I’ve just had an eye-test. I have them every two years, and this time, as usual, they’ve slightly updated the glasses I use for reading and screen-work. Since I spend a large proportion of my time staring at a computer-screen, it’s essential to look after my eyes. After all, it wouldn’t be so easy to be a copywriter if my eyesight failed.
That made me think about fitness for work. It’s obvious enough, of course, if you happen to be a Premiere League footballer or an international athlete. An important aspect of the job is that you use every available means to get yourself to the peak of physical fitness, and at that level the available means are many and close to hand.
Even without being a celebrity, some jobs obviously need you to be in good shape. A steeplejack, for instance, (do they actually have those any more?) or a labourer on a building site couldn’t do their jobs if they weren’t fit. But what about those of us with more sedentary jobs? How much physical fitness does it take to sit in front of a computer?
Quite a lot, actually – and no, I’m not talking about the effort of throwing the computer through the window when it goes wrong. Sitting down for long periods isn’t really natural for humans, and gazing at a brightly lit screen certainly isn’t. When I worked in media monitoring at Cision UK, we were under strict instructions from the management to take a break at least once an hour, and more frequently if we felt the need. We should get up, walk about for a few minutes, have a chat with someone, go to the loo – anything that gave us a change. In the long run, it actually improved our productivity.
I try to maintain these principles now while I’m working. Having a CD on while I work can help, since when the music ends it reminds me to have a break. It has to be a proper album, though. Downloads and iPods just don’t work. I take longer breaks, too, and I always make sure I go out for a walk at least once during the day, even if it’s only down to the supermarket. Both the fresh air and the exercise are essential.
So what would be the result of not doing this? Well, I’d certainly get headaches from staring at the screen too long, and from lack of fresh air. I’d get muscular pains from sitting still all day and not exercising. I’d put on weight (all right, more weight) and probably develop digestion problems. And the total effect of this would be to make my work slower and inferior, even if I spent more time at it.
And, of course, my overall quality of life would be worse. I could probably do more than I do, in fact – swimming, perhaps, or stints in the gym – and for some of you I imagine I’m not so much preaching to the choir as preaching from the choir at the preacher. Still, I don’t think it can be repeated too often that looking after your health and fitness is every bit important in a sedentary job as in an active one.
Maybe more so.