News & Commentary

OPM Pushes Wellness Efforts


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) wants government agencies to focus more on giving workers opportunities to be active at work, saying that “the connection from wellness to employee engagement and productivity is well established.”

The OPM’s “2018: Federal Workforce Priorities Report” reiterates what studies have shown: Workers spend too much time sitting and not enough time doing some sort of physical activity.

Helping employees become more active addresses absenteeism, job stress, job satisfaction, and health care utilization.

Adults should have at least two and a half hours of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity a week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intense aerobic activity a week. Also, they should do muscle-strengthening activities until it becomes difficult on at least two days.

Citing a meta-analysis of 32 publications, the OPM report states that “for every dollar spent on wellness programs, medical and absenteeism costs fell by about $3.27 and $2.71 respectively.”

But how to encourage more activity?

How about installing standing desks? The OPM encourages government agencies to install desks that can be quickly adjusted from a sitting to a standing position. The report cites where standing desks have been successful: They help high school students get things done in a more efficient way (after six months of use), and in a call center where “the standing desk group had 23% more successful calls after one month and 53% after six months.”

Government agencies should also encourage workers to exercise during breaks. The OPM pointed out that private companies offer on-site fitness centers, offsite fitness classes, subsidies for gym memberships, and fitness equipment.

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