More and more people are “nine-to-fivers” – they have office jobs that take up their entire weekdays. That is a lot of time to be spending in one place!
Office technology has changed lots, but what about the environment in which employees spend most of their day? Little has changed over the years, so I think it is time for an Office Revolution.
Let’s rewild your working space, but don’t sell it as ‘rewilding’ to your boss and colleagues. Tell them it’s a group process to sanitize your working place and to increment the wellbeing of the workers and increase productivity. In fact, that is not a lie. It’s not at all a crusade against your employer; let’s call it a win-win.
Admit it, more that once a day you are looking out of your office window, feeling the physical and mental need to be outdoors, to take a break and breathe fresh air, get some sunlight on your face, move your skeleton and disconnect from the wires, screens, and virtual reality.
As nice as your colleagues are, as open minded your boss is, and as passionate you are about your job, your office is not exactly the healthiest place for body and mind.
Our bodies were never designed to sit on our butts for hours and hours a day, put fast food in our mouths while continuing to look at a screen, breathing artificial air full of microbes, and being exposed to artificial light so much.
So let’s see what rewilding can do to improve this artificial environment in which you spend a big chunk of your time.
As a rewilding lifestyle coach, I encourage and help people to discover and implement a healthier and happier lifestyle that is closer to nature and further from the detrimental sedentary side effects of modern society.
“Yeah, right, in the office?!” I hear you say. I admit, it’s a challenge – a big one – but as I’ve said before, “Rewilding is, first of all, a state of mind”.
You’ll need your creativity and perseverance to convince your colleagues – your tribe – to give it a go and see which beneficial effects occur. Try it for a month, and then evaluate it.
Here are some tips and tricks for rewilding your office.
8-Hour Working Day?
Reducing the eight-hour work day is a good start.
The Swedes got that right! Some companies in Sweden are moving to a six-hour working day in a bid to increase productivity and make people happier.
Employers across the country have already made the change, according to the Science Alert website, which said the aim was to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people had the energy to enjoy their private lives.
Toyota centres in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, made the switch 13 years ago, with the company reporting happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits in that time.
Filimundus, an app developer based in the capital Stockholm, introduced the six-hour day last year.
“The eight-hour work day is not as effective as one would think,” Linus Feldt, the company’s CEO told Fast Company.
“To stay focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work.”
Feldt has said staff members are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and that other distractions during the day are eliminated. But the aim is that staff will be more motivated to work more intensely while in the office.
1. Ask for or make your standing desk
A standing desk, also called a stand-up desk, is basically a desk that allows you to stand up comfortably while working. Using this type of desk can partially negate the harmful effects of sitting too much.
Although research is still in its early stages, standing desks appear to lower your risk of weight gain and obesity, lower blood sugar levels, lower your risk of heart disease,
reduce back pain, help improve mood and energy levels, and even boost productivity.
It is important as well to keep the right posture: stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, flex your abs, engage your glutes, give a little arch to your lower back, stick your sternum out slightly, and roll your shoulders back.
Kiki tells about her experience in this article.
2. Put a plant on your desk
Researchers studied the effects of greenery on staff’s perceptions of air quality, concentration, and workplace satisfaction, and monitored productivity levels over subsequent months in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands.
Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis, from the Cardiff University School of Psychology, said: “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.” Simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15% – a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies.
Several plants, like spider plants, dracaenas, golden pothos or rubber plants, are able to filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and help clean indoor air which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air.
3. Surround yourself with pictures of nature
You should spend a lot of time outdoors for various reasons. But even when indoors, inspiring pictures of nature can make you feel better, calmer and more relaxed
4. Let the Sun Shine
We all know the discombobulated feeling of being stuck in a windowless room under fluorescent lights during daylight hours. Researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at North-western University in Chicago reported that the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment is a universal phenomenon. There is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.
Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white-light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Workers without windows reported lower scores than their counterparts on quality-of-life measures related to physical problems and vitality. They also had poorer outcomes in measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction.
5. Air-conditioning and heating
I admit, I am not a fan of air-conditioning.
Research shows that people who work in over-air-conditioned environments may experience chronic headaches and fatigue. Those who work in buildings which are constantly being pumped full of cool air may also experience constant mucous membrane irritation and breathing difficulties. This leaves you more vulnerable to contracting colds, flus, and other illnesses.
Something similar happens with heating.
In our case, we avoid air conditioning at home (and I know Belgium is not Spain in terms of summer-month temperatures), and we try to keep the heating to a minimum by putting on a sweater or lighting the fireplace. At night, we always turn off the heating, even if the temperature is below zero centigrade.
In the office, it is best to keep the AC and heat to a minimum, and to alternate with opening the window every now and then.
6. Siesta and meditation
I am not saying these companies are the summon of rewilding, but it’s valuable to consider their proposals anyway.
The athletic giant Nike is said to extend its commitment to health and wellness to employee benefits; at their headquarters near Portland, Oregon, staffers enjoy quiet rooms, where they can nap or even meditate during the day.
At Google’s Mountain View, California, home base, employees take advantage of campus-wide nap pods, which are futuristic-looking lounge chairs that play soothing sounds so workers can catch a quick snooze when they need one.
Of course, employee well-being is just one benefit to company-sponsored napping.
Another important bonus is improved employee performance. In the 1990s, NASA recognized sleep’s crucial role for astronauts and experimented with short naps during their workdays. Not surprisingly, performance skyrocketed; today, the “NASA nap” is a common practice among pilots making international flights for airlines such as Continental and British Airways.
During the years that Kiki worked for the Virgin Group, having places and opportunities to take a nap made it possible to face the last hours of the work day with renewed energy instead of fighting with the yawns until it’s time to leave the office.
7. Computer Lighting
The lighting of the world around us changes depending on the time of day. During the day, we’re exposed to bright sunlight that has a cool, blue-colour temperature. This keeps us awake and affects our circadian rhythms. At night, the bright sunlight is gone — instead, we’re using indoor lighting that is generally dimmer and warmer. Our brains secrete melatonin during these darker hours when we’re not exposed to sunlight, causing us to get sleepier.
But our computers didn’t get the message. Staring at these bright, sun-like screens late into the night or morning, as many of us do, strains our eyes and inhibits melatonin production. Some computers have brightness sensors and will adjust the screen brightness depending on how bright it is around you, but the colour temperature doesn’t change.
Flux uses warmer colours at night than during the day, making white colours appear a bit more reddish. Looking at a warmer display at night will help reduce eye strain, and, because you’re not staring at a bright, sunlight-like screen, cause your brain to secrete more melatonin and help you get to sleep earlier and sleep better.
When sitting for long periods, not being active at all, your food choices are even more important. Even your boss should care about the food you put into your mouth. A healthy diet makes healthy, more productive people.
Plan and prepare your work meals at home. Think about healthy choices, balance, and portions. Avoid food and beverages coming out of a machine except for water.
Going out to a restaurant or to the company canteen is no excuse for a poor diet. Go for the healthies choice, and ask the waiter for salads and vegetables instead of the typical French fries. Order healthy, local, and seasonal food. When you and your colleagues keep asking for it, the restaurant will consider it after all. The customer is king.
During stress moments you may want to grab for the nearest snack as comfort food. Ditch the chips and sweets, and put local and season fruits on the table.
A good organic coffee can be heaven! Aim for the best coffee quality possible on the work floor. But be reasonable, don’t drink it like it’s water! You’ll become addicted, and, after a while, it won’t increase your productivity anymore. Look for alternatives like herbal teas.
Drink enough water, but don’t overdo it. Not too long ago, people were advised to drink two to three liters a day. Now, they know better. Stay hydrated, but don’t exaggerate. Just as when you are outdoors, the best indicator of good hydration is the color of your pee.
Colleagues find many good reasons to have a little party in the office: a birthday, a new birth, a retirement, or a new employee. Most of the time, the food that people choose to celebrate with are way too salty and/or way too sweet. Go for the healthy, different, and creative choices.
Especially if you have a desk job, stand up and move around!
I know, I know, it’s the simple things, but at the end of the day, they can make a huge difference.
I know it’s a screamy one-liner: “Sitting is the new smoking,” but various studies all over the globe support it. We sit way too much, and it is killing us. So, stand up for your right to … stand up. (link to stand up for your health)
- When you commute to your work, get out of the vehicle one or two stops before and walk the rest of the distance. If you go by car, park the car a little further than necessary.
- Rather than emailing or calling your colleague at the other side of the office, go and see him/her in person. Walking across the room to a co-worker’s desk gives you a chance to move and stretch your legs.
- Come on, don’t be lazy. Your body is screaming for some physical activity! Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Get up and move at least every hour. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stand up. Taking the necessary bathroom breaks is a good excuse. If you have options, don’t take the one closest by.
- Use a standing desk. If you want to or have to sit, do it on an exercise ball instead of your chair.
- Take a walk on your morning break or at lunch: It is possible to eat a little lunch while taking a light stroll.
- Every day more employees go jogging or walking during their lunch break. Being a MovNat enthusiast myself, I want to invite you to discover MovNat, and try this workout for a change. Running is great, but as far as I am concerned MovNat is more fun, more diverse, more challenging, and more functional.
I know that what I propose is not easy.
Office and nature are two opposite poles.
But I still want you to give it a try and discover how your quality of life can improve significantly by bringing rewilding to your workplace.
Now I would love to hear your experiences on this subject so don’t be shy and share your proposals in the comments.
A big hug!