Sitting is the New Smoking

When I joined my current team last summer – a Total Rewards group with a thriving employee wellness department – one of the first things I noticed (and heard people talking about) was the fast growing notion that sitting for prolonged periods of time could be just as bad for someone’s health as being a heavy smoker. Being someone that lost a parent to lung cancer, I’ve been pretty anti-smoking in all its forms for as long as I can remember; but here I am, an HR professional who finds themselves sitting through huge chunks of their day either checking email, working on a report/presentation/something involving my computer, or sitting at a conference table for a meeting. And with this came a more clear understanding of why the people in my department were so often found standing up, wandering around the back of the room, and the like at organization wide meetings over the last several years – they got it, they tried to help others get it, and now I’m working somewhere that the idea of being more up and about and active is a growing part of the culture. So, I’ve started to embrace that culture with little things by parking in the back lot which forces me to take the stairs up to my office and when possible walking to someone’s desk to respond to quick and easy questions as opposed to firing off another email – but I’m left wondering what are some other things I can do?

One area I can control and enact immediate change upon is how my team of managers meets – we have a group session every other week where we discuss what’s been taking place in their areas the past two weeks, what’s boiling at the moment, what victories they and their teams have had, and what they see coming on the horizon. The agenda is generally loose and is as much as anything an opportunity for my managers to build relationships, understand how their functions are impacting others, and to have an opportunity to simply debrief. We could have these meetings in my office or a conference room or we could take the steps down to the courtyard and have a walking meeting (an initiative I’m hoping to start today if the lingering rain clouds hold off).

Another area I have some modicum of control over is how my staff does their work, we went through a recent office remodel and we tried to make sure that employees had adequate space and resources (we were moving to smaller workstations), but we also wanted to make sure they had the right kinds of resources (appropriate lighting, wrist friendly mice, good chairs, foot supports, etc.). Now as I think about what we might be able to do looking forward, I get excited about the prospects of innovations like StandDesk – an affordable, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing sit/stand work desk that’s closing out a super successful Kickstarter campaign – needless to say, I’m trying to figure out how I can secure one in the future. But don’t take my word (and excitement) for it, check out the video below (and then try and tell me you don’t want one too): 



Header Photo Credit: Just Ard via Compfight cc
The Human Resources Field Guide
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