Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An Outstanding Work Dynamic

This piece appeared in The Hindu dated 20th Feb:http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/an-outstanding-work-dynamic/article6916567.ece

My daily dose of news and entertainment starts at ten every night soon after husband returns from work. While most people would be tired, irritable, and grumpy after a twelve-hour workday, my man is energetic, cheerful and talkative (sometimes too much for my comfort, actually). And then, over his cup of tea begins the session of news, views, and reviews.

When it comes to his passionate discourses on policy changes, environmental issues, or political drama, I mostly pretend to listen (and plan the girls’ Tiffin, or think of my next article), but I am all ears when he narrates stories from work. Perhaps that is why even though I have not set foot in an office for more than three years now, I do not really miss it. Perhaps that is also why I stay abreast with the latest happenings in the corporate world too – be it the latest fashion trends, technological advancements, changing dynamics of the business, or the plight of the workforce.

While it is a fact that most companies today are cutting down on perks and benefits like never before (free transport, free meals, regular parties are a thing of the past now), a healthy trend of investing on employee well being is fast emerging. Building gymnasiums and providing nutritious food options have long been methods of promoting fitness; the latest trend however is to pull the chair away from the employee’s desk.

The ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, especially those caused by desk jobs, have been proven time an again. Sitting for more than six hours a day, it is said, considerably increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and can even result in early mortality. It is also believed that these effects are not only lethal but also irreversible. So much so that even a regular workout cannot undo the damage caused by sitting all day long. The solution, however, is simple: to sit less and stand more.

Standing for three or more hours a day, on the other hand, not only helps you burn more calories, keeps your postural muscles active and toned, and keeps you alert, but it also keeps you mentally agile and helps you connect with your co-workers more effectively.

More and more workplaces are therefore making provision for stand up desks, and sometimes desks that are attached to treadmills too. (A stand up desk is typically a high desk, which can be used while standing up; a treadmill desk is a similar desk attached to a treadmill). In India the concept is still new, though it has been quite popular in the west.

Not to be left behind, husband’s swish new campus has come up with stand up meeting rooms – they do have high tables, but no provision for chairs. The meetings, according to him, are now shorter, crisper, and more productive as opposed to the never-ending discussions that last for hours with bored employees slouching in their chairs. The colleagues on the other hand are more active, energetic, and livelier than before. The stand up desks, or workstations, although are still sometime away.

Closer home meanwhile, realising how much I sit (thanks to my writing), I have cleared the top shelf of my book rack and have perched my old dilapidated laptop on it. And so, while my tech-savvy, corporate man is still a few steps away from his stand up desk, I have one right here in my study.

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