to the radiation did develop cancer tumors around their hearts. But the female rats didn’t, and neither sex suffered symptoms in another study. And then there’s the truly odd data. Both newborn rats and their mothers had reduced weight but grew to normal sizes, and exposed rats lived longer than those that hadn’t. And these are at exposure rates that are “much higher” than the current cell phone safety standard, the Food and Drug Administration said.

In its comments on the study, the FDA stressed that the study didn’t translate neatly to typical human experiences beyond the exposure levels. Rats are clearly much smaller than humans, so they’re enduring that intense radiation across their entire bodies where a human might only deal with those levels near their ears or thighs. This didn’t include 4G frequencies, either, so any risk that was there might not have been present with an LTE connection.

Things aren’t entirely set in stone yet. There will need to be finished studies with outside reviews that might interpret the findings differently or prompt follow-ups. However, the early data illustrates exactly why there’s no firm proclamation on the safety of cell phones. Lab tests can only tell you so much, and long-term tests tend to provide ambiguous, incomplete results. These latest studies mostly imply that there’s no obvious short-term effect.

By Jon Fingas for Engadget

Sitting is bad for your health

Spending those long hours sitting in the same fixed posture at a desk is doing your body no good and may even be causing long term damage; but the growing adoption of height adjustable desks in South Africa may prove the antidote.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says people weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day.

“But we’re seeing growing demand for sit stand desks from our clients in South Africa. Giving workers the choice of adjusting the height of a desk can make a big difference helping people to work more healthily and productively as well as relieving back and joint discomfort.”

Importance of movement and variation

“While a good quality office chair offers great comfort and support, it can only go so far. As a result it’s always a good idea to get up out of your chair regularly through the day,” noted Andrews.

In reality what often happens is we get involved with our work and end up sitting far too long until the aches and pains set in and force us to move.

The beauty of sit and stand working is it allows you to work in a wide variety of postures that can’t be achieved while sitting.

“It helps to make for a far more natural way of working. And by taking note of our body’s signals of fatigue and stress all that’s needed is a change of work position. This wide variation of movement keeps the body more active and healthy,” says Andrews.

Benefits to office workers

Variable height desk workers often report significant benefits when changing from straight sitting all day to this more flexible working method:

• It keeps them in better shape physically
• It helps to control weight as additional activity burns off excess calories
• An ability to focus and concentrate more effectively
• A greater level of energy
• Feeling more engaged in their work
• A much wider variety of positions, many of which can’t be achieved with a chair
• Less aches and pains through being more active

A recent study shows the long-term harm of prolonged sitting. The American Cancer Society undertook a study of 120 000 people with no prior history of serious illness.

It discovered mortality rates rose by 37% for women and 18% for men who worked more than 6 hours a day sitting, when compared to those sitting for less than 3 hours a day.

How to fight back against sitting

“There is a fundamental difference between the pressures on the body when sitting and standing,” says Andrews. “When standing, your body’s weight is spread through the hips, knees and ankles. Prolonged sitting inflicted undue pressure on the back’s discs. A standing position reduces pressure on your back and allows weight to be carried via the legs.”

A study carried out by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory at Cornell University found computer users noticed a marked decrease in musculoskeletal pain after only 4 to 6 weeks of working at a height adjustable desk.

Dr. Delgado, a Cape Town based Chiropractor, has advised that we also need to establish a healthy work pattern. As a rule of thumb, every 30 minutes of work should be spent as follows:

· 20 minutes sitting
· 8 minutes standing
· 2 minutes moving / stretching

Says Andrews: “Although this way of working is radically different to a conventional office desk, it’s clear there is little problem to adapting to it for new users. In fact as the work position is so easy to alter it makes it very simple to pace yourself and adapt to the new way of working at a rate that suits you. However people should always have the choice and work in the way that is most comfortable for them.”

Sick leave in business requires effective management; its mismanagement or abuse can be detrimental to any company in terms of financial and employee performance.

A dictionary definition of sick leave is “an absence from work permitted because of illness and the number of days per year for which an employer agrees to pay employees who are sick”.

According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) an employee is – during every sick leave cycle – entitled to paid sick leave equal to the number of days the employee would normally work during a period of six weeks.

The provisions for sick leave do not apply to:

• Employees who work less than 24 hours a month
• Employees who receive compensation for an occupational injury or disease
• Leave over and above that provided for by the Act.

The BCEA prescribes that in the case of standard employment i.e. a 5-day working week, the employee would be entitled to 30 days paid sick leave during each sick leave cycle.

A sick leave cycle is calculated from the date of engagement up to the 3rd anniversary of that date; in other words, for employees with a 5-day working week an employee is entitled to 30 days sick leave every 3 years. This sick leave does not accumulate from cycle to cycle, after each cycle. All unused sick leave is forfeited.

It is important to understand that sick leave is given by statute as an entitlement; it does not accrue. It is also a form of contingency, so if, even early in their service, an employee requires extended sick leave, the whole thirty days may be taken. In the event that the employee leaves, the employer cannot claim the sick leave back.

However, the BCEA makes provision for this, by limiting paid sick leave during the first six months of employment to 1 day for every 26 days worked. The employer may thus draft the employment contract with this provision, whereafter the three year cycle will commence from day 1, month 7.

It should be noted that the BCEA protects the employer and makes provision for the employer to require proof of illness or injury when an employee has taken sick leave.

If, however, the employee has been absent from work for more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period and the employee is unable to provide a medical certificate on the employer’s request, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the absence. The medical certificate substantiates a claim for paid sick leave.

This is applicable to most industries with some variations in industries regulated by bargaining councils, sectoral determinations or other agreement regulated by law.

The Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council Sick Pay Fund (MIBFA) provides for additional sick pay-benefits for each completed day of absence from work through illness and injury which is in excess of the paid sick leave entitlement. Additional sick-pay benefits are payable at a rate of 50% of the weekly earnings of a member for each completed week of absence from work.

Furthermore where a member’s absence from work is not a complete week, sick-pay benefits shall be calculated PRO-RATA for each complete day of absence. This amount is payable up to maximum of 30 weeks. In other words, once an employee’s 30 days paid sick leave has been depleted he/she is entitled to 50% of their wages paid by MIBFA up to a maximum of 30 weeks.

Although little has changed in terms of sick leave regulation (since the minimum was changed from 10 days per year to 30 days in 3 years in 1997), Human Capital Management (HCM) and HR experts are concerned about the efficiency with which this facet of HR management is being handled.

The issues

Nicol Myburgh, head of HR Business Unit at HR and HCM specialist services provider CRS Technologies, says many employers either grant sick leave and never follow up to obtain a medical certificate or grant sick leave indefinitely without capturing and tracking this on a system to ensure availability of leave before granting it.

“Another mistake employers make is accepting a medical certificate as proof for sick leave without making sure if the employee was actually “booked off” for the full period of absence,” says Myburgh.

Again CRS Technologies points to the BCEA and specifically the clause which states that the medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or any other person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients, and who is registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament.

Another issue is that sick leave entitlement poses a risk to employers, Myburgh explains.

The key message from CRS Technologies is only an employee who is too sick to work, may claim paid sick leave. If the employer is in a position to prove that the employee was not sick, disciplinary steps may be taken against the employee.

“Sick leave abuse is difficult to determine and prove, and many factors should be considered before an employer makes a claim of sick leave abuse for instance. The amount of time taken for each absence, the specific days that are taken (the day before or after a weekend or public holiday) or any inconsistencies for each staff member should be taken in to account, says Myburgh.

BTS back problems

Another study involving children shows that heavy backpacks could be causing them a number of health problems.

Doctors have said kids should not carry more than 10% of their body weight.

One parent said his kids’ bags tend to weigh anywhere from 4,5kg to 13,6kg. That’s closer to 50% of a child’s weight.

“It puts a tremendous amount of stress, postural stress, gravitational stress on the neck, upper back, shoulders, muscles, joints, so it’s a pretty common problem,” says Dr. Dan Davidson, a practicing chiropractor.

Davidson also says that in the long term, the strain can cause posture problems for kids. Constantly staring down at electronic devices is causing a trend of back problems.

Source: www.abc27.com

Representing the South African portion of a global industry that has witnessed astonishing growth over the last 10 years, the Health Products Association of South Africa (HPASA) has undergone a brand refresh and developed a new market positioning strategy in a bid to prepare itself for a growing number of industry needs.

Consumer demand for health products is unabating, with the worldwide industry set to reach a value of $1-trillion by next year. And, says HPASA president Bruce Dennison, “Despite heavy regulations, the local industry continues to grow. It’s estimated to be worth over R8-billion, and is experiencing annual growth of 13,5%.”

The HPA’s strategy includes a new logo, a new info-heavy Web site, and the rollout of a marketing plan to drive consumer trust as well as improve product safety and efficacy.

Launched in 1976, the HPASA has long been at the forefront of championing quality standards and acting as a voice on all legislative and regulatory issues, in the natural health products, nutritional dietary supplements and complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) industries. The industry body represents a broad spectrum of stakeholders including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, practitioners and more.

While acknowledging that they’ve had to deal with counterfeit, poor-quality and adulterated herbal products that can compromise consumer safety, Dennison says that the HPASA intends to rectify the distorted perception that the CAMs industry is reluctant to regulate. Pointing out that law needs to be rooted in data and insight, and be appropriate in nature to address real issues, he adds.

“We’re committed to not only fulfilling a meaningful role in developing appropriate regulation, but also improving our relationships with the Department of Health, and media, consumer groups and associated bodies in South Africa.”

The HPASA’s new Web site provides the latest insight, analysis and data on health products and CAMs. Registered members have access to the very latest in legal, regulatory and research documents, presentations, papers and journals on production, manufacturing, distribution, standards and ethics.

“With growth comes a continual new set of challenges that not only the association needs to address, but that our members need to be adequately informed to handle,” says Dennison. “We believe our readily available, well-resourced Web site will provide that information, complemented by our monthly meetings in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.”

Don’t let your desk do you in

Long hours, slouching, slumping, and straining can dominate the office. Clean up your act around the computer, before bad habits lead to poor health.

Here are five ways to make sure your computer desk doesn’t become the death of you.

  1. Give your monitor a second look
    If your screen is planted directly on your desktop, it’s time to ask management for a raise — for your computer’s display. According to Dr. Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, the top of your the screen should be level with your eyes. The ideas is to get the eyes looking down about 10 degrees. If it’s any lower or higher, computer users will adapt to it by moving their head. If your screen is to low, your head points down, causing neck and back aches. High displays, meanwhile, contribute to dry eye syndrome.
  2. Poor posture? Take it on the chin
    Poor posture is something that every office-based employee should consider throughout their day. Most people sitting at a computer get drawn into the screen, which means they crane their necks forward. This imbalance puts strain on the neck and spine. It’s like holding a bowling ball with one hand, says Dr. James Bowman, of Portland, Ore.-based Solutions Chiropractic. If your arm is vertical underneath, it puts less strain on the muscles, but lean that ball forward and your muscles have to compensate to keep it aloft. Sitting at a desk, that bowling ball is actually our head, so Bowman recommends chin retractions, or making a double chin, to keep the neck and spine lined up underneath.
    “It’s probably the most effective single exercise you can do for the upper back and neck,” he says.
  3. Stand up for yourself
    The modern workplace was built around the concept of sitting, but humans’ ability to stand goes back millions of years. Buck the trend of the office era with a standing desk — or, if that’s too radical, a sit-stand workstation. According to research out of the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, sit-stand workstations helped workers replace 25% of their sitting time with standing up, which can increase their sense of well being and decreased their fatigue and appetite. The Jarvis Desk can go from 26-inches to 51-inches at the push of a button, lifting up to 350 pounds of whatever’s on your desk—including multiple monitors.
    “I definitely feel healthier standing while working as it causes me to be more focused on my posture and ‘hold’ myself better in terms of my stomach and shoulders especially,” says Dan McCormack, who uses a Jarvis Desk at his home office in Austin, Texas.
  4. Move it or lose it
    But why stand when you could walk? Many offices around the country are getting wise to treadmill desks, which can help workers burn 100 calories more per hour over sitting, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.
    “The most important thing is to switch it up and work in different positions throughout the day,” says Emily Couey, Eventbrite’s vice president of people. The online event ticketing service offers multiple workspace options including traditional sitting desks, standing desks, and treadmill desks, which Couey says “people love, because it allows them move while they work — especially those with fitness trackers counting their daily steps.”
  5. Pace yourself
    All work and no play makes Jack a bad employee. Whether it’s on their phone in the bathroom or on the computer in their cube, everyone takes sanity breaks to check their Facebook or read some news. The Pomodoro Technique even encourages this kind of behavior by breaking tasks into “pomodoros,” intense 25 minute work bursts, followed by five-minute breaks. Named because they can be measured using little tomato-shaped kitchen timers (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), this method lets people work intensely and stave off distraction, yet rewards them with time to goof off, as well. If you don’t have a tomato timer handy, there are a lot of apps online to keep track of your sessions. But Francesco Cirillo, the technique’s founder, recommends using the real deal.

By John Patrick Pullen for www.motto.time.com

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