So you’re a desk jockey? A term which sounds much more active than the typical reality. For most, this means being hunched over a desk in a terrible chair, with movements ranging from keyboard pressing to coffee curls, and, if you’re really lucky, a toilet trip.
As an office worker, some of the negative effects that you will face are;
- Sitting down for long periods of time
- Constant grazing and poor food choices
- Poor posture and body position
- Lack of natural light
This scenario is slowly crippling your physique. So we want to explore how can we turn the traditional office on it’s head and not only improve your health and compliment the time you spend in the gym, but to also increase your energy levels, productivity and efficiency.
We give you our tips for employees and employers alike, to rethink the traditional office and create an environment more suited for physical expression.
Ideas on Increasing Activity Levels in the Office
The main challenge that faces office dwellers is that most of your day is spent with long periods of inactivity, generally sitting down.
We’re sure that you don’t need to be told that spending too much time sitting can be bad for your health, but the effects involve;
- Poor posture and bad back
- Weight gain
- A higher risk of death
Conventional wisdom suggests that you can counter these negative effects by supplementing your office hours with a few trips to the gym each week, but research shows that regardless of how much you exercise, it’s the time you spend sitting that’s the key factor impacting your health (1).
The key message is that you must move more. This is the very fundamental requirement to improving your health from the time spent in your office.
Here are some ideas on how to increase your activity in the office -
Setting an Activity Alarm
The goal here is to spread your movement throughout the day, rather than in focused bouts of time.
Simply set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes and use this as your cue to get up and move. This can be anything from;
As long as you’re out of your seat and moving your body, this will help offset the negative effects of sitting for extended periods.
Use Office-Friendly Fitness Equipment
We’ve also compiled this list of fitness equipment that you might be able to take to the office to help inspire your movement;
- Hand Grippers are a good tool for relieving stress and improving grip
- A speed rope allows for intense cardio sessions in a relatively small space
- Resistance bands are an incredibly versatile, portable and lightweight product that can be used for strength, flexibility and exercise assistance training
- A pedometer will help raise awareness of how much you’re moving throughout the day (in fact, studies have shown that using a pedometer makes you walk more, with an average increase in activity of 27% (2))
- Gymnastics rings are the ultimate strength training tool and can be used for a host of exercises from pull-ups, dips, push-ups and more. You just need somewhere to hang them, like a tree, beam, stairwell or bar
- Suspension trainers are specially designed webbing or straps with handles that can be used for many strength, flexibility and cardiovascular exercises. They can be hooked up to doorways in seconds, without permanent fixings
- Wobble boards can be used randomly throughout the day or at a standing workstation, for balance training and lower body development
- Foam rollers or tennis / lacrosse balls are ideal for self massage and working out those muscle knots
We’ve even heard of offices installing free standing pull-up bars with a list of records set by visitors and employees which we think is a fantastic idea (here’s our article on building your own pull-up bar).
Exercise while you work
Some forward thinking employers have even started adopting the idea of exercising while you work.
Enter the treadmill desk, or Walkstation as it’s sometimes known. This standing workstation is built around a speed-limited treadmill (usually 2 mph) , so that you can slowly walk as you work.
These stations are currently quite expensive to buy and install but have been adopted by some large companies such as Humana, Mutual of Omaha, Best Buy and GlaxoSmithKline with good feedback from users who are even showing increased levels of concentration (3).
For many, a Walkstation isn’t going to be a practical solution so let’s look at some other ways you can create a healthier desk environment.
Ways to Create a Healthier Desk
It’s likely that you spend the majority of your time at your desk so this pivotal piece of your environment needs to be well considered;
- Standing desks - we’ve already mentioned the negative effects of sitting and many people are now countering this with a standing desk. That is, a desk that can rise up to allow you to work from a standing position and fall back down to a standard sitting position when required.
- Ball chairs - instead of the conventional office chair, consider using an inflatable exercise ball to help build core stability muscles, and reduce lower back pain and injury.
- Multiple large computer screens - while they might not make you healthier they have been shown to increase productivity and efficiency (4), which can lead to a happier state of mind.
- Monitor stands - are important to ensure the correct positioning of your screen, which should ideally be directly in the middle of your vision with your eyes level with the top few inches of the screen.
- Plants - adding some greenery to your desk not only looks great but can improve mood and productivity whilst reducing stress (8).
Run better meetings
Endless team meetings are another common slumber point in the typical office workers day.
Consider running stand-up sessions, which are shown to keep meetings short and concise (5), or, if weather permits, how about outdoor walking meetings as another way to increase activity levels, keep the blood flowing and get some sun and fresh air.
Check out this financial staffing firm in Minneapolis that created a treadmill conference room as a way of creating active meeting spaces.
Choose healthier food and snacks
The typical office can derail even the most steadfast of healthy eaters, with cakes, sweets, and processed goods facing you at every turn.
- Avoid trips to the vending machine by keeping healthier snacks on hand like hard boiled eggs, nuts, seeds and fruit.
- Employers can set an example by providing healthy communal food and snacks, such as
- Organic fruit and vegetables
- Natural dips (guacamole, bean dips and hummus)
- Whole cottage cheese and natural yogurt
- Consider starting a central office repository of local healthy restaurants and recipes
Other Tips and Considerations for a Healthier Office
- People need natural light (6); try to arrange the office layout to maximise exposure using open plan designs, glass walls and smarter seating arrangements
- Showering facilities are essential to help encourage people to run or bike into work
- Consider a “rest room” and encourage chill out or nap time. The nap has been shown to improve alertness, memory, decision making and mood (7)
- Finally, always remember to take the stairs and not the elevator!
Creating a Healthy Office Culture
We believe the suggestions in this article will go a long way to influencing your office culture in a positive and healthy way. The goal shouldn't be to pressurise or goad people into a healthier lifestyle, but to raise awareness, provide options and encourage experimentation and openness.
It’s time to rethink the office.