Sitting at the office desk at least eight hours a day, five days a week, staring at all sorts of displays most of the time (PCs, phones, tabs or even televisions) and gorging on wrong foods and drinks make it difficult to stay healthy. Artificially lit, air-conditioned cubicles or open plans do not help either as there is little exposure to natural light and fresh air. Depending on the workload, many people would not even venture out for a much-needed lunch break, neither do they spend time beforehand on preparing a healthy mid-day meal. What we see is minimum movement along with a great deal of slouching, slumping and straining in front of our screens - a sedentary routine that will soon lead to health hazards in the form of obesity, sluggish metabolism, high blood pressure, heart conditions and a predisposition to diabetes. Is there a way out?
Sitting Kills; Get Moving
Feeling healthy does not happen overnight. The key to well-being lies in our willingness to work towards health goals. For instance, modern workplaces are built around the concept of comfortable sitting. But sitting, according to fitness experts, is the modern-day equivalent of smoking. Worse still, sitting at your office desk for 2,100 hours a year (going by our calculations) means you are underusing some vital muscles and overusing others. This may easily trigger lower back pain, pain in the legs or a feeling of numbness. Should you buck the trend and go for a standing desk? Not quite, the doctors tell us. Working on your feet throughout the day is bad for the spine and may cause neck and back pain as well as prolonged lower-limb muscle fatigue. This is not good news for millions of health workers, security personnel, retail assistants and others who earn their living on their feet. Poor posture may also lead to lumbar lordosis or swayback, an inward curving in the lower spine region that can affect one's movement. Ideally, take a break and move around a bit if you are sitting for more than 20 minutes. You should also change your posture and walk a little if you are standing for 10 minutes or so.
For the more radical, treadmill desks (a modified treadmill base attached to a vertical computer workstation) are a great option. The belt is designed to move at a low speed - 1-4 miles per hour - and you are expected to burn about 100 calories for every mile as you walk and work. But these installations are not very common in India and there is little clarity on pricing. Not all doctors recommend the device either. One can also try exercise ball chairs for improving posture and balance. The price could be around Rs 10,000 or more, but much like the walking desk, doctors will caution you not to overdo it and hurt your back.
A sit-stand workstation seems ideal as it allows an optimal balance between sitting and standing. Otherwise, one can invest in ergonomic chairs which cost Rs 8,000 onwards, allow you to adjust seat height, backrest and seat depth, and provide lumbar support. Whatever be the nature of your work desk, keep your posture right. Ideally, the top of the computer screen should be level with the eyes so that they look down at about 10?. Anything above or below that level will strain our neck, back and arms. Thankfully, companies are now taking notice and ergonomic seating is almost always available, making it easy to do some chairobics and deskercises at regular intervals. It is better than once-in-a-day gym session or a 30-45-minute run.
Set Your Pace; Stay on Top
People who often skip meals and exercise due to looming deadlines are doing it wrong. All of us need a few breathers in-between intense work bursts to boost concentration and productivity. Follow the 20:20:20 rule - after every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at things 20 ft away for a sanity nudge. If we fail to take the statutory break and spend hours looking at the screen, we tend to strain our neck and spine and suffer from dry or burning eyes. Using the keyboard for long hours may also trigger carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a common condition that causes numbness, pain and tingling in hand and arm as the median nerve (a major nerve to the hand) passing through the carpal tunnel in the wrist gets squeezed due to narrowing of the tunnel, repetitive hand and wrist movements or swelling tissues surrounding it. To prevent nerve injuries, one could wear a protective wrist splint or buy an ergonomic keyboard. Priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000 or more, these keyboards are concave in shape and house well-spaced-out keys to enhance ease of use.
Think of the Infosys campus or the Titan headquarters in Bengaluru - vibrant, sustainable and in harmony with nature with ample exposure to light, air and water, flora and fauna. Eco-friendly, biophilic offices can boost productivity, health and overall well-being. Agrees Smita Gupta, Managing Director of Gensler India, part of the global design and architecture firm Gensler. The India unit had worked for Accenture, Microsoft, Novartis, Wipro and more. "As a result, we have developed an effective strategy and our research group also helps." Gupta says critical parameters such as access to daylight, proper ventilation, cooling and greening must be taken care of. She is also keen on designs which keep people active. Taking the staircase always helps instead of crowded elevators. So, how different floors of an office building are connected will play an important role. Plus, there should be nap rooms, she says, as paying attention to the body clock results in better focus and higher productivity.
Layout and structure are equally important. Sunny meeting rooms lift our mood and could get us a good dose of Vitamin D. Of course, the green office concept is relatively new but a few developers had experimented with this trend earlier. When the Indian School of Business was built in Hyderabad in early 2000, the campus was designed by international architectural firm John Portman & Associates. In sync with the 'eco' concept, the firm had lifted many of the buildings off the ground to enhance airflow and also incorporated water bodies for natural cooling as a sustainable solution to the city's dry weather. As employee wellness (and therefore, productivity) is no fad, corporate houses are expected to build more extensively on the concept, thus blurring the lines between work, wellness and leisure to attract the younger workforce.