People, in general, appear to be more attuned to a healthy lifestyle these days, and everyone seems to have their reasons for doing it. They might want to avoid the heart issues and type two diabetes they saw their loved ones struggle with. They might want to lose some weight. They might want to find out what it feels like to walk more than a mile without getting out of breath and needing to sit down, or what it feels like to walk a mile without having to deal with joints that rebel at every moment. The problem with making healthy changes to your own life is that you begin to see the health issues in the people around you, especially if those problems could be fixed with just a little attention to detail. Feeling healthier because of the steps you have taken is a bit like being admitted to an awesome club that you want to tell everyone about – but if this is taken too far, you run the risk of being seen as arrogant or as though you feel superior to those around you. Rocking the boat at your workplace may not be the best plan, but becoming healthier is something that everybody should want, including workplace managers. So how should you introduce some small changes that will make everyone healthier? What can be done on an office-wide plan? Here’s a list of ten ways to make your workplace a healthier place:
I think most people would agree that mid-afternoon meetings (and possibly meetings in general) are relatively dull affairs. We’ve all seen people fiddle their way through meetings, and probably have been the ones not paying attention more times than we’d like to admit. Walking meetings are becoming a fad these days – why not cash in (figuratively) on the craze? Not only will walking keep you alert during the meeting, but the meeting itself may also actually become more productive: recent research has shown that moving stimulates brain connectivity, a walking meeting could make you more efficient. As well as the benefits to the business, you and your colleagues will get some fresh air, a change of space and pace, and some exercise.
Making every meeting a walking meeting isn’t realistic; we realise that. Formal meetings may still need to be held in meeting rooms, but informal ones can easily be turned into walking meetings. If you and your co-worker are having a small chat about work that needs to be done, turn it into a stroll. If you can’t get outside, wander the corridors until you’ve had the meeting, it’ll get you a change of space, at least.
Sitting all day doesn’t just leave people with sluggish feelings and aching muscles, it is actively harmful to you, hampering your ability to digest fat, which makes disease such as diabetes more of a possibility. One way to combat this (aside from having as many walking meetings as possible), is to switch to a standing desk. Standing desks are growing in popularity, so there may already be a few people in your company who are using them. If there aren’t, you might just have to be a pioneer. You can either lobby the HR department of your business for a standing desk, or simply build one of your own, but either way, you will notice the difference almost immediately: your digestion will improve, your overall health will improve, you’ll find yourself getting stronger, and having more energy.
Plants in the office.
Recent research has shown that people who work outside are, in general, happier and fitter than those who work inside. Partly this is due to the physical exertion which is involved in outdoor work, but it is also partly to do with being outside. Sunlight and fresh air make you feel better, and being in them every day has immense health benefits. While being outdoors every day is impossible for the average worker, one way to bring the advantages of the outside into your office is by bringing plants in to decorate your workspace.
Don’t try to turn your office into a terrarium overnight – that’ll just get you labelled as the ‘weird plant guy’ and nobody will take you seriously. Bring in some plants for your space – maybe one for the boss – and gradually see if you can gift some of the plants to your co-workers. You might find that after a while, they start bringing in plants of their own accord!
Start a (healthy) breakfast club.
Ah, the office party. Truly it is a bastion of office life, everyone gathering to indulge in unhealthy food and more alcohol than is strictly healthy for you! Socialising with the other people in the office is at least as important as actually doing the work you are there to do, so we would never suggest that you avoid going to these completely (or, indeed, advocate for completely cutting them out – we want to promote health, not an ascetic lifestyle). We would, however, suggest an alternative.
Start a healthy breakfast club – you could even make it a potluck if you wanted! Have a set time of the week for people to gather, bringing their homemade breakfast dishes with them. When deciding what food to have in these meetings, think eggs, bacon, fresh fruit….even some pastries and pancakes!
Sponsored gym memberships.
A lot of managers in middle sized offices are offering sponsored gym memberships to their employees these days – the bigger ones (the ones which may have offered gym memberships in the past) will at some point have simply built a gym on their premises because it is more cost effective. Businesses have become aware that people who exercise frequently are less subject to stress and illness – a fact which naturally cuts down on their sick days.
Having a sponsored gym membership will make it more likely that people will go to the gym because let’s face it: a halfway decent gym is expensive! Persuade your company to start offering sponsored gym memberships for those employees who wish to have it. Everyone benefits: you get to be healthier and less stressed, the company has employees who are healthier and less stressed, and the company as a whole will benefit when words get around that they are offering employee perks as part of their hiring program.
Integrated exercise equipment in the office.
Some people enjoy interspersing the day with random bits of activity. Perhaps we’ll walk to the shops in the middle of the morning, or use the run to the bank as an excuse to run a few laps around the park! If you can’t manage actually to get outside during your day, try and incorporate the same level of activity by other means. Integrating gym equipment into the office environment itself is something which has started to crop up across the world; it is quick and easy, and can also break up the monotony of the work day.
Try it. Install a pull-up bar in a (low-traffic!) doorway; tie a rope to an exposed beam somewhere. Be sure not to damage the building, but otherwise, have fun coming up with new and exciting ways to get moving!
One problem with confining a lot of people to a small space is that pettiness and competitiveness will arise, almost inevitably. One way to circumvent this is to institute fitness challenges: they can be competitive (OHPing your bodyweight) or non-competitive (everybody pledge to walk six miles a week). This will allow the company a way to bleed off natural competition, and also create an environment where people can become healthier through that natural competition.
Start a walking club.
This could work well paired with either the walking meetings or the healthy socialisations from earlier in the list. The walking group could work as follows: starting small, everyone gets a cheap pedometer, and a walking route. Every week, people walk the course, add up their steps, and win a prize based on how well they did. This will help you become healthier, get some more fresh air and sunlight into your lives, and also give you a way to socialise with your colleagues in a non-office environment.
Research has shown that having naps throughout the day can boost productivity in workers. Now, this article does not condone simply setting up shop beneath your desk right now – you need to start small, and tackle the negative connotations of naps while you build up your own nap-taking.
For best results, take a short power nap right after lunch – you might have to cut your actual lunch break a little short, but the benefits of a nap will come to outweigh any loss from the lack of time to eat lunch. You will find that your work performance improves immensely.
If any co-workers are receptive, try and get them to have a nap too – just to see what it feels like. Your manager will be more receptive to people ‘sleeping on the job’ if a group approaches him, instead of individuals.
Lead by quiet example.
It is human nature to follow a strong will, but they will follow it even more willingly if they see that the will is inconspicuous: everyone prefers a leader who leads by example, rather than by decree. When people see you doing what you do to be healthy (so long as you are not pushy about it) and see how your actions are leading to you looking better, having more energy, working better…they might find themselves wanting to know your secrets!
If and when people come to you with questions, don’t be pushy or sanctimonious about it. Simply answer their questions, give them the help they are asking for, and send them on their way to better health.