Here at Hireserve, we’re always looking for new ways to boost the team’s health and happiness in the office.

To this end, the Marketing team decided to trial three different office wellbeing ‘hacks’ this week, to see how practical they were to undertake, and ultimately whether they worked.

George took on walking meetings, Helen replaced her comfy office chair with an exercise ball, and Hannah built stretching into her day.

So how did they fare?

George: Walking meetings

Walking meetings have been known to improve your productivity, help you de-stress and increase your energy and focus. Some of mankind’s brightest minds swore by them in fact, including Sigmund Freud and Steve Jobs.

Walking meetings can be somewhat reliant on the weather; I don’t think our notes would last too long on typically barmy day in the UK. Thankfully, the skies were blue and the winds were calm – the perfect conditions for our afternoon meeting.

Hannah, Helen and I set off.

It was immediately clear that traditional note taking with pen and paper was not going to work as well as a stationary meeting (see what I did there?). The wind wasn’t so much the problem, but frantically taking notes on an A4 notebook while walking was not as ideal as Helen will try to justify. To remedy this, I took notes on my phone. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’re now quite experienced when it comes to typing while walking.

Office wellbeing: Walking meetings

I also noticed that our conversation was far more stimulated. I found we were more creatively in tune with each other, and there was certainly more of a bounce when we were circulating ideas.

Having just the three of us in the walking meeting worked very well; it would certainly have been more of a challenge with a ten-man team for example.

Overall, I’d say the walking meeting was great from a creativity perspective, and it was very productive. But as this was our first experience, I may be looking back on the meeting with rose-tinted glasses, having got carried away with the novelty of moving our meeting outside on a lovely day.

Nevertheless I would recommend trying a walking meeting with your team, and reaping the benefits of the glorious sunshine…while it lasts.

 

Helen: Swapping a chair for an exercise ball

I’d always thought that sitting at your desk on an exercise ball was only for fitness fanatics and that overly enthusiastic P.E. teacher you had at school.

But apparently, this seating method benefits your core muscles, posture and balance, all of which I could do with improving… So I put it to the test.

The biggest challenge I faced was remembering to take my 2-foot diameter exercise ball, mostly employed as a footrest in my house, into work. This was surprisingly difficult for a giant purple floorspace stealer.

Once I’d managed to remember it, manoeuvred my way up the stairs of the building and squeezed through the office doors, we got along quite well. Aside from a slight sizing issue which meant I felt a lot shorter at my desk than usual, I did find that my core was more engaged throughout the day, and I was prevented from slouching.

I also felt more on the ball (pardon the pun) during the post-lunch, 3 pm productivity slump that we all experience from time to time, certainly not helped when I’m feeling a little too relaxed in my usual high back chair.

Office wellbeing: Exercise ball

There were a couple of challenges, from almost falling off and having to cling to the desk for dear life, to my new perch mysteriously rolling away whilst I was making a tea, but I’d say that overall it was a positive experience.

Would I try it again? Whilst it wouldn’t be the most practical everyday seating solution, I would use it on an occasional basis to stay active, keep my body engaged and encourage a better posture.

 

Hannah: Stretching

Normally on busy days in the office I’ll stick in my headphones, consume a steady supply of caffeine and ensure I have a strong selection of snacks to keep me going. Today, I’ve got something new to add to my workplace wellbeing arsenal: stretching.

Those of you who have tried doing the child pose on a dusty gym studio floor will need no convincing of the benefit stretching and movement can bring. It can offer refreshment and calm after a strenuous day. It can empty the mind of stress or reinvigorate the senses.

But how effective will stretching be in the workplace?

It’s 11am and time to try my first set of stretches. I’ve not given any thought to my posture during a morning of meetings, emails and phone calls, and suddenly notice I’m perched right on the edge of my seat, legs crossed and shoulders up to my ear lobes.

I start with some ‘triceps stretches’ (familiar from PE lessons at school – I am pro at these), and then move on to a ‘lattimuss stretch’ (effectively reaching up an arm and holding for 10 – 30 seconds over my head). They’re simple to do and it feels good stretching my arms, neck and shoulders, which usually stay fairly sedentary during the day. It does, however, feel a bit silly. It doesn’t help that my esteemed colleagues are openly mocking (and photographing) me…

It’s almost 5pm before I trial another few stretches. I decide my legs and lower back need some attention, so gamely assume position for the ‘trunk rotation’ stretch. Here’s some practical advice: the standard office chair does not lend itself to many torso stretches. The armrests get in the way, and it’s a little too high.

Undeterred, I try a couple more positions (accompanied again by the amusement of my cohorts) before calling it a day.

Office wellbeing: Stretches

So, did this ‘deskercise’ make any improvement to my working hours? It’s tough to assess after just one day, but I know that an aching neck and stiff lower back are signs that I need to embed more movement into my working day, so I’m open to trying it longer term. I am not going to do my stretches in front of colleagues in future, and think using an empty meeting room for ten minutes or so, with appropriate chairs and enough space to really flex, is the key to making workplace stretches a feasible option.

 

The verdict

Each of the wellbeing methods trialled threw up different benefits, and different challenges. They’re all variable-dependent – from the weather forecast to whether you have nice colleagues who won’t take photos as you stretch at your desk…

Everything considered, the best method is what works well for you. If you suffer from workplace lethargy, perhaps sitting on an exercise ball is the right path to go down. If you and your colleagues are in need of some fresh ideas, take your next meeting outside. Or if you need a little break between tasks to literally unwind, perhaps a quick ‘downward dog’ is the way forward…

About the author

Hannah Vincent

From candidate experience to flexible working, and from supporting graduates to ATS reports; Hannah's written it all over the years! Hannah has contributed to publications as diverse as The Guardian, UK Recruiter and University Business. She is also the wordsmith behind our whitepapers and guides, from GDPR to Employee Volunteering.