Is Your Desk Job Killing You?

And no, I don’t mean “killing you” in the mental sense, if you’re dissatisfied with your current employment situation (though that can be harmful too). I mean in the cold hard physical sense. If you sit for 9+ hours a day (most of us sit for 9.3 hours/day), you could be dramatically decreasing your shot at a long and healthy life.

In the recently published Harvard Business Review article “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation,” Nilofer Merchant explores the dangers of the sedentary lifestyle that is plaguing our nation. She argues that the association of the obesity epidemic with this generation is similar to the smoking epidemic of previous generations—except far worse. While the death rate related to tobacco use is 3.5 million, the death rate associated with obesity in the US is 35 million. It doesn’t take much to buy her argument. Just think of the typical daily cycle for so many of us:

Sit for 9 hours a day at our desk job –> Sit watching TV or reading a book in the evening –> Lie down to sleep for a 7 or so hours –> Repeat with 9 hours of sitting at work the next day…

Sure there may be some walks, gym visits or running after small children interspersed with all of this sitting…but the bottom line is, our society has turned into a bunch of couch potatoes – or perhaps, “task chair potatoes.”

Austin at his kangaroo

Here at HOK, we’ve taken some strides to overcome this. Some people have experimented with exercise balls instead of chairs, and a few others have recently tried out a nifty retrofit standing-height desk solution called “The Kangaroo” Adjustable Height Desk. Rather than the full-blown sit-to-stand workstation (which is pricey, and is meant to replace the original workstation rather than adapt it), the Kangaroo simply sits on the desk surface, and the entire contraption—monitor pole, desk surface holding keyboard and mouse, etc.—easily raises and lowers with the mere lift of the hand.

A coworker who is test-driving a Kangaroo says the best thing about the desk is that it allows him to effortlessly alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, and this variation in posture is the key to increased comfort.

While Nilofer Merchant acknowledges that standing is better than sitting all day, she takes it one step further and suggests we start walking more…during the work day. She has implemented what she calls “hiking meetings” into her daily routine, and has enjoyed not only the obvious health benefits, but also these unanticipated bonuses:

  1. Better Listening: walking next to someone rather than sitting across from them can allow for better listening and more fluid conversation.
  2. Undivided Attention: The act of moving and walking necessitates that mobile devices stay put away. (How often can we say that about a meeting in a conference room?!)
  3. Thinking Outside the Box and Joy: Most hiking meetings end joyful, with the fellow hiker remarking on how that was the most creative time they’d had in a while.

Hiking meetings sound like a much more easily-implemented workday workout than the aforementioned conference bike…sign me up!

If you’re not yet convinced that sitting at your desk all day is killing you, I leave you with this (slightly morbid) infographic to really drives the point home. The verdict is in. Sitting all day is bad, and it’s time to take a stand. And a walk.

Comments Post a Comment

HOK encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.