Doing more at work is not helping

By Stefan Zavalin on 29th Jul 2021

While many of us can definitely remember the times of cubicles, the modern American office is changing. Many of us know the stereotype of the new hip startup with open floor plans, ping-pong tables, and soda fountains or ice cream machines. While these new additions to our workspaces can definitely improve the quality and experience of our work, do they actually benefit our health?

Even though we’ve innovated the progression of different office spaces, the trend of the current office worker is to sit more. Over the last decade, we’re trending to add another hour on to our total daily sitting time. The average worker currently sits 15 hours per day [1]. If we assume they get 8 hours of sleep, this means they only spend one hour not sitting. The average office worker spends is that one hour throughout the day walking from the car to the store, doing chores, or standing in the kitchen preparing food. It is easy, in these cases, to blame the worker. Shouldn’t they increase their movement throughout the day, exercise, and make sure they’re living a healthy lifestyle? All while the companies continuously ask workers to perform at a higher capacity. Is there a way to change work culture and how we complete office-based work while maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

It’s not only possible but imperative to make the appropriate changes towards a healthier work style. Our current work culture consistently pushes for more, more, more. This results in ideas of: I need to complete more work, I need to increase my productivity, or I need to do more exercise. The culture of more is unsustainable. There will come a limit where you cannot push further. You only get 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and a finite attention span. We can push ourselves to work more than 60-70 hours per week, but where is this landing us? Burnout rate is currently the highest that we’ve ever seen it, and most office workers have experienced some form of burnout, especially since the start of the pandemic [2]. Pushing for more is unsustainable. Exercise does benefit us but is not the entire answer. We must adapt our work culture and environment.

If we can increase the amount of movement at work by reducing the amount of sitting and seated activities, we get health benefits without exercise. As a company policy to increase the culture of movement, you can start meetings with a standing break or stretch, walk during 1-on-1 meetings, or allow employees to take 3 to 4 breaks throughout the day for stretching. Keep in mind, these cannot be extra things you ask the employees to do—allow them to take advantage of provided breaks to get more movement. Standing improves productivity 46%, but we shouldn’t ask employees for more productivity [3]. Instead, ask for them to stand for a portion of their work, as their body allows. Creating these positive changes will alter the company culture toward movement, allowing more employee acceptance.

Giving your employees access to fitness classes, standing desks, and exercise equipment are asking them to do more. Reduce the time spent on unhealthy behaviors, allow the healthy behaviors to naturally work themselves in, and reap the rewards of increased focus, productivity, and health.

References

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2019/03/06/americans-sit-more-than-anytime-in-history-and-its-literally-killing-us/?sh=79ef2b90779d 
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/04/05/indeed-study-shows-that-worker-burnout-is-at-frighteningly-high-levels-here-is-what-you-need-to-do-now/?sh=5f54c35b23bb
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21577323.2016.1183534

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