The Effects of When You Sit All Day

These days, employers want to ‘know’ that their employees are working and doing their jobs, which typically equates to having butts in the seat. Leaders can ‘see’ what workers are doing and feel more confident that the work is getting done. This usually means these workers are sitting all day, not leaving their seats or station for long.

Some office environments foster this, such as call centers, quiet or bureaucratic offices, or anyone who works in cube nation. Work needs to be done, and sitting is typically involved, but there are effects from doing so, especially for long periods of time.


Studies have been done on what happens to our bodies when we sit, especially if it’s over 6 hours a day:

  • the chance of getting heart disease rises, which can be up to 64%
  • your at risk for developing diabetes and high cholesterol
  • you may see that you are putting on more weight
  • your muscles lose tone  (healthline, 2015)

The more you read, the more depressing the news becomes. But there is a deeper issue underneath from sitting – what it does to the emotional level. Over time, I’ve seen individuals who feel hostage to the desk. They become afraid to get up and walk around, or taking a break. This particularly affects individuals who are creatives or extroverted and need to be around others. Soon, resentment starts to kick in.

Sitting all day can feel isolating; loneliness is an increasing epidemic. As technology increases, social connectedness is declining. Making in-person interactions continues to decline as the ease of sending a text or email, or through a social media platform, seems to be the preferred way to communicate.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, 40% or more Americans report feeling lonely, with CEO’s being part of the statistics (Murthy, 2017). People just aren’t connecting in-person. I have had many clients over the years who report that they can’t find friends, either in their personal life or their work. Some don’t feel included or that they fit in. Feeling lonely at work leads to withdrawal, lackluster performance and disengagement. Sadness and anxiety also kick in as the realization of isolation and being lonely arise. It’s not a good place for many who are in this space.

So what is the solution? The answer is twofold: from both the employer and the employee perspective as to how to handle deal and turn this around. It’s not just one side who is responsible:

For the employee who sits and resents:

  • change your thoughts  – since you can’t change the process set in place, you have to change how you think about the situation as you can either look at it from a victim mentality or from a ‘what it is’ viewpoint. Negativity only breed negativity so focus on what are the positives of the job (you have at least one!) and what you appreciate about the work you do to change stinkin’ thinkin’
  • take breaks – you can sit at your desk and mentally take a break; close your eyes and breathe for two minutes, is one suggestion, as it will lower your heart rate and blood pressure and is a great brain energizer. You can stand up and walk around you chair, or do some stretches in your chair to reactivate your brain and body.
  • go outside on your lunch, or breaks – getting fresh air calms the body as you take in oxygen, opening the red blood cells which stops the stress chemicals from taking hold. Stand by a tree to get more oxygen; sit in the sun to get more vitamin D; take a walk to release endorphins. All of these relieve stress and help you to feel ready to face the rest of the day.
  • accept what is or move on – the only person who can change the situation is you, so you either can do one of three things: 1) have a conversation with your boss to see if you can have more movement; 2) accept the job as it is – after all, you chose it; or 3) find another job that suits your needs ensuring you do needed research before you accept another job (or make the decision).

For employers:

Pay attention to your employees and the length of time they are sitting at their desks and how it relates to performance/mood. You have the power to change or amend a policy, so review them to determine if changes need to be made to allow more breaks or that workers won’t be penalized for moving around. Plan activities that allow for movement or gets employees out of their seats. Change the work environment to add fun into the mix as this lessons resentful feelings and lightens the mood so work can be focused on and done. Be appreciative of your employees and let them know this, and often, as this can lead to more engagement.

As stated earlier, be sure to research a job before you accept to see if aligns with your style of working. You will save yourself, and the employer, a world of misery. It is possible to exist in this type of environment while not feeling hostage to it. The choice is yours to make but following the steps above can help.

If you’re unhappy in your job, let’s talk. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re a leader and want to turn your environment into a happier and more productive place, we have solutions for you, as well.



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