Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Stand Up to Sitting Disease

DEVO-I-FiguresHave you ever got up from your office chair after hours of sitting, and surprised yourself with how much time has passed since you last stood up? If this is typical for you and your employees, you all may be at risk of Sitting Disease.

Sitting Disease involves the negative health effects of inactivity, or over-sitting. Research has found that it is harmful to sit for long periods of time throughout the day. Our sedentary lifestyle of sitting more than half our day can increase the likelihood of a heart attack as much as a person who smokes.

Sitting Disease is a syndrome whereby your metabolism is lowered. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

By simply spending a few more hours standing in our day, our health can be greatly improved. In fact, life expectancy may increase by about 2 years if we all reduced sitting to less than 3 hours a day. I’ve outlined a few tips to help prevent sitting disease for you and your employees in your workplace:

Stretch at your Desk

  • Employees should spend no more than one hour sitting at their desk without getting up and moving. Your staff can do quick, easy and readily available stretches while at their desk either sitting or standing.

Talking and Walking

  • Talking on the phone in the office is a necessary part of the job, so encourage staff that when the phone rings, try standing or walking around while talking. If appropriate, see if headsets can be accommodated in your office.

 Gentle Reminders

  • Setting an “alarm” on their computer or cellphone on an hourly basis can remind employees to get up and stretch, or to go for a short walk around the office. For some, incorporating a standing desk for their computer could be of great benefit.

Healthy Competition

  • Provide employees with a pedometer to count their steps. Friendly competition among groups of coworkers can be created through weekly awards (i.e. juice bar or sport apparel gift certificates) to whomever is the most physically active in the group.

Don’t Always Bring Lunch to the Office

  • As odd as it may sound, encourage your employees to go for a walk to buy a sandwich for lunch, or to take a break during the day and go outside for a walk.

Skip the Ride

  • Suggest to your staff that after lunch is a great time to take the stairs to get back to the office instead of taking the elevator. If the office is located higher than the third floor, you could always suggest walking up a few flights and riding the elevator the rest of the way.

From standing on the subway to work, to going for a walk at lunch, to standing during TV commercials instead of relaxing on the couch, we can all find ways to incorporate physical movement to avoid Sitting Disease.


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Time for Mental and Physical Spring Cleaning

health-wellnessSpring has finally sprung and with many Canadians believing that good emotional health is just as important as good physical health, it’s time to kick off the season with my personal list of key areas of your life to look at.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
When I refer to health, I mean mental and physical health as they have a symbiotic relationship. While most of us know that the state of our physical body deeply affects both how we think and feel, i.e. our mental state, few of us can absolutely pinpoint which came first. If you skip exercise and overload your body with processed foods and chemicals, you won’t feel as energized, inspired and alive as you could, and our mood can be affected. With mental health issues affecting 1 in every 5 Canadians, it is imperative that we look at how we treat our physical self to ensure our mental health is also taken care of, and reducing the risk of physical illness, injury, behavioural problems, absenteeism, and low productivity. Speak to your doctor, coach or partner about how you’re feeling and take steps now to cleanse your mind and body.

Financial

With tax season completed, what are you planning on doing with your return OR how will you pay what you owe? Finances are becoming more and more complex as Canadians take on more debt every year. Think about consulting a financial advisor or ask your employer if your EAP offers any financial education solutions that can help you prepare for a brighter financial future and secure retirement, reducing the negativity associated with financial stress.

Life Coaching

Whether personally or professionally, sometimes we get stuck. I have found coaching to be an excellent and proven tool for learning and building engaged lives. Coaches offer assistance for personal life stresses, but there is also professional and executive coaching, team coaching, conflict resolution/mediation and a variety of professional development workshops. A coach can help get you back on the right track by examining obstacles, developmental gaps, and creating a learning and action plan.

Career and Professional Life
If you’re struggling with personal issues, this can lead to absenteeism and poor performance at work, two of the biggest issues companies face today.

Identify if there is a problem and if it’s something your employer can help with then take action to move towards a resolution. They may be able point you towards their EAP counselling services or other support systems they may have in place. Do some preliminary spring-cleaning to clarify your source of frustration.

Take the time during this season to organize your mental, physical and emotional life. It’s a great way to create energy and momentum for the rest of the year.

I look forward to hearing what your spring cleaning plans are in the comments below.


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Learning to “Unplug” – The Benefits of Mindfulness

beach-workerAhhhhh. You finally have that relaxing moment on the beach, at the cottage, reading a good book, listening to music, or watching a movie, that feeling of relaxation, of contentedness, without a care in the world. Then you hear it, that inescapable sound, the ping: “You have mail”. And your reality comes crashing down on you: someone wants something from you that is work-related. You are instantaneously brought back to the work grind as all of prior emails you’ve written or have been sent to you hit you right between the eyes. That fleeting moment of bliss is gone.

In past blogs, we’ve talked about the ways a quality work-life balance can be achieved, but how can we really unwind when not in the office?

Newsflash: “Unplugging” (at home or in the car or on that beach), and not allowing the Pavlovian-like reaction of turning our heads towards the “pinging” of our smartphones is beneficial to our health.

Taking a break from emails, and smartphones in general, can help employees pay more attention to family and friends when they are away from the office, becoming more productive and better focused while working. A study by University of California, Irvine (UCI) and United States Army researchers revealed that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and physically experience less stress. The study showed that participants who had email access changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates, while those participants who were disconnected from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates. According to the study, the latter group reported feeling better able to stay on task.

Not being distracted by smartphones and email allows us to be more involved in the present, whether we are at work or on vacation. When we can practice mindfulness,(self-regulating our attention to the experience we are having at the moment), we can reduce our overall stress. Bringing awareness to our current experiences – the moment – promotes a feeling of relaxation, and more and more businesses are offering training programs to their employees in mindfulness. The findings of the aforementioned study provide fodder for employers to help their employees control email log-in times, batch messages, and create new strategies to reduce their email stress.

Two more thoughts for the day: a recent study has shown that teenagers who take their smartphones to bed get a poorer quality of sleep than those that turn their phones off. The generation of people (kids, teenagers, and adults) who have grown up with smartphones are losing the ability to have focused and meaningful conversations with their loved ones because they are distracted by their smartphones while simultaneously having the conversation.

Do you agree? What ideas do you have that could manage our email stress? Do you think mindfulness training would benefit your workplace? I invite your comments and suggestions below.