If you work a job where you sit 10 plus hours a day, it’s very likely that you are not able to express who you really are or be as authentically you as possible.
As someone who has lots of experience with sedentary workplaces, I experienced how a lack of freedom to move my body had a direct impact on my physical and mental health. Some of these effects were debilitating back pain and knock-you -on-your-ass depression. The negative impacts were a direct result of my inability to move my body and to have the freedom to manifest the movements my body missed doing when it was stuck in the cages of chairs, desks and walls.
Movement is our birthright. We are all unique individuals and the way we move our bodies is different. You can see these individual differences in the unique ways we each walk: the rhythm, cadence, foot pressure all vary from person to person. Everyone marches to the beat of their own drum. That is, until you force them to sit, and sit and sit some more.
After hours and hours leading to decades of sitting training, we press the mute buttons on our bodies; including the sensations and the desire to move for the sake of our work. It’s time to modernize the workplace by empowering our work with our highest expression of our health.
To do this we need to free ourselves to move. To honestly express ourselves through movement at any time during the day and in any environment. This might look like taking a moment to stretch, standing and working, going for a walk with a colleague, or doing some pushups to get the blood flowing.
Movement is medicine. I’m using the word ‘medicine’ not in the conventional sense of disease and treatment, but in the way that Shamans and Eastern doctors would use it, which is more on the prevention and the maintenance side of health. Movement practice can make you stronger and smarter. Movement can also be healing as I have experienced it through a movement meditation practice called 5Rhythms. Through dance and moving through various musical rhythms I learned to listen to my body in a deeply profound way that gave me more freedom and self-knowledge. A movement practice can cultivate greater self-awareness, which can lead to a greater self-knowledge and self-expression.
I believe we are coming into a time when companies can no longer ignore the impact that work is having on employee health. If health neglect is part of the corporate culture, people will quickly become disengaged because the way of working is to be physically disengaged.
I am an advocate for healthy movement at the workplace. This means that everyone is able to move their bodies freely and without judgment as long as they are getting their work done and not infringing on other people’s rights. At the same time, I am learning that movement needs to have a container, a safe context, that is visible and predictable for both employer and employee.
This means, from all layers of an organization, clear expectations need to be laid out before trying to incorporate movement into their day. That way people can address negative feelings of self-consciousness, worries about being judged, worries about employees taking advantage and so on.
Here are a three tips to help you and your company get started.
- Give yourself and the people you work with permission to move. At the next all staff meeting, have one of the leaders of the organization, like the CEO, say something to the effect of:
“We know that sitting for long periods of time is making us unhealthy, tired, and less productivity. We want to support and encourage everyone to move their bodies freely so that you are breaking up sitting time. We need to find a way to do this that supports our health and also supports our work and culture. This is just the beginning of the conversation. We want everyone to feel safe to take care of their bodies in the ways that they need.”
Then ask the group, “What are some simple ways the group could begin to take some short movement breaks throughout the day and what would be supportive from the leadership team and colleagues?”
2. During the meeting, invite everyone to try to move together. Here’s a simple stretch you can try:
It’s called Mountain Bends which stretches out the hamstrings, and the upper and low back. It is a powerful movement for undoing the tensions caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
3. Schedule planned movement breaks into the day. For every staff meeting, aim to take a 60 second stretch/movement break every 30 to 60 minutes. Throughout the workday, try incorporating 2 movement breaks: one mid-morning 11 am and one mid-afternoon 3pm. Have someone send out a re-occurring all-staff email for these times daily for a week and see how it goes. People can try moving at their desk or going into boardroom and moving together if that’s more comfortable. Experiment, create what is most useful for your company.
These tips are just the beginning steps for a creating safe space for health and creating a context where you can honestly express who you are at work, including how you would like to move your body. It is important that people don’t judge others and offer their support and encouragement with whatever healthy behaviors they are trying to adopt.
Working with companies in a systematic way that integrates health within the organizational culture is an important part of the ThinkMOVE approach. To learn more about our programs email us at [email protected] or visitwww.thinkmove.ca