Posts tagged new york times
A 2-Minute Walk May Counter the Harms of Sitting

by Gretchen Reynolds

With evidence mounting that sitting for long stretches of time is unhealthy, many of us naturally wonder how best to respond. Should we stand up, or is merely standing insufficient? Must we also stroll or jog or do jumping jacks?

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A new study offers some helpful perspective, suggesting that even a few minutes per hour of moving instead of remaining in a chair might substantially reduce the harms of oversitting.

As most of us have heard by now, long bouts of sitting can increase someone’s risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, kidney problems and premature death. These risks remain elevated even if someone exercises but then spends most of the rest of his or her waking hours in a chair.

In a representative and sobering study being published next month in Diabetologia, scientists found that every hour that overweight adults spent watching television, which is a handy way to measure sitting time at home, increased their risk of becoming diabetic by 3.4 percent. Most of the participants were watching nearly three hours a day.

But despite such health concerns, simply advising people to abandon their chairs and stand all day is impractical. Many of us who have experimented with standing or treadmill desks have discovered that they can have their own deleterious impacts on typing accuracy, general productivity and our lower backs.

So what reasonable steps could and should people take throughout the day to reduce sitting time?

To help to answer that question, researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and other institutions recently turned to the immense trove of data available in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which annually asks a cross section of Americans about how they eat, exercise, feel and generally conduct their lives.

Recently, as part of the data collection process, some participants have begun wearing monitors that objectively track their movement patterns. (Otherwise, the data relies on people’s recall of activities, which can be unreliable.)

The researchers gathered monitor data for 3,626 adult men and women, most of whom reported being generally healthy at the start of the study period.

Using standard activity measurements, the researchers then divided each of these participant’s days into minutes spent sitting; participating in low-intensity activity (since the monitors couldn’t pick up changes in posture, but only in bodily movements, they couldn’t measure standing per se); engaging in light-intensity activities, such as strolling around a room; or doing moderate to intense activities, such as jogging.

Most of the participants spent most of each day sitting.

The scientists then checked death records for three or four years after the survey, to determine how many of the participants had passed away during that time.

They used the resulting numbers to statistically determine participants’ overall risk of premature death and what role sitting or not sitting had played in that risk, as well as the relative importance of what someone did instead of sitting.

In other words, the scientists wanted to see whether standing, walking or jogging in lieu of sitting was best at extending lifespans.

What they found was unexpected. A low-intensity activity like standing, by itself, had little effect on mortality risk. Those people in the study who spent a few minutes each hour engaged in such low-intensity activities did not show much if any decline in death risk, compared with those who sat the most.

But those who walked around after standing, replacing some of their sitting time with a light-intensity activity like strolling, gained a substantial benefit in terms of mortality risk.

In fact, if they replaced as little as two minutes of sitting each hour with gentle walking, they lowered their risk of premature death by about 33 percent, compared with people who sat almost nonstop.

The researchers found an additional reduction in mortality risk if people engaged in moderate exercise instead of sitting, although the numbers of respondents who jogged or leapt about instead of sitting was so small that statistical determinations were difficult.

Over all, the study’s findings are “encouraging,” said Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah, who led the study. They are especially so since the benefits seem to be additive, he said. Someone who already is walking for two minutes per hour and now starts to walk two minutes more — displacing an additional two minutes of what had been sitting time — could reduce his or her risk of premature death even more than from walking two minutes alone.

This reduction in death risk is likely related to energy balance, Dr. Beddhu said. Strolling instead of sitting increases the number of calories that someone burns, potentially contributing to weight loss and other metabolic changes, which then affect mortality risk.

But because this study is observational, he said, it doesn’t prove that walking instead of sitting directly reduces death risk, only that the two are associated.

Still, the possible benefits of strolling more often around the office seem alluring and the risks slight, especially if you invite your boss to join you, highlighting your tender care for his or her well-being.

Originally published on NYTimes.com, May 13, 2015.

The Monuments of Tech

Last week, the New York Times probed the rising trend among big internet companies to construct “workplaces that memorialize their products and values.” Gone are the nostalgic days of Silicon Valley companies “building world-changing technologies from the humble garage, or the nondescript office park.” Instead, tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Amazon are seeking to craft workplaces that “fuse their values of speed, change and productivity with their perceived corporate smarts and quirkiness.”

image                                                   Image: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

In most cases, these personalized workplaces subscribe to the common design trend of open plan office environments. This workplace type is not only suited for fluctuating office teams and sizes, but also helps move “work and information as quickly as possible” – a quality particularly suited to fast-moving tech companies.

By injecting their “ethos” into the design of their workplaces, tech companies have begun to create not “just offices… [but] monuments.”

Facebook’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters is one example, boasting a “Disney-like” design modeled after “Main Street, USA.” At Facebook, there are no permanent offices as employees are often moved around based on “new short-term projects.” Such elements as plywood boards hanging from the ceiling provide the space with a “visual ‘under construction’ reference meant to reinforce the company’s ethos.” Considering that doors act as an “impediment, slowing the making of something new,” the open plan office is designed to “change thinking” and inspire creativity.  

Twitter’s San Francisco office also uses its architecture to influence employees, with quirky design elements – like the front desk computer housed “inside a faux birdhouse” and nest-like twigs on walls – that reference the company’s iconic logo. Informal meetings often take place in the @birdfeeder cafeteria, in the hopes that “this low-stress setting… will help foster new ideas.”

All of the design decisions and uses of these tech offices are in service to the idea that “nothing is permanent, that any product can be dislodged from greatness by something newer. It’s the aesthetic of disruption: We must all change, all the time.” The flexibility and utility of open plan offices is particularly suited to this type of disruption and temporality that defines the tech industry.

Soothing Back Pain by Learning How to Sit Again

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In light of Correct Posture Month, the New York Times published an article, The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley, about instructor Esther Gokhale. She attempts to soothe the back pain of those hard-working Californians plagued with “Silicon Valley syndrome,” by “reintroducing her clients to… the ‘primal posture’.” Gokhale explains that this posture was “common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life.”

From Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, to one of Google’s senior vice presidents, Susan Wojcicki, Gokhale has trained thousands of workers “chained to their technology… hunched over desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.” Like these Silicon Valley executives and board or staff members, many office workers in the U.S. sit at desks all day, which “goes hand in hand with back, neck and shoulder discomfort.” (Any of this ringing uncomfortable bells?)

Gokhale offers an accessible, non-surgical approach to back pain treatment by reteaching students how to “sit, stand, sleep and walk” in an "upright and relaxed" stance. See below for some of Gokhales tips for elongating and stacking the spine into a tall J-shape:

  • Relax the front of the pelvis downward
  • The belt line should slant forward
  • The rear should angle back so “your behind is behind you, not under you”
  • Hold the rib cage flush with the stomach
  • Roll your shoulders up and gently bring them back and down
  • Re-center your head over you spine

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In a recent  New York Times  article,  Engineering Serendipity , Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by  Yahoo  and  Google  and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.    By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees.     
 In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of  Sociometric Solutions  that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.” 
 In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

In a recent New York Times article, Engineering Serendipity, Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by Yahoo and Google and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.  By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees. 

In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of Sociometric Solutions that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.”

In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

Open Spaces Make for a Productive Workplace    
    In a recent  New York Times  article, “ Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks ,” author James B. Stewart recounts his colorful experience touring Google’s East Coast headquarters. His, “at times, dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias… [and] Broadway-themed conference rooms with velvet drapes…” served as an attempt to discern whether Google’s imaginative workplaces are responsible for the creativity and productivity of its employees.    
  One of Stewart’s observations about the  Google  offices particularly resonated with our team at Innovant: the open plan environment serves as the physical platform for Google’s intellectual advancements. In the article, Craig Nevill-Manning, “  a New Zealand native and Google’s engineering director in Manhattan,” explains the philosophy behind Google’s office environment.      “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.”   
  After his Google expedition, Stewart conferred with Teresa Amabile, “  a business administration professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Progress Principle,” about creativity at work.” What he learned from Amabile was that    “there’s some evidence that great physical space enhances creativity.”    She added that,  “the theory is that open spaces that are fun, where people want to be, facilitate idea exchange. I’ve watched people interact at Google and you see a cross-fertilization of ideas.”    
  Another expert, Ben Waber, “who has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and is the author of “People Analytics,” weighed in on workplace interactions.  “Google has really been out front in this field,” he said. “They’ve looked at the data to see how people are collaborating. Physical space is the biggest lever to encourage collaboration. And the data are clear that the biggest driver of performance in complex industries like software is serendipitous interaction. For this to happen, you also need to shape a community. That means if you’re stressed, there’s someone to help, to take up the slack. If you’re surrounded by friends, you’re happier, you’re more loyal, you’re more productive. Google looks at this holistically. It’s the antithesis of the old factory model, where people were just cogs in a machine.”   
  At Innovant, we understand Waber’s point that “physical space is the biggest lever to… collaboration.” For employees to thrive, employers must invest in an environment that breeds productivity and creativity. This type of investment in the workplace is sure to be an investment in the work that’s completed there.   

Open Spaces Make for a Productive Workplace

In a recent New York Times article, “Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks,” author James B. Stewart recounts his colorful experience touring Google’s East Coast headquarters. His, “at times, dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias… [and] Broadway-themed conference rooms with velvet drapes…” served as an attempt to discern whether Google’s imaginative workplaces are responsible for the creativity and productivity of its employees.

One of Stewart’s observations about the Google offices particularly resonated with our team at Innovant: the open plan environment serves as the physical platform for Google’s intellectual advancements. In the article, Craig Nevill-Manning, “a New Zealand native and Google’s engineering director in Manhattan,” explains the philosophy behind Google’s office environment. “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.”

After his Google expedition, Stewart conferred with Teresa Amabile, “a business administration professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Progress Principle,” about creativity at work.” What he learned from Amabile was that “there’s some evidence that great physical space enhances creativity.” She added that, “the theory is that open spaces that are fun, where people want to be, facilitate idea exchange. I’ve watched people interact at Google and you see a cross-fertilization of ideas.”

Another expert, Ben Waber, “who has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and is the author of “People Analytics,” weighed in on workplace interactions. “Google has really been out front in this field,” he said. “They’ve looked at the data to see how people are collaborating. Physical space is the biggest lever to encourage collaboration. And the data are clear that the biggest driver of performance in complex industries like software is serendipitous interaction. For this to happen, you also need to shape a community. That means if you’re stressed, there’s someone to help, to take up the slack. If you’re surrounded by friends, you’re happier, you’re more loyal, you’re more productive. Google looks at this holistically. It’s the antithesis of the old factory model, where people were just cogs in a machine.”

At Innovant, we understand Waber’s point that “physical space is the biggest lever to… collaboration.” For employees to thrive, employers must invest in an environment that breeds productivity and creativity. This type of investment in the workplace is sure to be an investment in the work that’s completed there.  

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image   
 
 Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.” 
 The building was designed by  NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm  whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here. 
 These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential. 
 
   http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image

Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.

These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.

http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF