Dust Off That Treadmill in the Basement and Burn Off Those Pounds While at Work

How and why I upgraded to a treadmill desk, creating a much healthier work/life balance, losing weight, all the while not adding any time to my day for exercise. This post was originally on Avaya’s site as well as B2C.

After years of back problems resulting in physical therapy, I knew I needed to make a change. The biggest problem for me was the 11 hours a day I spend at my desk, hunched over my keyboard. While I know that good posture could help out a lot, the truth is that as I get in to “the zone”, I stop paying attention to posture and the next thing I know, my body is aching.

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The plight of strain caused by sitting at a desk is unfortunately not unique to me. Harvard Business Review did a great article on how Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation. I don’t think the title is an embellishment; like smoking, sitting at your desk is a bad health choice people willingly make every day. CBS News ran a story on how your desk job is making you fat.

After some thought, I decided to haul our unused and dusty treadmill out of the basement up to my second floor (did I mention my back isn’t doing great?) home office. With my wife’s woodworking skills we built some functional (not attractive) tables of the appropriate height out of 4x4s for the posts and plywood for the tabletop.

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We then placed the existing tables on top of these new tables, effectively raising my desktop to be about 5 feet off the ground. This allowed me to place my phone (an Avaya Desktop Video Device on the left), three monitors, and my MacBook Pro at a healthy viewing height, with proper spacing and positioning  (verified by OSHA’s website). To make the keyboard and mouse accessible, we built a wood shelf from a 2×8 board long enough to not only go across the handlebars, but also extend further to give me more counter space. This was the trickiest part as my handlebars are slanted, requiring some more creative building to get a shelf mostly level. Below is what that setup looks like.

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The results have been great. In the first five months, I averaged six miles a day, with my all-time best being 11 miles in a single day. I typically walk at a pace of 2.0 mph, which is about as fast as I can comfortably go while still being able to type, work, and if on the phone, talk. When on a conference call that I need to speak on, I will reduce the speed to 1.5mph as my treadmill wasn’t really meant for this use and thus is a little loud in the background. I’m also doing more and more video conferencing which adds an interesting wrinkle as I look a little odd to others on the conference. Depending on the situation, I may pause the treadmill until the video call is over.

In the last five months of 2012, I walked 500 miles without adding anything to my already busy schedule as I’m doing my exercising while at work. So far, I have lost 10 pounds and my back issues have all but gone away. I’m embarrassed to say that in the first four months of 2013, my average has dipped below 4 miles a day, due in part to more video conferencing. I’m re-invigorated now and am hoping to rack up some miles soon.
I’m not alone. Susan Orlean of The New Yorker did a story about how much she loves her treadmill desk and how she can’t help but be an evangelist for it. USA Today also recently did a story on how others are using them to get healthy at the office.
So tell me – what are you doing to bring movement back into your office? Anyone else doing the treadmill desk approach? Taking several walks throughout the day? Walking to the vending machine at the END of the hall for your Coke and Snickers bar? Are you a Treadmill Desk pro with your own dance moves? Drop a line below in the comments and share your experience.

Change Doesn’t Have to be Reckless

The following was originally posted on the Avaya site here and then again at the CIO Collaboration site here.

Four years ago, I knew where I would be today. I was young(er) and naïve(r) and thought that I could control my life and the changes that would come my way. Then my wife and I got the joyous news that she was pregnant with twins. Once we recovered from the news and assessed the situation, we had a plan: we would both continue to work. We found a daycare just minutes from my wife’s office so that she could nurse throughout the day with relative convenience. As I said, we had a plan. But you already know where I’m going with this don’t you? Plans, well, they change.

Soon after our beautiful boys were born, my wife’s entire division was laid off at the office. We took this as a sign confirming that she should stay home with the kids. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law, bless her soul, had been living with us five days a week just so that we could survive. When she couldn’t keep up the two hour commute, we started living with her part-time. Before we knew it, we were living with her full-time and I was now a full-time remote worker. We learned the value of having family around and fell in love with our new hometown. In only 2 years, our lives had changed in ways we never imagined. It was crazy and unpredictable but worked out in so many wonderful ways.

Similarly, change in the workplace is often (or seems to be) unpredictable and sometimes reckless. As leaders, we have the responsibility to foresee the drivers of change, perform due diligence, plan a transition, execute the plan, handle any hiccups, call it done, and then start looking for the next change on the horizon. Above all else, we are responsible to adopt the change in a way that increases the value of the organization. We’ve all seen examples of successful changes and those that were less than ideal. Was the re-organization done based on facts in order to meet a real business need, or was it based on speculations and smelled of empire building? Was the process change driven by a kaizen event of those who do the work, or by those not familiar with the subject? When done with the right information and for the right reasons, change can be used to drive real incremental value in an organization.

This of course also holds true to technology investments. IT leaders should not make changes to their infrastructure or services that they offer to their users on a whim or as a last-minute response to an unanticipated shift in their users’ needs. Your changes don’t need to be reckless revolutions, they can be planned evolutions. Avaya is here to partner with you in planning how your services evolve. Think of Avaya as that trusted advisor who has seen countless others go through this and can help you avoid the pitfalls. We can assist in thoughtful roll-outs of:

Where do you think you and your organization will be five years from now? You can’t know for sure. All you can do is be diligent in your planning and adapt as life throws you those curve-balls. But don’t stress too much; some of these reckless changes can result in some of life’s greatest blessings