The research on sitting is clear. We’re slowly killing ourselves through inactivity every day. In addition to developing poor posture, sitting for long periods of time is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia—regardless of diet. In addition to the net negative impact on health, sitting also impacts productivity. Energy level drops, creativity is impacted, and brain fog emerges.
While corporate wellness programs may encourage step count competitions and provide great education on overall wellness, leaders should take an active role in increasing physical activity in the office.
- Walking meetings are a wonderful way to add physical activity during the day while also positively impacting productivity. When energy begins to slump right before lunch and mid-afternoon, it’s the worst time to ask your employees to sit in a windowless conference room. Break out of the office and meet while walking. Everyone benefits from the fresh air, new perspective, increased blood flow, and sunshine. In addition, breaking the mold of an agenda-driven, PowerPoint-heavy, action-item-oriented meeting enables better collaboration and the free flow of thoughts. There’s an important cultural impact as well, when leaders walk shoulder-to-shoulder with their team members vs. sitting at the head of the table leading discussions. Finally, walking meetings are a great way to reduce the distractions from devices. Ask team members to leave their phones at the office and enjoy a walk without the interruption of incoming text, emails, and phone calls.
- Challenge your employees to reduce their reliance on text messaging as much as possible. Getting up from the desk (even briefly) to walk to a team member’s office can be a small activity with substantial impact. From an energy boost to stronger personal connections, the benefit is worth the extra time investment.
- Helping your team become more physically active may seem like a challenge for leaders of virtual teams. But you’re only limited by what you perceive is “normal.” Sure, hearing background noise on a call can be distracting, but no more distracting than if you were in person walking together. Dogs will bark, cars will drive by, and the wind will blow, but if you’ve established that the value of taking a virtual walk together (weather-permitting) is greater than the frustration of a few distractions, then walking meetings become the new normal.
- Alternatively, consider suggesting stand-up video conference meetings with your team. During the height of winter and summer when walking is less ideal, just standing for the duration of the meeting is a good step towards reducing time spent sitting.
Small steps towards better health and engagement should have a ripple effect throughout the organization and result in greater energy, happiness, and performance for all.