You can assess the health of a company by the health of each employee. Are they sedentary? Do they skip lunch? Are they always talking about how busy they are? Do they seem connected to each other or are they solely focused on getting s*&t done?
Work culture has a direct impact on employees health. Without regular health practices at work, employees are likely moving towards burnout and serious health complications. Because we spend most of our day at work there are several influences including the influence of managers and colleagues, environment, and office nutritional habits. When it comes to health and physical bodies there are many unspoken rules about how to behave in the office environment. Sitting is one of the most ubiquitous rules for how to work. The professional is defined by the boardroom with its long tables and chairs. The corner office with a comfy chair is the promise of growth and promotion. Yet, we are learning every day that sitting is slowly killing us through the slowing down of our metabolism, the atrophying of bones and muscles and the reduced strength of our heart and lungs from disuse.
Workplaces can evolve their cultures by including health as an important component to working well. Consideration for people’s ability to move freely is a critical part of this evolution. The benefits will impact all levels of the company in terms of productivity, morale, financial growth. When employees are given permission to take care of their bodies throughout their day through a sincere practice and not just mechanically, they learn to communicate from their bodies rather than being stuck in their heads.
After all, the way that we learn and consolidate information is not a head only activity (although we have learned to work in this way by locking the body in chairs). The human brain evolved because of the evolution of new and complex movement patterns; for example, learning to manipulate the environment by creating tools, building shelter, farming. The body is always part of the learning process. This is why children focus better, perform better and behave better when they have a chance to move and exercise.
By re-educating employees to become aware of their bodies throughout their workday, they will have access to their body’s wisdom. Innovation and creativity will be enhanced because people who are moving outside the box of chairs and desks can more freely move their minds outside of limiting mental boxes as well.
The first step to evolving work culture so it positively impacts health is to become aware of the ways that it negatively impacts health. Whatever position you have in a company, you can begin to ask some tough questions: Who’s the model of productivity? Are they healthy? What kinds of foods are shared around the office? How are meetings run? Are people free to stand and stretch during these meetings or is that perceived as weird or unprofessional? What ideas of “professionalism” limit healthy movement?
The next step is to gather as a team and to clearly define the desired relationship between health and the company’s work culture. This would be making a decision to prioritize health as an important part of the work culture. The ThinkMOVE approach is unique in that it isn’t just about moving to prevent disease; it’s a mindset and practice that positively enhances work by constantly generating energy and focus. By moving the body throughout the day and not banishing the need for movement to a space separate from work, health and work become united. United we move sitting we fall.
The third step would be to start implementing simple health practices into the workflow. I will share more specific practices that you and your team can try in future articles. One simple thing to try would be to suggest that people should feel free to stand, stretch and move during meetings. Either implement a set time to take a 60-second stretch break or if you are leading the meeting model self-care by saying “My back is getting stiff. I’m going to stand up for second. Feel free to join me.” And keep talking. Don’t be scared. I personally promise you that no one’s head will explode.