Work days have always been long, and most office employees spend at least eight hours sitting at keyboards, typing away on their computers, but standards for office culture have begun to change over the last few years. Office managers have realized that a happy workplace is a productive workplace.
As a result, offices look different. New companies and recently renovated office spaces prefer open-concept designs that encourage more interaction between co-workers. It’s no longer surprising to find a foosball or air hockey table around the work area. Other work perks can include company gym memberships, in-office parties, food and snacks, lunch and more flexible schedules.
But what about the time that employees actually spend at work? How can offices relieve the dreaded 9-to-5 grind, while boosting company morale, energy levels and promoting physical well-being? It may actually not be so hard. Here are five things I've done in my office to kick-start healthy practices and happily engage all employees.
1. Put more plants around the office.
Integrating more greenery into the office is the simplest and most effective way to boost productivity, clean the air and keep employees generally happier. By placing simple house plants around the office, where everyone can see them, researchers say that employees are 15 more more productive than if they were in a minimal, “lean” office. Those are just the psychological effects. Plants have also been proven to reduce levels of airborne dust, air temperatures and background noise - and air quality has always been worse in an office.
2. Integrate stand-up desks.
Many offices have, over the years, begun integrating more standing desks into the workspace -- and for good reason. A report published by the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that more than half of the average person’s waking life is spent sitting. Much of that, we can assume, is at a desk, hunched over a computer. That report, which uses findings gleaned from 47 health studies on sedentary behavior, found that people, including those who exercise, who sit for long stretches of time have a higher risk of dying from heart disease and diabetes. Standing desks, on the other hand, have been shown to improve posture, burn extra calories, improve metabolism and increase blood flow. Employees often feel more energetic once they get used to standing, and they become more motivated to keep working.
3. Provide healthy snacks.
Nothing improves office morale more than the occasional doughnut day, and nobody is suggesting that workplaces swap chocolate cake for carob on birthdays, but often work snacks are lackluster and, worse unhealthy. Rather than getting the office shipments of Ritz Bits, candy and bagels, offices should consider healthier snacks for the general well-being of employees. Nuts, dried fruit and low-fat popcorn are all healthy, delicious snacks that won’t send workers into a sugar-crash.
Companies including MunchBetter, NatureBox and UrthBox offer office plans to provide larger teams with customizable varieties of unique, organic and healthy snacks. Another great idea is to partner up with a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm to get weekly deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables to help boost energy.
4. Promote physical activity.
There’s really no downside to integrating more physical activity into a work day. The benefits are numerous. A simple five-minute break to stretch or do jumping jacks can send a quick hit of endorphins through the body, boost alertness, improve the posture and burn calories. There are many ways offices have managed to get their workforce more active: weekly group yoga, office calisthenics, hourly two-minute stretches, or even just integrating a ping-pong table into the office space.
5. Encourage walking meetings.
A lot of the greatest minds in the tech industry prefer to take their meetings outside: Steve Jobs reportedly spent hours at a time in walking meetings, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are also proponents of the walk and talk, and President Barack Obama also gets some of his best decision-making done circling the White House grounds.
It’s hard to hold a department-wide meeting or a conference call outside, but for smaller groups and one-on-one meetings, the change of scenery is usually welcome. Walking meetings reap the physical benefits of getting outside, raise energy levels, increase focus, jump-start creativity and help participants relax and be open with each other.
In addition to meetings, at Due we encourage people go on two walks a day, typically for around fifteen minutes. We ask everyone to leave their cell phones behind so we won't be distracted. This is the time we need to really get to know the people we work with. We also have come up with some amazing ideas. Nature spurs new ideas. I return from these walks with greater clarity and more focused on work. Since implementing and encouraging these for all workers, we've had an increase in productivity like nothing else.
Even talking together about remaining alert and healthy has proven a boon to office health. Sharing ideas of personal habits of health, exercise and stress reduction will inspire others in the office to try the same idea in their own lives.