Research Study Abstract

Assessing and understanding sedentary behaviour in office-based working adults: a mixed-method approach

  • Published on April 27, 2016

Background: Sedentary behaviours (SB) can be characterized by low energy expenditure in a reclining position (e.g., sitting) often associated with work and transport. Prolonged SB is associated with increased risk for chronic conditions, and due to technological advances, the working population is in office settings with high occupational exposure to SB. This study aims to assess SB among office workers, as well as barriers and strategies towards reducing SB in the work setting.

Methods: Using a mixed-methods approach guided by the socio-ecological framework, non-academic office workers from a professional school in a large public university were recruited. Of 180 eligible office workers, 40 enrolled and completed all assessments. Self-reported and objectively measured SB and activity levels were captured. Focus group discussion (FGD) were conducted to further understand perceptions, barriers, and strategies to reducing workplace SB. Environmental factors were systematically evaluated by trained research staff using an adapted version of the Checklist for Health Promotion Environments at Worksites (CHEW). Thematic analysis of FGD was conducted and descriptive analysis of quantitative data was performed.

Results: The sample was mostly Chinese (n = 33, 80 %) with a total of 24 (60 %) female participants. Most participants worked five days a week for about 9.5(0.5) hrs/day. Accelerometer data show that participants spend the majority of their days in sedentary activities both on workdays (76.9 %) and non-workdays (69.5 %). Self-report data confirm these findings with median sitting time of 420(180) minutes at work. From qualitative analyses, major barriers to reducing SB emerged, including the following themes: workplace social and cultural norms, personal factors, job scope, and physical building/office infrastructure. CHEW results confirm a lack of support from the physical infrastructure and information environment to reducing SB.

Conclusions: There is high SB among office workers in this sample. We identified multiple levels of influence for prolonged occupational SB, with a particular emphasis on workplace norms and infrastructure as important barriers to reducing SB and increasing PA. A larger, representative sample of the Singaporean population is needed to confirm our findings but it seems that any intervention aimed at reducing SB in the workplace should target individual, environmental, and organizational levels.


BMC Public Health