Standing Target: Four Hours a Day! How am I doing?

The Guardian:

Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England.

The Telegraph:

Office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day during working hours, according to the first official health guidelines.

The guidance, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, warns that UK sedentary behaviour now accounts for 60 per cent of people’s waking hours and for 70 per cent of those at high risk of a long term condition.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine:

The derived guidance is as follows: for those occupations which are predominantly desk based, workers should aim to initially progress towards accumulating 2 h/day of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h/day (prorated to part-time hours). To achieve this, seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks.

I’ve written before about sitting killing us, so was interested to hear that an official organisation like Public Health England are undertaking research into how long we should be standing to be healthy and starting to form guidelines.

The key points are that we should be starting from a base of 2 hours of standing a day, during the working day, building to 4 hours a day.

It’s worth clarifying that the studies weren’t just about standing, they were looking into “getting workers to stand and/or move more frequently”. It’s not just about going from sitting still to standing still; the point is to become more active generally.

I don’t, personally, have any great metrics on how much I stand, or sit, or move around during the working day. I can make some good approximations though.

My iPhone runs Moves which tracks my activities when I move with the phone. So I know how much time I spend walking, with my iPhone, but that’s not very accurate at work because I tend to leave my iPhone on my desk when I do all of those small movements in the day – get a drink, go to the loo, etc. Assuming that those activities account for less than 30 mins a day I’m still left with about three and a half hours of standing or movement left to do. With that in mind I went back through my activity log in Moves and realised that I have a long way to go – the amount of movement recorded during the working day is tiny. An example of a week’s movement during the working day: Monday – 11 mins; Tuesday – 12 mins; Wednesday – 39 mins (I went for a walk at lunchtime); Thursday – 4 mins; Friday – 10 mins. Oh dear.

I sometimes stand next to my desk while on a call, but it’s not three hours a day!

Most mornings I go for a 40 minute walk before going to work. I could cheat a bit and include that in my target. Then I would be down to needing an extra three hours and a few minutes of standing or moving to get to a total of four hours.

However you look at it, I have a lot of work to do to get close to the two hours, so building to four hours is going to take some effort.

Apart from getting my employer to invest in a stand-sit desk do you have any great activity ideas for me?

One thing I had thought of was taking more calls on my mobile and then walking.

The Hamburger Icon: Those Three Lines

If you’ve used an app on a mobile phone you will have seen this icon.

If you’ve used some web site you will have seen this icon.

View this blog on a small screen and you’ve seen it.

Firefox and Chrome both use it.

On a mobile device it’s home is normally in the top left-hand corner of the screen. If you are right-handed it’s at the furthest reach of your thumb, for me, as a left-hander, it’s nicely accessible.

It’s commonly known as the hamburger icon, the hamburger button or the sandwich button.

What you possibly aren’t aware of is that this icon causes a strong emotional response in some people:

That little three-lined button is the devil. Whether you call it a side menu, navigation drawer, or a hamburger, hiding your features off-screen behind a nondescript icon in the corner is usually a poor mobile design choice. Interaction theory, A/B tests, and the evolution of some of the top apps in the world all support the same thesis: The hamburger button is bad for engagement, and you should probably replace it with a tab bar or other navigation scheme.

TechCrunch

The hamburger icon—three little bars used to indicate a link to a menu—is one if the most controversial techniques on the Web right now. Designers, we are told, all hate it; customers, we tell everyone, hate it too. Why then, is it everywhere?

Web Designer Depot

Where did it come from?

This icon isn’t even that new. One form of it was included in the initial Graphical User Interfaced designed at Xerox Parc by Norm Cox somewhere around 1981. At that time is was known as the air vent:

“Interesting inside joke… we used to tell potential users that the image was an “air vent” to keep the window cool. It usually got a chuckle, and made the mark much more memorable.”

BBC

What’s the problem?

The issue isn’t really with the design of three lines, the issue is how it’s used and what it’s used for. Luis Abreu’s defines the issues as four things:

  1. Lower Discoverability – it’s not immediately obvious that it’s a button that does something.
  2. Less Efficient – you use this button the way to something else, by definition you end up clicking twice.
  3. Clash with Platform Navigation Patterns – it appears in places where we expect other things to be.
  4. Not Glanceable – you can’t highlight anything about the items behind the button.

Having recognised that it’s a problem some people have undertaken tests to work out how much of a problem it is. As an example, James Foster did some tests that replaced the icon with the word menu and discovered that people are more likely to click if it says menu.

Why do I care?

Sometimes it’s the small things that make a huge difference:

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

I’m rarely in a place where I design user interfaces, but I am often in the place where I create documents and presentations from which I am trying to get a response. Those documents and presentations use a design language that I hope the recipients understand. If people struggle to understand an icon that has been around for 40 years then I need to be very careful about the design language that I use.

The Hamburger Button is also a reminder of the longevity of choices. A set of choices made 40 years ago are living on. The Hamburger Button isn’t exceptional in this regard, just look at the save icon, the width of train-tracks, the QWERTY keyboard, and the Copyright system. I occasionally get asked about a naming standard document that I first wrote over 20 years ago.

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Which Countries Work The Most? The OECD Better Life Index

The statistics in the graphic at the bottom of this post come from the OECD Better Life Index. For the UK it makes for interesting reading.

The full index measures 11 different parameters across 35 countries. The graphic focusses on the data behind just one of those indexes – average yearly working hours. People in the UK sit in the top third of the ranking at 1,790 hours per year.

The interesting observation, from someone who works for an American lead company, is that we in the UK work longer hours (1,790) per year than they do in the USA (1,654). We are nowhere near the 2,226 hours they do in Mexico though.

On many measures of the Better Life Index the UK does quite well, ranking highly on:

  • Income
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Civic Engagement
  • Health
  • Safety

We sit in the middle of the pack for:

  • Housing
  • Jobs

The index areas where we aren’t happy:

  • Education
  • Life Satisfaction
  • Work-Life Balance

From a personal perspective the ranking looks about right, but I’m only one person in 62 million.

Thinking Design Thinking

Do you notice design?

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns).

Wikipedia

Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.

Paul Rand

In my posts this year on the future Productive Workplace I considered that the Design Mindset was one of the core 2020 skills. So it shouldn’t be surprising that in recent years many of the large technology vendors have sought to build a new design framework for their products.

Apple has always been regarded as the leader in design (I’m not going to comment on whether that’s deserved or not). For many years Apple has followed a model of skeuomorphic design. In technology it’s perhaps easiest to understand skeuomorphic design by an example; if you open an earlier version of the notebook application on an iPhone it looked like a physical notebook. The use of the physical notebook as a representation of a notebook function on an iPhone is skeuomorphic design.

Apple has been moving away from skeuomorphic design for a couple of years now. In changing its design method to something much flatter Apple are following a trend that Microsoft had kick started in the technology arena back in 2010.

Microsoft’s philosophy of Flat Design (or Modern Design) had begun as far back at 2006 with the Zune design, but it is based on an approach to design that goes back to the 1950s and 1960s.

Google followed Microsoft’s lead into flatter design by creating its own design language called Material Design in 2014.

IBM has been the most resent entrant (from the technology arena) into design languages with the announcement of IBM Design Language. Again this is a flattened design approach.

So why all of this change and why is everyone going flat? Well the answer to that question can wait for another time.