“With more than one decade in management under my belt, and more than two in sales and training, I have been involved in the western Canadian safety industry long enough to know there’s always something more to learn. I’ve enjoyed great fortune to be able to grow personally and learn continuously along this career path, ever challenged to become more tomorrow than I was yesterday. After all, just because one does something for a living for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean one is any good at it, so I am every day reminding myself to embrace each new lesson along the way. An open mind is a powerful asset, we should all strive to become so well equipped – and someday, I might hopefully be said to have done well enough.
I’m proud to contribute in my own small way to the safety and well-being of my fellow workers, and will from time to time share some observations and humble opinions I’ve picked up along the way. I hope you find some of these musings of interest. Thanks for dropping by, and feel free to offer a comment. I’d love to hear from you!”
- Ted DeWolf, Sales Manager Alberta
It’s a typical winter day in Edmonton today: the mercury is flirting with -23°C, wind chill making it feel like -36°C; the sun rose after I got to work and will set again before I even leave the office. No walk out there for me today! Gym tonight? Maybe…maybe tomorrow sounds better since it will be Saturday, and I’ll be looking for an excuse to get out of the house. Winter gives me cabin fever after spending an entire week indoors. Yep, I have the great fortune to work mostly inside during the winter, which is equally my misfortune during the summer. The older I get the more I wonder about how this working lifestyle is affecting my health.
I live in my yard all summer long; sandals and shorts, long days and short nights, the exact opposite of winter here in Edmonton, and it’s great! I don’t notice the little aches and pains you get from being hunched in front of a screen pounding on the ol’ keyboard all day as much during the summer. You get to work it all out in the long evenings while enjoying the great warm season, and it sure isn’t as depressing as “mole season” in the gloom and dark all winter. I mentioned it feels like -36°C with the wind chill today, right?
Long hours in the office don’t do much to keep me active physically during the work day, and as I get older the little aches and pains seem to pile up during winter. It’s harder to shake them off after work. I love the gym, but some preventative maintenance during the workday is what I need. Getting older – everyone understands when you finally get there!
Who hurts themselves sitting at a desk? Let me see…
- Slouching for hours? Check!
- Clicking that mouse with your arm at odd angles (for hours)? Check!
- Neck craned forward to compensate for that slouch all day? Check!
- Neck bent sideways cradling the phone again and again? Checkeroo!
- Regularly powering through paperwork for long stretches without realizing you haven’t really moved in hours? Check mark yet again!
You’d be surprised how many aches and pains accrue when you neglect your posture all week, and the winter weekend is barely long enough to shake it all out before starting all over again on Monday (groan). OK, ok, but what to do about it? Well, when you can’t change the nature of your work environment, you have to look in the mirror and change your own working behavior! That’s the ticket – I needed to look at my work habits more closely; that’s where the problem really was. Ever encounter the term “workplace wellness”? I recently started looking into this and it means more than just washing hands, avoiding colds and the flu.
“Wellness” is more holistic in nature and should consider your spiritual, environmental, intellectual, emotional, occupational and mental health in addition to merely the physical. It can get a little complicated when you start peeling the onion, but at its simplest level we’re talking about good balance in your daily life with an eye toward safety and good stress management habits. I’ve always been a proponent of work-life balance and thought I was making progress, but other than a vague notion of being both productive at work and happy at home, I think I was missing the boat. A proper work-life balance, I have come to learn (sorry, going to get teacher-ish again for a tick), means you can achieve a self-determined state of well-being that lets you effectively manage many responsibilities at work, at home and even in your community; it supports positive physical, emotional, family and social health without undue stress or other negative impacts.
Ironically it took my company to point out the simple, obvious truth of what I needed to do for myself: be more mindful of my own state of wellness and listen to those mental and physical cues telling me when I needed to break out of my unintentional, work induced “statue challenge” during each day. They launched a program called Optimity, and yup – it involved an app too! “Really?” I thought when it was first rolled out, “This is supposed to make me feel better and be more productive? Fat chance!” But I kept an open mind and gave it a try…and boy, was I wrong. Simple things matter – a lot!
What my company realized was, that by taking little steps to encourage our employees (like me) to assume better working and coping habits, it could help us all along the path toward a better work-life balance by injecting more focus on life into work! The Optimity wellness program is designed to introduce small but proven 30 second to 2 minute healthy habit micro-breaks into your day. Tiny breaks that can improve your mood, help you focus and encourage social connections at work. It starts as simple and prompted micro-activities that help you rejuvenate and refocus (get you out of that slouching rut) and eventually become positive new physical and mental health habits during your day both at work and at home. Oh, and the fact that Optimity also rewards you with collectible points you can redeem for cool prizes is just a perk!
Of course the company stands to benefit as well with a win-win here: better morale and working relationships between team members, improved employee physical health, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, decreased stress levels, maybe even better retention going forward and a new benefit to attract people to the company. Who wouldn’t want to work for a business that helps one find better balance and personal satisfaction? People may be drawn initially by a passion or a challenge, but most inevitably burn out or get turned off if their work-life balance is out of whack. We’re trying to fix that!
Speaking for myself, the darned thing actually works for me. At first I simply gave it a try – as I said, be open minded, you! – and I started doing the little mini exercises, stretches and challenges, not really expecting much out of it at all. But almost immediately, like the second or third day, I noticed the snaps, crackles and pops diminishing, my focus was a bit sharper, I was paying more attention to my posture, getting up and moving more instead of embedding myself in my projects for hours on end…and actually getting more done in the process. Holy crow! Seriously? I didn’t think it would really work, but Optimity has actually helped me toward a better state of awareness, reminding me to do what my body and mind need me to do to feel better. What challenges will I get today? I started looking forward to the various little 30-60 second mini-breaks during my day now.
So, back to where I started, suddenly winter doesn’t seem quite as oppressive even if it is an Arctic chiller going on out there right now (again, -36°C, remember?). I’m here to tell you: Just doing it, embracing new routines and making little changes in your thinking can pay surprising dividends in life. For the first time I really believe I can achieve that work-life balance I always chased. Those small things I never paid enough attention to make the real difference. And so with a renewed spirit I head outside into the winter cold to scrape my windshield and head home – see you at the gym tomorrow!
|Ted DeWolf | Sales Manager Alberta|
|Levitt-Safety Limited Edmonton|