Year on year the percentage of obesity in adults continues to rise. In 2017 the National Office of Statistics together with the NHS reported that one in four adults were classified as clinically obese. With this comes the need for employers to accommodate for larger-built and employees and plus-sized staff in the workplace.
As a responsible employer, it is imperative to promote the happiness and wellbeing of every single one of your staff and strive to always be thinking about how people of all sizes can be best supported at work. The cost of accommodating your plus-sized employees will be much less than the associated cost of sickness; absence attributable to sickness caused by obesity in the UK as a whole is estimated at between 15.5 million and 16 million days per year.
Obesity can cause challenging situations in the workplace and can affect an individual’s ability to work, as well as their underlying mental health. In addition to type-2 diabetes and hypertension, (the better-known health problems associated with obesity), plus-sized employees may suffer from back pain and other postural difficulties resulting from inappropriate office equipment.
It’s important to take prompt action to find a suitable solution once it has been identified that an individual needs some assistance and essential that any conversations around the topic are dealt with sensitively without any hint of conscious or subconscious discrimination. The provision required for each employee will be unique and based upon an individual’s needs, and above all, employers should never assume an employee cannot perform a certain job function because of their size.
If you look around the office, there is likely to be someone who is sat on an inappropriate chair for their size. The key indicators may be:
- The employee does not comfortably fit in between the armrests / or needs to adjust the armrests each time they sit down
- If the chair has no armrests the individual may be visibly too big for the chair
- The employee has complained of a musculoskeletal issue such as back, neck, hip or knee pain
- The castors or base may start to crack or break
- The back of the chair does not properly support the employee, even when the tension has been adjusted.
Consequences of an ineffective chair can be employee discomfort leading to a loss of productivity. Even worse, the chair may break, causing extreme embarrassment and potentially, physical harm to your staff member.
“Bariatric – of or relating to the treatment of obesity”
Bariatric and heavy duty office chairs are becoming increasingly popular. They offer wider seat pads, backs and have all been rigorously tested to support specific weights.
The BodyBilt range is a good solution for plus-sized employees. The Big & Tall collection is BodyBilt’s unique solution to the seating problems facing users of above-average height and weight. In particular, their J2504 model features a reinforced seat structure that is 22% larger than average seats, accommodating workers above the 80th percentile. This chair is rated to support up to 500 lbs (around 35 stone).
We usually help employers with this very sensitive issue by asking difficult questions for them. These necessary questions save employers and managers from the potentially uncomfortable discussion about how much someone weighs in order to get the correct equipment for their workstation.
Regular DSE assessments may highlight the need for specific provision, or an employee may request a change in the work environment or equipment themselves. A DSE assessment for an entire team or division using our ready prepared form may remove the need for anyone to feel singled out.
Prior to coming on-site or making recommendations for suitable products we always send out a pre-assessment form that asks for information such as height and weight. It’s vital to find out the weight of the individual as many office chairs are only guaranteed to support a weight of around 18 stone (approx 114kg). The completed form is then sent directly to us, saving your managers and staff from that awkward conversation about an individual’s weight.