There is a silent menace wreaking havoc on employees’ mental and physical performance in offices across the world: poor posture.

While it’s unlikely that managers look at their employees’ slouched shoulders and connect the action with a missed deadline or a sick day later in the week, poor posture is the cause for many debilitating factors that can hinder work performance. With a vast number of employees in the workforce today who spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk, followed by a long commute home slumped in their cars or over a cell phone or laptop, necks, shoulders and backs around the world are crying out for a bit of relief.  

While it might not seem obvious how to pinpoint poor performance to slumped shoulders, there are three telltale signs that your company might be suffering from a posture problem.

Your Employees Aren't Confident

In a workplace environment, a person’s mind, mood, and self-esteem can all be drivers in delivering a solid performance -- and are all easily impacted by posture. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard social psychologist, addressed in her TED Talk how strong power poses -- head up and shoulders back -- release cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, the hormone that’s linked to stress and confidence levels, can be immensely impacted by just the tiniest changes in habits -- like a shift in posture.

In the office, these cortisol levels impacted by posture can also alter a worker’s confidence in their workplace skills. One study from the Ohio State University determined that when slouching at work, employees are less likely to feel confident in their qualifications and skillset for the job at hand. Ultimately, workers who are feeling confident in their skills and ready to tackle their assignments are going to be far more beneficial to a company’s bottom line than others. 

Your Employees Aren't Collaborating

Body language plays a key role in inter-office collaboration. Whether it’s between a salesperson and his or her manager or among all salespeople in the office, verbal and nonverbal communication can carry vastly different messages and set the tone of a conversation. When a coworker is slumped in the corner, it can communicate a lack of enthusiasm, confidence, or even capability of performing a task up to standard.

The “power pose” Amy Cuddy describes in her research doesn’t just lower cortisol levels -- it can also affect decision-making subconsciously. When office groups have the opportunity to collaborate, this decision-making process can be riding on one of two shoulders: either the employee who is hunched over his or her laptop, or the confident worker standing straight and tall with enthusiasm and energy. Most workers are likely to collaborate and exchange ideas with the person who’s communicating with positive body language.

Your Employees Aren't Staying Healthy

A company’s bottom line can take a big hit from poor posture when it comes to the physical effects of slouching at a desk for eight hours a day. At Lumo BodyTech, our research found that during an average workday, people spend only 36% of their time in good posture -- which means workers spend as much as 38 minutes per hour slouching. This can add up when it comes to a company’s health plan for its employees, since 70 percent of Americans report having back pain, and several studies link back pain to poor posture at work.

By actively focusing on fixing the posture issue in the office, companies can see a significant return on their investment. Studies show the combined cost of absenteeism, presenteeism, health care plan, workers compensation and disability leave ranges from about $10,000 per employee to $35,000 per employee. With so many employees missing work due to back pain, doctors’ visits or even surgery, a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in posture-related costs would add up to significant savings. A company of 1,000 employees could save $1 million to $7 million per year.

Healthy Employees, Healthy Business

Companies can avoid the financial pains resulting from poor employee performance by simply starting at the source of their pain points. By encouraging micro-breaks to stretch and walk each hour, offering meetings that incorporate standing and walking, as well as designing the office to encourage movement, small changes can make a big impact. Yet companies can truly see the impact on their bottom line if they incorporate wearable devices into the corporate wellness budget, which would not only nudge employees to sit up a little straighter, but also encourage a healthy competition for daily step counts. While poor posture can be the silent killer of office productivity, great posture can combat a myriad of today’s workplace woes.

Published on: Sep 1, 2015
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