Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Exercise and Health Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jacques Oosthuizen

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Owen Carter

Abstract

Sedentary (prolonged sitting) behaviour is now recognised as an independent health risk factor contributing to a number of preventable lifestyle related diseases (Katzmarzyk, Church, Craig, & Bouchard, 2009). The widespread integration of computers into the office environment has seen an increase in employee work time participating in technology facilitated desk-based tasks requiring them to remain physically inactive (Philipson & Posner, 2003). According to recent research, workplace sedentary behavioural practices have objectively been measured as accounting for 81.8% of employee time, with a further 15.3% categorised as light activity within office based populations (Parry & Straker, 2013). With a recorded national employment rate of 11,613,900 employees representing 64.6% of the total population as at November 2014 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014b), this recognisably poses significant need to develop mitigating strategies in reducing sedentary related health and business impacts.

In recognition of the employee health hazards associated with prolonged workplace sedentary behaviours, increasing numbers of organisations have sought to mitigate this risk by introducing a variety of workplace wellness programs, many of which incorporate a physical activity (PA) focus or component. Owing to the huge increase in popularity of social media in recent years, there has been increased research into the effectiveness of utilising internet-enabled social media to foster enhanced participant engagement with workplace PA programs (Williams, Hamm, Shulhan, Vandermeer, & Hartling, 2014).

This research therefore sought to investigate the value of workplace-endorsed social media for improving the engagement of deskbound employees in workplace PA programs and reducing the health risks associated with sedentary behaviour. It also investigated the influence of organisational cultural on employee engagement with workplace physical activity programs including both the perceived and actual experiences of using social media in association with a globalised workplace physical activity program.

In association with iconic West Australian health insurance organisation HBF Health, two studies were conducted using of a number of participant data collection techniques including focus groups, surveys, and interviews which were further complemented by the adoption of an ethnographic participant-observational approach over 24 months. This extensive workplace embedded exposure afforded a well-qualified perspective of workplace cultural influences, participatory responses and organisational endorsement for workplace wellbeing incorporating social media enabled PA programs. Within both studies, predominantly sedentary employees were questioned on their perceptions of workplace health enhancement through social media as well as following active participation in a globalised workplace PA program utilising various forms of social media.

This research found that desk-based employees participating in a workplace PA program identified value in using peer-supportive social media to address sedentary behaviour and other health risks within their office workplace. It was also acknowledged that in-house organisational social media based communication systems were seen as offering localised benefits that more globally-oriented social media mechanisms could not deliver.

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