Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in a flexible office-based workplace: Employee perceptions and priorities for change

Heidi M. Olsen*, Wendy J. Brown, Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, Nicola W. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Issue addressed: Many Australian employees now regularly work from home in some capacity. This new way of working has not been widely studied in relation to the potential implications for employees’ health-related behaviour or workplace health promotion. The aim of this study was to explore office-based employees’ perceptions of the impact of flexible work on physical activity and sedentary behaviour; and preferences for associated interventions. 

Methods: Three focus groups were conducted with office-based employees (n = 28) 6 months after the introduction of a flexible work policy. A semi-structured interview format with open-ended questions was used with summary statements to check understanding. Sessions were audiotaped, and dominant themes were identified. Findings on intervention preferences were interpreted using a social cognitive framework. An overview of results was provided to a group of managers (n = 9) for comment. 

Results: Employees reported that physical activity was not impacted, but sedentary behaviour had increased, with flexible work. Intervention preferences focussed on occupational sedentary behaviour, self-regulation, prompts and social connections, and not the physical work environment. Managers agreed with employees’ preferences and also wanted interventions to be sustainable. 

Conclusion: Self-directed interventions with social components and targeting occupational sedentary behaviour were more acceptable than physical activity interventions in this flexible workplace. 

So what?: Health promotion for workplaces with flexible work practices may benefit from prioritising strategies that promote self-regulation and social connections rather than being linked to the physical worksite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-352
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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