Home Thinking Aloud It’s Time To Take The ‘Sitting Is The New Smoking’ Claims Seriously

It’s Time To Take The ‘Sitting Is The New Smoking’ Claims Seriously


how to sit properly at a desk

by Chloe Hashemi

Recent research shows that sitting down all day causes damage that exercise can’t fix. The average office worker spends about 16 hours a week in meetings – a figure that multiplies out to equal 4 years over a career – perhaps we need to start thinking about some more creative ideas for exactly how these hours are used.

Richard Branson, suggests that stepping away from a weekly routine and set formula can help to inspire creativity and productivity. As well as bringing a diverse group of people together, banning uninspiring PowerPoint presentations and booking thought-provoking speakers, Branson likes a change of scenery for his meetings. He writes that a ‘change of scenery and a bit of fun does wonders for getting people thinking differently and loosening up!’ Even if you don’t have the opportunity to invite people to your own private island like Branson, he suggests trying stand-up meetings, taking it out to the park or a more unusual venue rather than your standard office space.

According to strategist and speaker Nilofer Merchant ‘we spend more time sitting (average 9.3 hours a day) than sleeping (7.7 hours)’. Simply put, this is far from good for us. Merchant even goes as far as to suggest that ‘sitting has become the smoking of our generation’. To start to tackle this problem she does all of her one-on-one meetings as walks which gets her up and about and also helps to really connect with the person she is meeting with. With no phones or laptops between them to distract attention, these meetings tend to be shorter and much more effective. Watch Merchant’s TED talk on the topic here.

Jason Yip suggests that a brief stand-up meeting every day is a great way to check how progress is going. His description of the daily meeting at Agile Software Development is simple: ‘The whole team meets every day for a quick status update. We stand up to keep the meeting short’. He has discovered that this pattern of short, regular meetings unencumbered by laptops or PowerPoint presentations has several advantages. The team is likely to be on the same page in terms of goals and progress. There is a regular opportunity to air problems and suggest improvements and the group will probably identify as a team more. Because they are standing up they are unlikely to talk too long about anything irrelevant. Moreover, a study at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, found that ‘groups working together on a project while standing are measurably more engaged and less territorial than while seated.’

There are some things that all of these pieces of advice have in common. The first is that none of them rely on technology and say that this is an advantage. With no distracting screens around people can communicate more freely and ideas can develop properly. The second is that not one of them actually uses a traditional meeting room. These seem to develop a monotonous sense of routine and stifle creativity. Instead, some fresh surroundings or using the space available to you in a slightly different way seems to help people think more imaginatively.

Here are five tips to help you start planning more exciting and productive meetings:

1. Get out of the office.

Take Richard Branson’s advice and have a change of scenery. This could incorporate anything from taking your team out to the park or taking them on holiday to kickstart some inspiration. This sort of excursion from the office can help with team building too.

2. Stand Up.

This is a good way to make sure the meeting stays short, promote a team atmosphere and preventing anyone getting distracted by their emails. If you are looking for a simple and efficient way to regularly update the team this could be a great idea.

3. Take a Walk.

Put all the laptops and smartphones away and get a little exercise while you’re at it. This has the potential to boost morale, productivity and creativity. This is good for small meetings or one-on-one meetings in particular. It can also help to reduce health risks posed by sitting down for so many hours a day.

4. Food for thought.

Being hungry can distract us and reduce our productivity. Organise a breakfast for the team at a venue away from the office, or schedule a lunch outside if the weather is good. Make sure the food isn’t a distraction though so maybe get down to the real business when everyone has finished and is more relaxed.

5. Little and often.

If you do all of these things regularly you will keep the whole team on track and find that the communication between you all improves greatly. Remember that people can’t concentrate properly for hours on end so keep an eye on the clock and make sure that the meeting isn’t going on for too long. Make sure the team knows exactly when the meeting should be concluded and stick to that plan.


Chloe Hashemi

Chloe Hashemi is a marketing consultant for film and video production company LAMBDA Films, which is based in East Anglia, UK.