Seems that there’s nothing like sitting around a lot to put you six feet under. Yes, sedentary behaviour – or sitting down on the job, as it used to be called – may be the new deep-fried fat enemy of humanity, according to some medical research.
That’s because being sedentary seems to be rather an effective way of making it more likely that you will die of cancer or heart disease. But it’s also associated with stuff like aches and pains and needing more sick leave. And that’s why employers are becoming interested in getting workers to move about more during the working day.
Let’s boil it down to one simple equation: moving about at work = less time out of work = more organisational efficiency/productivity.
And that may be why you’re being told to stand up and walk around more at work. It may be why your CEO is talking about you having a stand-up desk (and in case you didn’t know, just because it says “stand up” doesn’t mean you can perch on one and crack terrible one-liners).
This isn’t some attempt to use your big desk for firewood, if the gas gets cut after a bad Brexit, and it’s not some zany scheme to get rid of your job by literally making it disappear from under you. It’s about helping you do better at work.
But if it’s so dead good then why aren’t some of us having any of it?
Perhaps it’s because we like to “exercise” when we want to “exercise”; or rather, we don’t want to exercise when we don’t want to exercise. And all that extra standing up and walking about feels a bit too much like exercise disguised in spandex and a black balaclava. There’s something a wee bit sneaky, something nanny state-ish, about it all. It’s like telling you to go to the toilet every two hours because it’s good for the bladder. Thank you, but you’ll go to the toilet when you feel like going.
I remember one place where I used to work, where they mooted bringing in personal trainer types to help do desk-based workouts (“pencils up… pencils down… sharpener out… aaaand twist!”) and I remember thinking: “I’ll work out when I want to, which will be a lot sooner if I can get my work done on time without interruptions.”
You could call this pig-headedness but a nicer way to frame it is by saying that humans are inertial, resistant to change. And employees are at their most pig… er, inertial when workplace innovations are introduced over their heads without proper discussion and genuine buy-in. So if you’re a boss and contemplating making a change at work, like introducing stand-up desks, you could go a long way by making and winning the case for change, or in other words, getting onto the shopfloor and talking the talk and, yes, because it’s doubly good for you, maybe even walking the walk.