July 2023: Dynamic vs. Passive Computing: Empowering Sedentary Employees

Computers are an integral part of our daily lives, having transformed the way we work, communicate, and entertain ourselves. Our increasing reliance on computers, however, has created a dangerous endemic rise in sedentary behavior and prolonged static postures.  Many studies over the years have confirmed these prolonged periods of sitting and repetitive motions have significant adverse effects on our health, well-being and productivity. 

Unfortunately, more often than not, these sedentary behaviors and static postures also occur during awkward postures. 

Mainstream research, as reported previously here, has confirmed how this mixture of sedentary behaviors, static postures and prolonged awkward postures produces a potent breeding ground for otherwise preventable Discomfort, Musculoskeletal Disorders, Psychological Stress and Healthcare Overutilization.  This is often referred to by experts as Passive Computing, the term experts use for working in known high risk sub-standard behaviors.

Dynamic Computing is the term experts use when referring to the integration of ergonomic principles and technologies aimed at ensuring adequate recovery time via frequent brief microbreaks, working in neutral postures, regular movement and reducing prolonged static postures.  Most change agents in companies position this as Working Smarter.  A “Change Agent” is defined at the end of this page.

Due to the significant impact on wellbeing and corporate budgets, employers have recognized an urgent need to help employees learn to practice healthy behaviors while using their computers, and embrace Dynamic Computing to foster Productive Wellbeing.

Since the Pandemic, in this current environment of cost management and attention to expenditures, Dynamic Computing is rapidly growing in recognition as very attainable low-hanging-fruit for employers and their employees to harvest.

Dynamic Computing begins with the proactive Best Practice of empowering employees with action-based training, instructive self-assessment and behavioral coaching.  Beyond fostering employee comfort, productivity and job satisfaction, these efforts have been proven to have palpable impacts on both employees and the bottom-line.

Last month, we unpacked guidance from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) who published a remarkable article, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Prolonged Static Sitting which begins:  “Sedentary behaviour is widespread. It is to be expected that more and more workers will be confronted with sedentary type of tasks due to further automation and computerization. Sedentary behaviour leads to various health risks. Besides musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), prolonged sitting may also lead to health risks in other domains, such as diabetes, heart- and vascular disease, depression and even mortality. Sedentary behaviour is increasing both at work and in private life, this is why attention must be paid to this health risk. Replacing sitting by standing is not always the solution, as prolonged standing can also, may result in health risks. This is why it is considered important to change between postures as much as possible.

A recent study, among a growing number with similar findings, confirms that an integral component of employee ergonomic risk is their behavior, in particular, how the employee works (or not) in neutral postures, provides recovery time while working and breaks up deleterious sedentary behaviors and static postures with meaningful movement.

This article “At-Home Employees Tend to Sit in Ways That Promote Back Pain” reports on a study published by researchers at Seattle Pacific University and presented at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2022 Annual Meeting.

Persons who work remotely are at increased risk for low back pain (LBP) because of poor ergonomics and extended time spent sitting” noted Katie Thralls Butte, PhD, and colleagues at Seattle Pacific University in a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2022 Annual Meeting.

Employers across the globe are engaging projects of mitigating significant risk exposures facing their computer-using employees working in both traditional offices and home-based offices.  Today, most offices at employer facilities include shared workstations where hybrid employees can work when in “the office”.  Complicating the progress, surveys and studies are confirming rising levels of pain and discomfort across knowledge workers. 

These insights provide clear advantages to employers focused on their Employee Value Proposition, comfortable and satisfied employees, reduced injuries  and organizational productivity.

An Additional Dimension

Following our review of a long series of major medical studies on the serious consequences of sitting all day, a particular article caught the eye of your intrepid author:  “Move for three minutes every half hour to counteract effects of sitting” which reports on a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The study, conducted by an international consortium of scientists led by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found that those who took active three-minute breaks every half an hour, displayed signs of better metabolic health such as lower fasting blood sugar levels, a stabilized sugar levels and the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol also rose in their bloodstreams. 

This is of particular concern as it’s been well-established how employees working in poor ergonomic conditions with discomfort are much higher consumers of healthcare services and have higher incidence of health issues including musculoskeletal disorders.

The study looked at obese people which accounted “pre-pandemic” for 39% of adults aged 18 years or older according to the World Health Organization. 

Based on current incidence rates, it’s reasonable to acknowledge that at least one in every three employees are considered obese by current scientific measures.  That is different from another level above “obese” which is “morbidly obese”.

A Decisive Factor Is Time 

Experts unanimously agree that time is a huge factor in both musculoskeletal disorders and knowledge worker discomfort.  

Every single day that ergonomic conditions are permitted to remain below Best Practices and standards (or worse yet, unknown) leads to significantly increased future intervention costs, higher injury incidence and rates, reduced employee satisfaction and morale, healthcare overutilization and reduced productivity.

Effective Strategies Employers Are Using Today 

We’re hearing strong feedback consistently from clients around the globe who are utilizing ErgoSuite as a plug-in-play, rapid-deployment and long-term sustainable solution to address priority focus areas for their office and home-based office employees.

At the high-level view, clients are leveraging their ErgoSuite platform as their front-line surface area for employees and centralized EH&S management toolset for identifying status and trends and managing outlying situations:


Change Agent:  Change Agent” is not a job title but is anyone in any department at any level with vision and passion who cares and promotes and enables change to happen within an organization for the betterment of the organization and its employees.

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