Colleagues at a Sheffield call centre are hoping to stand and deliver in an effort to improve their well-being and waistlines.
Desk-bound workers at Virgin Media in Attercliffe are taking part in a ground breaking experiment where they will work standing up for at least two hours per day.
It is hoped the 24 customer service agents who ditch their chairs will burn about 30,000 extra calories over the course of a year – the equivalent of more than half a stone of fat.
Prof John Buckley is the brains behind the operation and will lead a research team to investigate the impact of a less sedentary working environment on health, wellbeing and productivity.
Prof Buckley, of the University of Chester, said: “We know that sitting down for extended periods of time increases chances of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers and maybe even mental illnesses.
“Call centre workers are specifically required to sit down for long periods of time because of the nature of their work – they don’t have the flexibility to get up and move about.”
Special ‘sit-stand’ desks provided by Posturite are being introduced to the bustling call centre for the participants in the experiment. The kit – costing about £300 each – allows the workers to adjust the height of their desks from a sitting to a standing height in just a few seconds.
Prof Buckley said: “They’re inside all day, literally chained to a desk by the cable coming out of their headset and I can imagine that can be a little bit difficult.
“To give them a bit of freedom to get up and move about while they’re doing their work might make it more tolerable.
“The nature of their work means they may be dealing with grumpy customers and stressful situations. I will be interested to see whether this helps them.”
At the start of what will be the longest experiment of its kind, the human guinea pigs will have various tests to assess their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight and overall fitness.
These tests will be carried out again at the end of the experiment to see if there have been any improvements.
The results will inform future ways of working and the physical workplace environment within the whole of Virgin Media.
The experiment has come about following the launch of a campaign by the British Heart Foundation called On Your Feet.
The campaign aims to get office workers moving more after a poll revealed almost half of women and nearly two fifths of men spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work.
Maurice Daw, chief people officer for Virgin Media, said: “We are always looking for new ways to improve our people’s health and wellbeing.
“The results of previous studies are impressive and we are looking forward to working with the University of Chester to explore the longer term benefits achieved from this way of working.”
Get up stand up
Three colleagues have revealed why they are taking a stand at their desks. Kieran Robson, Stephen Keen and Kate Jarvis have worked at Virgin Media for a total of more than 20 years and have volunteered to take part in the experiment.
Stephen, aged 41, of Greenhill, Sheffield, said: “I’m really positive about it. For me, it’s about the cardiovascular benefits and getting the blood moving around my body. I’m trying to lose weight and I think it will help. I’ve been sitting at a desk in this job for ten years so the thought of standing up instead is exciting. I sit for eight hours a day and I drive everywhere – so I’m basically sitting down for 12 hours a day. Even if you’re moving from foot to foot it’s something – you are moving.”
Kieran, 38, of Lundwood, Barnsley, said: “Normally, I’m spending a seven-and-a-half hour day in total sitting down. Before working here I worked in a factory and I will be interested to go back to standing up again. I think it will be a bit strange at first, to be honest, but we will get used to it.”
Kate, aged 26, of Herringthorpe, in Rotherham, said: “I’m trying to get a bit fitter and like most girls it’s about burning more calories, losing weight and feeling the health benefits. I think we’ll feel more awake and more energetic – plus I won’t get a numb bum! We are looking forward to it.”
24 - number of Virgin Media workers taking part in the experiment
30,000 - number of calories burned in a year by standing up for two to three hours at work
8 - number of pounds of fat that could potentially be burned per person over a year
900 - number of employees based at Virgin Media’s Sheffield branch
45 - percentage of women who spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work
37 - percentage of men who spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work