Anyone who has worked in an office environment understands eight-plus hours behind a desk does not necessarily do the body good. Whether it’s from general immobility, poor eating habits, bad lighting, poor posture, or strained eyes, office life isn’t always the healthiest. And, while hydrating during water cooler chat or rushing to meetings may help burn off those morning donuts; it’s usually not enough.
There are ways to combat the daily drag that comes with cubicle life, and creating a healthy environment is within reach for any company, large or small.
Here are three simple initiatives that were easy to introduce at my own office:
1. Build a Standing Desk.
It may not look like it, but sitting is dangerous. The average American spends eight hours a day sitting, usually at their desk, on their couch and in their car. According to this 2012 analysis, for every hour you spend watching TV after the age of 25, you reduce your lifespan by 22 minutes.
Given this frightening statistic, I decided to build my own standing desk at work. It only cost around $35 and took 20 minutes to put together. Here’s how:
- Ikea Table – $7.99 ($14.98 for two if you have a dual monitor set-up)
- Shelf – $1.99
- Two Shelf Brackets – $4.00 ($2.00 each)
- Six 1” Screws – $2.00 – $3.00
- Bed Risers – $12.99 (depending on the height of the employee)
Total Cost = $36.96 (dual monitor), $28.97 (single monitor)
Take the Ikea tables and put them on your work desk, using the bed risers if needed. I put them under only one table so that one monitor is slightly more elevated than the other. Attach the shelf brackets to the legs of the Ikea table with screws, and then attach the shelf on top of the brackets. Use both measurements to properly align the keyboard shelf and the height of your monitors.
Two ergonomic factors to take into account when building a standing desk:
- Your eye level should be at 3/4 the height of the screen on your monitor.
- Your elbows should be at perfect 90-degree angles when typing.
Going from sitting all day to standing will be an adjustment, particularly for your lower back and hips. I would recommend using a barstool or drafting chair for the first two to three weeks, which is typically how long it will take your body to adjust. Experts report that using a standing desk will increase work capacity and productivity by boosting mood, improving your focus, correcting your posture, and creating more efficient circulation throughout your body.
2. Contact Natural Food Companies.
After going to all the trouble of creating a more health-conscious workstation, you would be remiss to ignore dietary concerns. I knew I couldn’t overlook the nutritional situation in my own office when I forgot to pack my lunch one day and stumbled into the office kitchen, which was stuffed with processed food.
I soon found that I wasn’t alone in my dietary disappointments and recruited an equally health-conscious colleague. Together we arrived at a process to effectively introduce healthy foods to our co-workers while minimizing cost. Here’s how you can do it:
Devise a list of all the health food and natural snacks you would ideally want to use to restock a healthier pantry. Email natural food companies to ask for free samples. While not all companies are quick to send goods gratis, here are a couple tips for your pitch:
- Send it from your work email.
- Praise the products.
- Explain that you’re starting a healthy eating initiative at your company and want your co-workers to be able to test their products. Remind them that, if employees like the product, you’ll be making orders for the whole company on a regular basis.
Get Co-Workers Involved:
Once the new snacks arrive, ask your colleagues to write down their preferences on a piece of paper or whiteboard posted near the snack/kitchen area, then email the company(ies) with an order. Don’t forget to ask for wholesale pricing. We were able to find three snack food companies with great products that our employees fell in love with, which were no more expensive than the traditional office spread.
3. Organize Group Workouts.
Although reducing sedentary activity and snacking on healthful foods are two great ways to increase health in the workplace, nothing can replace exercise. To motivate employees to work out together, it’s important to pull in executives and supervisors. You often have to get the leadership buy-in for everyone else to come. It’s a chance for all employees to bond, and working out together will provide an extra forum for internal networking and team bonding. Here’s how to get everyone committed to team workouts:
Bring in a Professional:
Many people like the accountability that a class or trainer provides, and personal trainers, yoga teachers, and Group X instructors are always looking for ways to build their student bases. If your fitness group consists of 10 or more people, invite a guest instructor and sell it to them as a chance to acquire new clients. If you can’t snag a free session, Group X gyms like Crossfit are always open to giving reduced rates to corporate groups (extra credit for getting HR to reimburse employees for fitness classes!).
Make it Fun:
If you’re fortunate enough to have the beach as your backyard (like we do), plan fun group workouts outdoors like yoga, group jogs, or even Ultimate Frisbee. Basketball, softball, and other sports-minded folk can band together and sign up for intramural teams.
Many people underestimate the value and potential their office community holds. Sure, your workweek can be a series of timecard punches, but my co-workers and I have been much happier and more productive since we invested in building a healthier work environment together. All it takes is one enthusiastic employee to speak up and set a plan in motion.
Looking for more employee wellness articles? You don’t have to go far.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Max Porter is a sales/marketing strategist at CallFire in charge of identifying and infiltrating new market verticals. Max is also a certified fitness trainer and overall health enthusiast who lives in Santa Monica, CA.