Nano Workouts – Conference Call Push-ups

Following on from the thought that sitting is killing us I’ve been thinking about the different ways that I can counteract my personal inactivity.

While doing some research (sitting down) I came across a site called Nano Workout which produces regular pictures of exercise ideas for the office or home.

Today’s idea is Conference Call Push-ups:

I can’t see myself doing this in the office, at home maybe, but not in the office. The culture is such that this would be regarded as a totally mad thing to do, but perhaps that will change. Once upon a time it was regarded as acceptable to smoke in the office, now it’s illegal. I regularly walk around while on a conference call, so perhaps push-ups aren’t too mad an idea.

Sorting out sitting – before it kills me

There have been a number of articles in recent days about the dangers of sitting for long periods of the day, dangers that are serious and include a higher risk of death.

Global RainbowI, like many workers, spend much of my time sitting. If I’m working at home – I’m sitting at a desk. If I’m in the office – I’m sitting at a desk. If I’m in a meeting – I’m sitting at a table. Sitting, sitting, sitting. I’ve written before about my experiences with tension headaches which are primarily caused by issues of posture – posture while sitting. While these headaches are mostly under control, I’ve not yet managed to change my lifestyle sufficiently for me to remove all medicinal support, so sitting is still a problem.

Tom Ferris has a great post summarising the emerging evidence that inactivity, and sitting specifically, is a problem, but also what one organisation did to combat the problem.

Recent research suggests that those who sit from 9-5 (more than 6 hours daily) and exercise regularly are more likely to have heart disease than those who sit less than 3 hours per day and don’t “exercise” at all.

It’s a great shopping list of ideas including:

  • Standing desks
  • Exercise balls
  • Balance cushions
  • Monitors stands
  • Ergonomic keyboard
  • Ergonomic mice
  • Hand grippers
  • Wobble boards
  • Pedometers
  • Shoe options
  • Conference room and meeting configurations
  • Office layout
  • Food and snacks

The important point for me is that good office configurations have a direct payback in terms of productivity. We’ve known this for a long time, and yet many organisations continue to build facilities that have barely changed since the advent of the Personal Computer.

A small number of offices across the country have slowly begun to endorse the idea of exercising during work (e.g. walking on a treadmill while doing your job at Mutual of Omaha). Besides the obvious fitness benefits, exercise also increases productivity (according to research done by the Vermont Board of Education — PDF download).

Most surprising of all, remaking the workplace into a healthy, exercise-supportive environment has a cost benefit. Many of the design changes we have implemented cost little or nothing.

But it’s not just about gadgets, it’s also about culture. There are limits to what I can personally influence, especially in the office, but even then I don’t do what I know is good for me. It’s a change I am having to learn to make though. Which reminds me, I haven’t done my stretches yet today and perhaps it’s time to order an exercise ball.

The Location Balancing Act

Yesterday I found myself I seem to be finding myself on an increasing basis.

Chatworth with the FamilyHaving received an urgent meeting request last week for an event which was taking place at a location several hundred miles away from my home and my normal office location I needed to make a decision about attending.

There was a tele-conference option available which I decided to use. On Friday afternoon, however, I received a couple of phone calls stating that my physical presence would be greatly appreciated, necessary even. As a result of the calls I planned to travel. Travel is one of the things that we control quite tightly at my place of work so that  decision meant getting approval and a good deal of messing about.

Within two minutes of being in the meeting room I knew I had a mistake.

The meeting started.

People were presented with a document to review along with some instructions.

People left the meeting room to undertake their reviews.

I was left as the only person in the room reading the document.

While I didn’t mind reviewing the document, that was my role for the day after all, I did mind the physical, financial, man-hour and environmental impact of travelling.

While this is an example of where I’ve unnecessarily travelled, but there are also plenty of occasions where I haven’t travelled but should have. I’ve also used tele-conferencing where video conferencing would have been better, and vice-versa. Sometimes I’ve used email to communicate something when I should really have presented it, and again vice-versa.

Once upon a time it would have been simple. I would have known when I needed to meet someone face-to-face, when a report was required, and when a phone called would suffice. Those few options made things a lot simpler. There was a clear demarcation between the different communications media.

Today we have the joy, and the course, of choice. The challenge is that much of this choice is overlapping in its capability – we need to be able to predict the meeting contents before we can optimise the most appropriate way of interacting.

What I don’t think we yet have is a way of establishing meetings that enables us to understand prior to the event how to make it work best.

I find that, in general, people underestimate the complexity of the interaction that they are going to engage in and in so doing struggle to utilise a technology that is wholly inappropriate to the event. This error is then compounded by our inability to abort wrongly configured interactions.

At some point I’m sure that these issues will all go away and we’ll all be able to interact in a near-real-world manner wherever we are, but for now we need to do a better job of preparing meetings so that we use the right tool for the right job.

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