I recently attended a WELL Building seminar and was reminded of the importance of this mantra in workplace design: “Sitting is the new smoking.” It’s not exactly a new idea; you probably first heard it with the Steelcase introduction of the treadmill desk in 2008. The term actually originated from Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and the inventor of the treadmill desk. Although the treadmill desk may seem like a novel concept, the science behind it was quite ahead of its time.
The WELL standard, launched in 2013, was created to focus on the health and wellness of the occupants of a building in conjunction with the actual building. To push as designers, the WELL Building presenter encouraged us to think about what sitting and design sit based spaces is doing to our employees and clients. It makes sense that sitting 10 or more hours a day is slowly killing us. It does slow down our digestion, our mental process; it forces us into these slumped over postures that are not natural or healthy. Sedentary habits such as sitting put us at a greater risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.
Just like our clients, conference rooms at Lawrence Group are in high demand. For our weekly staffing meeting, our regular conference room was booked, so we got bumped. With the “sitting is the new smoking” cliché ringing in our heads, we decided to move our meeting to a standing bar top within our open office space. Without a task chair, television, conference room table or even four walls and a door in sight, we had a very quick yet super productive standing meeting. It was great! The success of that meeting made me think, “Why can’t this Monday meeting always be a standing one?” And “what other meetings could we convert to standing ones?”
Outlook automatically assumes meetings are a half hour long- at least, and many companies automatically schedule meetings for an hour long. Most of the time, it’s just convenient and it reserves the room, but do we really need an hour? It seems like we try to fill an hour’s worth of time even for meetings that might only need to be 10 minutes long. Not only does it waste time; it ties up those precious conference rooms that others may really need.
So in thinking about this within our own workspace, I have three (free) initiatives for clients to try. First, try scheduling meetings for only 15 minutes on the calendar and stick to it! See how much time you save and how much more focused and productive those quick meetings are. Second, take all the chairs out of a few conference rooms at your office, force those to be the standing meetings. Third, try having a meeting room or two that are not able to be scheduled and are the “20 items or less” style rooms. If you need to touchdown, make a conference call or have some other type of “20 minute or less” meeting, use these rooms. Not only are they able to be quickly utilized without a lot of planning, they also help to free up unnecessary overscheduling of other conference rooms. Try it!
We all want to be healthier and live longer. However, we tend to think of getting fit as something that has to happen at a gym, but maybe the workplace is the logical place to burn a few extra calories and kick that sedentary lifestyle to the curb. Now I know this may be a radical thought, standing for meetings, but remember the sit-to-stand desk or the treadmill workstation were considered radical at one time too. So if “sitting is the new smoking”, then aren’t meetings the worst form of second hand seating? Say that three times fast. Combat the sit! Stand up for meetings and kick that sitting habit!