If we don’t change our approach to office working environments, people in offices will end up with hunched backs, arthritic conditions and vision problems, a report warns. Is this why you need an Apple Watch at work?
Bad working environments are bad for productivity
New research from workspace solutions provider Fellowes offers several stats that may reflect the problem of poor working conditions:
- Over 90% of office workers suffer health issues as a result of where they work. They all say it makes doing their work harder.
- 50% of office workers suffer from strained eyes.
- 49% have sore backs.
- 48% endure headaches.
This is UK data, but I doubt it is much different anywhere else.
What makes this worse is the attitude some employers have to such complaints. Over 20% of workers who have asked for improvements in their working environments say their employer fails to take the complaint seriously.
The thing is, when you join the dots and recognize the costs of staff recruitment, retention and training and cross that against the costs of absence, illness and staff replacement, any failure to address these problems is almost certainly more costly than dealing with them.
Plus, of course, happy staff stick around longer and are way more productive.
So, can an Apple Watch really help you stay a little healthier at work?
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I think it can. Here are a few ways it may do so:
1. Get up, stand up, stand up for your health
I’ve been told that Apple’s offices are populated by people who bounce up from their desks and walk around occasionally.
(I’ll observe that I’ve not read any convincing reports of any productivity benefits to the former. I think people like to work in a defined space, as it nurtures a sense of autonomy, which is critical in modern workplace theory, but I digress.)
Why invest in either when you can just use the handy Stand function in your Apple Watch? This little feature reminds you to stand up every hour, on the hour. When you do, why not move around a little? At least one study shows that doing so can help control weight while also preventing you from developing some back and leg problems.
2. Use the Pomodoro Technique
I get it. You’re busy. We’re all busy.
Digital transformation was meant to make us all more efficient, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve simply ended up with 120 zillion things on your "to do" list and a real sense that time is passing faster than you are meeting those targets.
Perhaps that’s just me, but I don’t think I’m terribly unique.
There’s a fantastic time management technique that can help you get through stacks of tasks. It’s called the the Pomodoro Technique.
This is how to use it with an Apple Watch:
- Select the task.
- Ask Siri to set a timer on your Apple Watch for 25 minutes.
- Work furiously on the task.
- When the timer goes off, get up and take a 5-minute break.
- Return to your workspace, select the task (or another task) and set the time again.
- Work at the selected task for 25 minutes.
- Take a short break.
- After four such cycles, take a longer break, up to 30 minutes.
It’s astonishing how effectively working in this way can help you focus on your work – though you must ensure that colleagues know not to disturb you when in this mode. It really is about hyper-concentration, and any disturbance can rock you out of that frame of mind. Naturally, there’s an app for this method, called Focus.
3. Use Voice Control
If you happen to be working on an iPad or a Mac running the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system, then you may already be using Voice Control to get your work done. It’s astonishingly effective and lets you control your Mac and do your work from the other side of the room, if you use a headset.
You can’t do quite as much with your Apple Watch, but you can use Siri to dictate messages and emails, set reminders and make calls (if used with a cellular connection or iPhone). This may not mean much, but it does mean you can wander away from your desk while still getting stuff done.
4. Get some exercise
Apple’s Activity app is a great way to track your exercise levels.
When it was introduced, Activity only tracked your movement, but it now lets you share Activity levels with others.
The idea is that you compete against each other to meet challenges, and you receive notifications when your friends/colleagues meet their goals, finish workouts, and earn achievements. There’s even a weekly competition with points and everything.
Think about using the feature to set up friendly rivalries in your office. That way you can encourage each other to meet activity targets.
That’s good for you, of course, but it may also help nurture teamwork and employee engagement – which makes this approach equally good for employers, I think. (An app called Stridekick is also a good fit for office competitions).
5. Breathe a little
You’ve been working hard in 25-minute sessions, taking breaks to a timer, hobbling round the office to get an edge on Harry in accounts, and muttering Reminders into your arm like a king.
Quite naturally, you’ve got a headache.
You need a different kind of break. Try a little mindfulness.
I think there’s still quite a lot of resistance to taking a break to just focus on nothing, but research is emerging to suggest it can improve mood, help prevent heart disease and hypertension and may even reduce age-related cognitive decline.
Meditation may also improve your concentration.
Apple has a small and I think pretty ignored app buried inside your Apple Watch called Breathe. I disabled notifications from it some time ago, as I seldom used it, but having engaged in this research I’ve enabled it again.
It seems to me that if a five-minute session of inner focus, mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress, then it’s probably worth doing a couple of times a day.
6. Watch what you eat
Stress makes you eat. Being tired makes you hungry. Boredom makes you hungry. We all eat way too much. I want to stop. I'm hungry.
How do we stop?
Most of the heavy lifting is up to you, but an Apple Watch app like LifeSum may help you track what you eat, provide you with useful recipes and just generally automate the hassles around eating better, so you can focus on the stuff you need to do. Like standing up.
7. Warn you when something’s wrong
I think everyone knows Apple Watch can alert you to abnormal heart rhythms and low/high heart rates, detect falls and call for help if you are in trouble. These are useful features anywhere, not just at work – as is the use of reminders to help you take medication at regular intervals (as many of us do while at work) or to drink a glass of water.
One more useful feature? A growing number of health insurance firms offer lower premiums to Apple Watch users so long as they meet certain Activity targets.
This is good for anyone paying for such insurance but may make a massive difference to employers trying to reduce their corporate insurance premiums.