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Get up, stand up Virgin Media stands up for health in groundbreaking standing experiment

John Buckley, professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester, is leading a research team to uncover the impact of a less sedentary working environment on health, wellbeing and productivity. 

Two groups of contact centre agents at the Sheffield centre – where 900 people are employed by Virgin Media – have volunteered to use adjustable sit-stand desks and stay on their feet for a minimum of two hours each day. The first group will use the adjustable height desks for six months, and the second group (the cross-over control group) for the next six months.

The move has been triggered by reports that highlight the increasingly sedentary lifestyles led by UK office workers. The evidence suggests that sitting for long periods of time can result in increased risks of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses.

Previous short-term studies have calculated that a person could burn around 30,000 extra calories per year, which equates to half a stone of fat (8lbs), simply by standing for two to three hours a day at work.

Professor Buckley’s team will perform ongoing tests to determine the health and productivity benefits and the results will inform future ways of working and the physical workplace environment within Virgin Media.

Buckley explained,“The simple act of standing for even as little as two hours per day can increase muscle activity to have a significantimpact on health and wellbeing. This unprecedented study with Virgin Media will allow us gain a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits working on your feet can have on health and performance.” 

Maurice Daw, chief people officer for Virgin Media, commented, “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.”

Provided by Posturite, the desks are adjustable, making it possible to sit or stand throughout the day. In parallel with the Sheffield experiment, Virgin Media is also making a number of sit-stand desk units available at various sites across the country for employees to trial.

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