Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stress-Free Workplaces Boost Productivity

When it comes to happy and relaxed employees who perform to the max, think creatively, and help their company succeed, look no further than Google’s global office spaces. Famous for its philosophy that stress-free environments boost productivity and employee satisfaction, Google encourages its workers to innovate, collaborate, and relax on the job.

Unconventional office space designs are the name of the game in Google headquarters, which feature futuristic designs, far-out displays of furniture, graphical wallpaper, and high-tech gadgets. Google also allows its staff to take naps and use social media during work hours, chill out in dimly lit relaxation pods, and work from home.GoogleHQ

Why break the mold and do away with conventional white-walled cubicles and standard office furniture? According to Google and blue-chip companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, flexible workplaces and schedules make for happier employees, which is good for business. Moreover, they claim that stress-free workplace environments inspire creative genius from their team.

Google’s best work practices are reflected in their unconventional, avant-garde office designs, where it is not uncommon to find:

  • No walls (open working spaces)google office design
  • Fireman pole access between floors
  • Slide to the cafeteria
  • Free food 24/7
  • Beanbag chairs and sofas
  • Dimly lit pods for hanging out and relaxing
  • Game rooms for brainstorming
  • Ski box and igloo-shaped meeting spaces

Backing up the claims of the tech giant and other industry moguls are Jenny Foss – career coach, author, and founder of JobJenny.com – and Sherry Burton Ways, author of Amazon #1 Bestseller Feel Good Spaces: A Guide to Decorating Your Home for Body, Mind And Spirit. According to Foss, many people suffer both physical and emotional stress in the workplace. However the culprits are not only project deadlines, mounds of paperwork, and daily tasks, but the physical environment as well. As Burton Ways explains, “Marketing research has shown that approximately 80% of what we perceive or experience is based upon the visual sense of our environment. Most office design is uninspired. Therefore, work environments create uninspired and stressful employees.”

Other contributors to stress in the workplace include poor temperature control, poor ventilation
and/or lighting, lack of privacy, noise, and disorganization. In fact, according to experts, productivity levels are directly related to levels of organization. Clutter, misplaced files and phone numbers, and poor management can bring workers down and leave them feeling flustered, disgruntled, and out of control. A recent study conducted by the advisory company CEB found that poor communication and organization in the upper brass, as well as recurrent organizational changes, significantly contributes to a stressful atmosphere.

Fortunately, even if your company can’t mimic the science-fiction-like scenarios found at Google, here are some tips for employers and employees on how to create a less stressful workplace environment.

  • Add personal touches which comfort and/or inspire you
  • Keep your personal work space tidy and organized
  • Develop ways to handle/ignore distractions
  • If your back is to the door, add a mirror to your monitor that will allow you to view people coming and going to help decrease anxiety and put you at ease.
  • Add plants or flowers to your office space, which are known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lower humidity levels, and increase positive feelings
  • Incorporate stretching exercises and relaxation into your workday, i.e., playing soft music,
    doing simple desk stretches, and going for walk on your break
  • Be comfortable at your work station. Make sure you sit on a good quality ergonomic office chair, adjusted to your height and size.
  • Decorate/redecorate your office space, paying attention to factors such as natural and ambient lighting, wall colors, ergonomic furniture, flexible layout, and décor

 

Close your eyes take 5 deep breaths and go to your happy place.

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

The Best Pilates Exercises for Back Pain Relief

Pilates Exercises

Pilates

You have back pain and are looking for some relief. There are high back ergonomic chairs and the like but you want something that is more prevention than cure. This is where pilates comes into it.

What is Pilates?

Pilates, a form of exercise developed for core strengthening combines stretching, abdominal work, balanced movement and posture realignment making it ideal for preventing and relieving back pain and injury. (The core is made up of abdominal and back muscles. Pilates is appropriate for people of all body types and ages and geared to beginner, intermediate and advanced level exercises. When practiced regularly, Pilates helps improve circulation, posture, balance, flexibility, and agility. It also helps stretch, strengthen, and heal the body after an injury, decrease stress, and alleviate pain.

The Importance of a Healthy Spine

Keep in mind that a strong spine is essential for good health, because the spine supports the body, allows for movement and flexibility, absorbs shock and stressful impacts, and is the channel through with the nervous system branches out to the rest of the body. Conversely, a weak or injured spine puts one at risk for back pain and conditions such as degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, sciatica, and a compromised immune system.

One of the keys to healthy spine is proper exercise. This is where Pilates comes into play. Pilates exercises keep the spine healthy by establishing and maintaining a strong muscle core, which in turn helps stabilize and support the spine. To ease current back pain, prevent future back discomfort, and improve balance and flexibility, the North American Spine Society recommends core strengthening programs such as Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi.

Man doing yoga on a Utah mountain

Yoga on the Mountain

Beginner Level Pilates Exercises

  • Heel Slides Exercise instills correct posture required for all Pilates levels
  • “Hundreds” Warm-up Exercise circulates the blood and tones core muscles
  • Roll Up Exercise, aligns the spine and strengthens the core “belly” muscles
  • Sidekick Up-Down Exercise tones inner thighs
  • Four Point Balance Exercise improves core stability, coordination, and balance
  • Teaser Exercise partial or full-stretch strengthens the back and engages the abs

Intermediate Level Pilates Exercises

  • Pilates Push-up engages belly muscles
  • Crisscross Exercise deepens abdominal strength
  • Seal Exercise improves balance, opens the hip muscles, and massages the spine
  • Swan Exercise widens shoulders and creates spine flexibility
  • Spine Twist extends the legs and stretches the torso
  • One-Leg Kick focuses on the low back and glutes

Advanced Level Pilates Exercises

  • Sprinter Workout works and tones the glutes, thighs and strengthens ab core
  • Side Bend Exercise stretches and builds upper body strength
  • Leg Pull Exercise provides a full body workout
  • Jackknife Exercise strengthens the neck, shoulders, glutes and core ab muscles
  • Sidekick Bicycle Exercise strengthens abdominal muscles and glutes
  • Cancan Exercise strengthens all the core muscles
  • Neck Pull Exercise for lengthens the neck and spine

To make sure you are performing Pilates exercises properly, it’s a good idea to schedule some classes with a certified Pilates instructor. If you have a history of back pain or injury, seek consultation from your health provider before beginning any new exercise regiment. Finally, remember to listen to your body and avoid movements which are beyond your physical limits or which exacerbate your pain.

Author’s Note: I am an avid fan of Pilates. After recovering from a fall that included 6 months of bed rest, sciatica pain and weakened core muscles, Pilates was the ticket to my full recovery. A certified Pilates trainer coached me privately to address my special needs until I was strong enough to be a part of the classes. Hands down, the Pilates method was one of the best investments for my health I ever made.

Here’s a short Pilates workout that will do wonders to your back.

Welcome to your newly toned, strong body! Enjoy the burn!

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

* Images: Mateus Lunardi Dutra/Flickr | a4gpa/Flickr

Learned the hard way: Leaving the office for a better quality of life

A friend shared this story with me:

A few years ago I started feeling subtle aches and pains throughout my body. The lower back, wrists, and shoulder aches were at their worse upon waking. They gradually subsided to a dull, nagging pain as the day wore on.

Chalking it all up to “old age”, a fast paced, high-stress environment, and long hours, I pretty much ignored the discomfort, keeping myself at pace with coffee, sugar and occasionally anti-anxiety meds to shut my head up at night and a catch-as-catch-can, once a month massage to alleviate some of the strain. I was collecting a hefty salary but not enjoying a very healthy, or serene, quality of life.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: After 17 years with the company I had helped to build from the ground up, and having scrambled my way to a top level executive position, I was left quite suddenly unemployed. After a few days of allowing the shock to wear off and sufficient time to gather my thoughts, assess my economic situation and consider my options, I decided that, regardless of the connections I had in my industry, or my good reputation, it was time for a change.

I loved what I did and wanted to stay in the same field so I decided to go freelance. I’d long dreamt of the freedom to travel whenever, wherever and however often I felt like; also, the thought of trading in my office attire for the delicious comfort of working in my pajamas sounded like heaven to me. At the beginning it meant tightening the belt for bit but that soon changed after I signed up a few clients.

After some extensive research, I learned that there are some mental, physical and emotional advantages to doing things a little differently than they are normally done in regular office environments.

  • Lighting.

I immediately decided that I was absolutely no longer willing to put up with harsh florescent lighting. I situated my home office in a room that boasted plenty of natural sunlight and installed lighting that allowed me to work, but was much less harsh on my eyes. Finally, I installed a dimmer so that for breaks, I could dim the lights and chill for a while.

  • My desk.

I read about the advantages of being able to sit, or stand, during working hours as the need arises. To that end, I created an L-shape desk set-up and worked at two different levels throughout the day, sometimes standing up for the entire process of creating a marketing piece.

  • My office chair.

This was one area where I did not skimp. I spent a little bit of money and invested in a good, posture supporting desk chair. The current state of my back indicates that this was the most positive decision I could have made.

  • Life’s little luxuries.

I set up a nice little snack bar complete with water dispenser, electric teakettle and fridge. A lounge area in the corner, complete with Yoga matt, throw pillows and a music station to dock my iPod, have made my many, small yet mandatory breaks throughout the day more enjoyable and beneficial.

The switch to freelancing wasn’t easy at first. Nevertheless, I have said often and will say again: I wouldn’t trade the freedom, comfort and tranquility of working for myself for any super high paycheck. Over time, I’ve let go of the fast pace, the anxiety meds and mandatory coffee. The positive impact on my family life, available time for the kids and my peace of mind is irreplaceable.

Hope you enjoyed,

Karen

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.