One of my earlier books ‘Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears’ was about adding ten years to your productive life. Expanding lifespans in developed countries are tarnished by the physical diseases and decay of affluence. Retirement for many is becoming a shifting goalpost, a political football or an unwelcome concept from last century. Now seems a great time to write about the topic of stretching out the good and productive years. We’re living longer so we may as well live better and make a few more bucks along the way. Or not – on the bucks front anyways. I’m already reading much about how money, above a certain level, doesn’t make that much difference in terms of quality of life. Though below that level, it will diminish the quantity of life you end up with.
A consistent theme throughout the book is overlapping and inter-connectedness – a systems approach. Certainly, when you get to the sections on our bodies and how our physical systems work (or don’t), this becomes incredibly evident.
This next bit might be more of a laugh than anything factually helpful but it is a conversation starter. I use it when MCing conferences to get a buzz going and the noise and enthusiasm levels up amongst the audience.
John Manning studied the relationship between our finger lengths and certain health outcomes. Look at the photo below of my hand and how I’ve marked the difference in length between my ring finger (4D) and my index finger (2D.) Check out your own 4D:2D ratio. They’ve been the same your whole life and they’re not going to change. It’s supposed that their relative lengths are a consequence of exposure to differing levels of testosterone in the womb as a foetus.
So what? Manning’s study of Liverpool heart attach victims’ fingers found a high ratio (like mine) has a correlation with lower heart attack risk. It’s good for sport. It’s bad for depression. It’s terrible for autism. Manning himself describes his findings as, “Persuasive but not yet definitive.” Why am I even bothering to finish this paragraph? You’re too busy trying to stretch your fingers or finding a friend to check out their fingers before you tell them why…
The point is that, even if this is true, there is nothing you can do about it. These are cards that have been dealt. But, on average, our genetics are only a third of our future. Two thirds are our choices, and we can al do something about that.
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I used to work in local Government. When I started, there was a ‘Rubbish’ department. It became ‘Refuse and Recycling.’ Last I heard, it had become ‘Waste Minimisation.’ These aren’t just superficial labels, they represent a shift in thinking. A similar shift has occurred when it comes to wellness at work. It’s gone from ambulances at the bottom of cliffs (sometimes literally) to prevention and a broadening of scope from the merely physical and work-related.
I’ve worked with organisations that offer subsidised gym memberships, 10,000 Step programmes and reward-point-scoring health insurance schemes. In-house Occupational Therapists teach posture and micro-pausing to the masses, ergonomic furniture is installed while Sven the masseuse takes your shoulder massage booking. I actually saw one company intranet’s homepage announcing the boss was paying for a diet specialist to come in and speak, although this was right next to an advert for the social club’s fish ‘n’ chip evening. I love those situations, like my local supermarket which had a sale bin of toothpaste right next to a sale bin of chocolate bars – 5-for-$4! An aisle of value but also an aisle of irony.
My point here is that even if you’re not an employer that doles out massages and gym memberships, your workplace has a tremendous capacity to affect your people’s physical and mental health one way or the other. That some employers make efforts to bolster worker wellness isn’t altruistic. They reap the benefits of attendance, attitude, engagement, productivity and more. A study published in the U.S. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that for every dollar a worker’s illness cost, the average impact on their employer’s productivity was $2.30. So, for example, preventing staff illnesses causing $10,000 of medical costs could enhance your bottom line by $23,000.
I read a book last Christmas called ‘The Blue Zone. Lessons for living longer from those who’ve lived the longest’ by Dan Buettner. He and his team have studied the four little pockets of humanity where they have a ridiculously long length and quality of life. (None are in New Zealand. They’re in Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan and California.) There’s a quick online quiz, after which it tells you how long they reckon you’ll live if you keep going the way you’re going and how long you could live if you take their advice. Take the test but do it with friends. (Ironically, doing it with friends is part of their advice.)
I need to get a pet and at least one more friend at ‘organ-donor’ level. Otherwise, I’m pretty sweet. You might be pleasantly surprised at their alcohol and exercise advice. Having a reason to live is important and, for some, work can provide that. Friendship is generally good for your health but there are different levels of friend. I think we all know that. We might not have it written down but we have a ‘friend matrix’ somewhere. When you’re a kid, you need a friend with an X-Box. When you leave home, you need a friend with a van to help you move. When you’re my age, you need a friend with a spare (functional) kidney.
In 2007, Gallup research found that “having a best friend at work” increased the likelihood of someone being engaged at work by 700%. Sarah Burgard from the University of Michigan has shown that job insecurity (fear) causes more illness than actually losing a job. Disconnected employees are more likely to get sick and more likely to miss work. A study by the Confederation of British Industry estimated that fifteen percent of illness days taken were not due to actual illnesses.
A recent episode of TV’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ was filmed in New Zealand. I presume New Zealand paid for this because it seemed that the phrase, “In New Zealand” had to be said at least every ninety seconds. “I’m eating an apple IN NEW ZEALAND.” “I never thought I’d be doing push-ups IN NEW ZEALAND.”
There is a lot of time on screen of exercise, dieting and dramatic weigh-ins which probably makes for good TV but is unlikely to lead to ongoing long-term wellness-supportive lifestyle changes. What does help are social proof, goals, regular non-judgemental behaviour-based feedback and a sense of purpose. Not surprisingly (hopefully), these things are also powerful drivers of workplace behaviours that support not only wellness but productivity and profitability.
An obese person sat next to me on the plane recently. Despite he and I both paying for one seat, he was taking up a good third of my space. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me IN NEW ZEALAND.
Hey everyone, my latest podcast is coming out later today but, just quickly, I’m running a limited-time promo for my book ‘Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears.’ The Kindle version is temporarily free. Unlike retail stores crazy promos, you cannot get trampled in the rush so please do drop all civility and stampede to Amazon. And please do pass on the link. Thanks all.
As you’re about to plough into Christmas meals, followed by New Year’s resolutions, my latest book presents lots of ideas on reasonable things to do to improve the quantity and quality of your health, wealth and happiness, in a non-preachy way. If you want a Christmas pudding that is dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free and low-sugar, may I suggest a box of raisins? (Actually, raisins are quite high sugar and lack the other things that a non-dried piece of whole fruit would have to off-set that sugar’s impact.)
It’s too late for a Christmas present, unless you can handle that whole kindle-gifting thing, but it might just be the thing for friends and family in the aftermath…
This article reports on ‘wearable technology’ that can monitor micro aspects of worker performance. They seem well-intentioned, making comparisons to the bands and such that fitness trainers give their clients to monitor their steps and sleep. I suspect the potential to use the devices for evil is pretty high. I used to work with call centres and thought that was one particular job where human discretion was significantly limited (or limit-able) by measurement and monitoring technology. This takes the premis to the extreme and there isn’t even the need for the human in question to be tethered to any computer by a cable or headset
To be honest, I’d probably be OK if a bell went ‘ding’ if my posture went off target. It’s in my own interest and the firm’s that I maintain a healthy posture. I’ll be healthier and happier and look taller and more confident. Plus for the boss, there’s probably a long term link to health, wellbeing and productivity or at least less absenteeism if my posture is good. Customers might think I have a better attitude. If there’s a GPS component like sports teams use to see which player covers the most ground and that they’re where they’re supposed to be, that’s probably an integrity tool that some bosses might find themselves needing if the whole ‘trusting people’ thing hasn’t been panning out but it isn’t for everyone all the time. Wristbands that measure and encourage you to take 10000 steps a day have been around for ages and no one is up in arms about those.
“Philip L. Gordon and R. Brian Dixon, attorneys from management law firm Littler Mendelson, told Bloomberg BNA May 15 that employee consent to wear the technology is critical.”
These new gadgets porport to measure brain activity. I am curious as to what my optimum brain activity is in any given work day or if it there is any when I’m watching TV but I’m not sure I want big brother buzzing me every time I glaze over a bit. That said, if I’m a truck driver maybe that’s a really good idea for safety?
My new book in Kindle format is free for a day and that clock is ticking. Normally $US9.99. #Add10Years
The economy loses billions of dollars a year due to absenteeism caused by stress, according to this Australian research. That absenteeism from whatever cause drags on productivity is obvious. And, no doubt, variations of causes attributed to this thing called ‘stress’ contributes to that.
Setting aside for a moment those workplaces and individuals where there genuinely is a stressor from there being too much work or too challenging work relative to those supposed to perform it, another stressor can be disengagement. It’s not that the work is too much or too hard in itself, it’s that the work and the workplace and the boss are set up and managed in such a way that prevents or lessens the opportunities for workers to experience regular autonomy, development or any sense of purpose.
A recent Gallup Business Journal article makes the connection between the quality of the workplace and illness. If workers were breathing in gas or particles at work that posed a health hazard, that’d be in violation of any decent country’s employment laws. Just because a workplace’s toxins seep into people via their brains doesn’t make them any less hazardous. Yes, people will fake illnesses and ‘pull a sickie’ as implied in the image above and probably that occurs disproportionately on Mondays, Fridays and proximate to public holidays on long weekends. That’s a very different thing.
“The quality of the workplace can be linked to serious physical and mental illnesses such as clinical depression and chronic anxiety that can have a significant negative impact on workers’ job performance and on their personal lives.”
An icon of disengagement is Ferris Bueller from the 1986 movie. He was skiving off high school not work but his sentiments still apply:
“The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.”
Sitting can be as bad as smoking. They should print warnings on couches and office chairs. Even if the chair is perfectly primed by a professional Ergonomist and made safe from any posture or health and safety issue, the very act of being sedentary and sitting for long periods is not what humans are suited for. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Between 1945 and 1995, the average adult daily calorie expenditure fell 800 calories. So the amount of moving we do each day has reduced by 800 calories, thanks to cars and machines and washing machines and so forth. 800 calories is the equivalent of a ten mile walk! In 1960, 50% of jobs required at least moderate physical activity. Today it is only 20%. Two thirds of desk workers eat lunch sitting at their desk.
Move it or lose it!
I’m researching for my new book about adding 10 productive years to your life. One thing I’m definitely doing myself now is minimising sugar consumption. It’s insidious how it used to drain my effectiveness, nevermind how it was shortening my life and the quality of it. Sugar is a tough one. Most of us love sugar-based products and it is a primal driver from our starving caveman days.
Things you didn’t even know had sugar in them have sugar in them. One McDonalds cheeseburger has 7 grams of sugar in it. So does a Burger King cheeseburger. 7 grams of sugar is about 2 teaspoons. And who eats just one cheeseburger?
www.sugarstacks.com is a neat idea. I can say 7 grams but what does that look like? You might re-think drinking one can of coca cola if first you saw a photo of one can of coca cola with 10 sugar cubes next to it. Probably not, because you’re addicted to sugar, but at least now you’re operating from an informed position. If you’re thinking that consuming 10 cubes of sugar would make you sick, you’d be correct but fortunately there are offsetting chemicals in soft drinks to enable us to consume and keep down the sugar.
It was once rumoured that cocaine was the secret ingredient in coca cola to addict drinkers to the product. No need.
The World Health Organisation recommends no more sugar daily than:
|Adult Female||5tsp (20g)|
|Adult Male||9tsp (36g)|
And by sugar, they don’t just mean the sweet powdery granules you add to cereal. They mean naturally occurring sugars like in fruit juice. In this sense, a 500ml container of Charlie’s Real Orange Juice contains 11tsp of sugar – 22% more than a grown-as man’s daily need. Of course, if you wanted to lose weight after a lifetime of excessive sugar consumption, you’d need to consume even less.
New Zealanders are the 11th largest consumers of soft drinks in the world. On average we consume 10tsp of sugar daily just from drinks, nevermind however else we consume sugar. Six cans of coke a week at 139 calories per can, all other things being equal, will add five and a half kilograms to your weight in a year.
You probably provide sugar for your staff’s tea and coffee. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I used to shout highly sugary morning teas for my teams. I shudder looking back at that now. Maybe having a soda vending machine is not a great idea either? Have a read of the nutrition info on the bottles of some of those flavoured waters too.
Alternative sweeteners, be they chemicals or ‘natural’, have their own particular evils too. They make you want more sweetness for a start. They just make you want more everything.
Add zero? Yeah right.