It’s likely that you train a number of people that continue to work from home. Workplace performance and wellbeing specialist Andrew May shares some tips to help these clients counteract the loss of physical activity that accompanies this societal shift.
As restrictions ease across Australia and New Zealand, some businesses are starting to require workers to return to the workplace. After experiencing a successful transition to an at-home workforce, however, other businesses, are looking to maintain this arrangement, at least in part. The odds are, a number of your clients will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. With this, comes an attendant reduction in incidental movement. A commute from the bedroom to the kitchen table requires fewer steps than are generally taken in a commute to the office. During lockdowns, people have reported taking up to 60% fewer steps per day.
From a physiological perspective this is a social experiment on the grandest scale. Researchers and academics are going to have years of studies and experiments about the lessons, both good and bad, from the changes the pandemic brought to our lives – including this decrease in incidental movement. Research shows that being sedentary most of the time, even with adding in our short bouts of gym exercise to align with physical guidelines, can still significantly increase health risks.
There are a number of reasons why working from home results in fewer daily steps and movement:
- Sleeping in later, because you don’t have to factor in commuting time
- Watching more TV in the morning and throughout the day
- Changed operating rhythm
- Removal of the previous rituals like walking meetings and general movement throughout the office
- Procrastination because you feel like, without workplace distractions and face-to-face encounters, you have all day to complete work.
Talk to your clients about the benefits of regular movement throughout the day and share with them the following tips to help them move more, keep their bodies and brains oxygenated and performing properly.
1. Replace commute times with a walk
Although the daily commute often involves some walking between stations, stops, car parking and workplace, for many of us, it also features approximately 90 minutes spent in a sedentary state in the bus, train or car. Turn this into productive time for your body and brain by heading out for a brisk walk at the exact same time of day. For example, if you previously had a 7:30am bus trip that got you to the office by 8:15am, replace it with a 45-minute walk, rather than an extra doze! Don’t get me wrong: good sleep is incredibly important, but you’re better off achieving it by going to bed at a decent hour and using your morning to get some steps in!
2. Schedule walking phone meetings
At StriveStronger we are always encouraging our clients to schedule moving meetings because of the known physical health benefits, increased energy and stronger personal connections they provide. Try to adapt this strategy and schedule in walking phone meetings with colleagues.
Tips for making it work:
- Check the weather forecast, and plan accordingly
- Be sure the meeting will not require technical data
- The best time for a walking meeting (but not limited to) is right before lunch to address the mid-morning slump, or late afternoon to inject a burst of energy
- Take a water bottle to sip
- Wear appropriate walking shoes
- Be strategic with the walking route, avoiding shops and other busy places.
3. Regular doses of nature
Walking at the park, beach or in any form of nature will give you a good dose of fresh air, oxygen, vitamin D and a moment to psychologically detach. Tips for doing this in times of social distancing include:
- Find a quiet patch of grass or oval and walk around barefoot
- Do a short circuit workout on the grass in the garden
- Try new spots around the home or outdoor area to do 5-10 minutes of deep breathing or mindful walking, consciously noticing new things.
4. Sit to stand throughout the day
Sitting has been labeled the new smoking. Consciously shift from a sitting workstation to a standing one – and, if possible, even to a dynamic workstation (moving whilst working) periodically during the day. Dr Paul Batman suggests 30-50 shifts in position per day is necessary to negate the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
5. Phone circuit
If workplace interactions with colleagues have been replaced with phone calls, you may find that you’re on the phone a lot more than you previously were. A phone call is an opportunity to stand up and get some movement in. Try something other than just pacing. Slow paced strength exercises will not have you puffing on the end of the phone, but will fire up the mitochondria to help you re-oxygenate. A simple phone call circuit may look like this:
- 60 second wall sit
- 20 lunges
- 20 wall push ups (1-handed or 2, if you have a headset)
- 30 bicep curls with hand weights (if you have them or replace with food cans or water bottles)
- Crab walks with loop band.
One final bonus tip: schedule a number of these activities in your diary, because doing so will make you accountable.
Andrew is a workplace performance and wellbeing specialist. His company, StriveStronger, has teamed with NAB to provide a free health and wellbeing program to help SMEs and their staff be more resilient, transition to new ways of working and sustain physical and psychological wellbeing. Sign up for free at NAB Business Fit