Standing Desks

Standing desk

We have ergonomic chairs, keyboards, phones… There is a whole industry at work trying to keep our bodies more comfortable and healthier while we sit at our desks. But maybe it’s the sitting that’s the problem.

Full time workers spend a huge chunk of their waking hours on the job. And for those with desk jobs that means a whole lot of sitting in a chair, staring at a screen.

It’s no secret that America is struggling with obesity, heart disease, and a myriad of other health issues. A sedentary lifestyle can be a huge contributor. And we spend a whole lot more time sitting at work than previous generations, thanks to technology. But finding ways to increase activity during working hours can help offset this. Some research suggests that simply punctuating large amounts of inactivity with bursts of exertion won’t cut it.

Standing desks have been making quite a splash in recent years. Claims of reduced risk of everything from cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes to obesity, certainly make it sound appealing.

I challenged myself to research and write this blog without sitting. Thanks to my touchscreen desktop, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make a difference. I know it’s simply anecdotal, but I really felt more productive and less likely to give in to mindless distraction or simple zoning out.

Have you tried a standing desk? Do you think they should become an office standard?

How To Become A Morning Person

5-52 Denver AM

Photo credit: Robert Kash

The Snooze Button and I have a long and sordid history. It’s a relationship I’ve been trying to break off for many years but I just couldn’t seem to walk away. For me, having a young child in the house was the kick in the rear I needed to embrace the early morning hours (and I definitely still struggle!)

There are a lot of benefits to being a morning person. Here are some tips to help you get there.

  •  Start small – Don’t suddenly try to jolt yourself awake at 5 after years of snoozing till 745. Every few days, set the alarm for 15-20 minutes earlier. Not only does it give your body a chance to acclimate, it can help you psychologically get used to the idea.
  •  Avoid screens before bed – If you’re one of those who winds down watching TV or looking at a tablet, try turning them off an hour before you plan to hit the hay. “Blue” light is known to be particularly disruptive to sleep cycles. Not to mention the penchant that most of us have for losing track of time doing mindless web surfing…
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol – I know I don’t need to tell you that caffeine can disrupt sleep, but a lot of people are surprised to know that throwing a few beers back makes for a restless night too. While alcohol might cause you to relax or fall asleep faster, it will be poor quality sleep.
  • Just do it – Don’t lie in bed thinking of all the reasons why you should avoid getting up (had a long day, tossed and turned last night, you get to go in late this morning). The more time you give yourself to make excuses, the less likely you are to get your behind up and moving.
  • Get up and moving – As nice as spending some leisurely time cruising Facebook with a cup of coffee sounds, lounging around will not motivate you to be productive. As soon as you rouse, get out of bed and begin your routine. Getting your blood flowing will help you wake up and ready get your mind ready for a day of productivity.
  • Enjoy the outdoors – I am a self professed ‘indoorsman’, but once I started embracing the wonders of being outside first thing in the morning, I found it pretty magical. Now I get excited about seeing the dew on the grass and the quietude of the neighborhood.
  • Prepare the night before – If you are one that has a hard time getting motivated to exercise, having your workout gear ready to go is a great start. Whether it’s laying them out on the dresser or sleeping in them, you’ll have one less excuse not to get going. Getting your coffee ready to brew (or even starting the kettle from your phone before your feet even hit the ground) can help give you an extra boost.

It sounds daunting, and you might think there’s no way you could ever become a morning person. But give it a try! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Bike To Work! And not just once a year

National Bike to Work Day

If you haven’t yet registered for Bike To Work Day 2014, don’t fret! There’s still time. The big day is June 25th this year, and as of this posting, more than 10,000 commuters have registered. Colorado is notorious for unpredictable weather (which is why our Bike To Work Day falls later than much of the country). That can make it difficult to reliably commute by bike, especially if business attire is required where you work. But it also means that we have some biking friendly weather even in winter.

One trick for getting around the sweaty/wrinkled clothing problem is to bring a garment bagwith shirts/slacks/skirts/what-have-you on a day when you’re not biking and leave them in the office to change into. And biking to work even a couple of days a week can be a big gas (read:wallet) saver. I was curious what kind of difference it made and found this great commute savings calculator.

My husband has started biking to work downtown a few days a week since early this spring, and while it doesn’t really end up saving much money since he otherwise rides the light rail to work (subsidized by his employer), he really enjoys it! An added perk is that he gets to sleep in a little since he doesn’t have to get up extra early to exercise!

If you need help getting started, check out a city bike map. Don’t have a bike? Check out Denver’s B-cycle bike sharing system!

So there you have it. It’s good for the environment, your heart, waistline and wallet. And you may even find yourself saving time on your commute! What’s not to love?

Do you already bike to work or will you be giving it a try?

Throwback Thursday – In A Can!

With the controversy regarding high fructose corn syrup in recent years, companies like Pepsi have answered with products like the Throwback beverages. Also available in Mountain Dew, the line is sweetened with beet sugar in place of HFCS. And while these products may be enjoying a successful run, straying from the standard hasn’t always been so successful. Here’s a look at a few notable beverage flops.

New Coke

Speaking of High Fructose Corn Syrup: The last time Coca-Cola tried to replace it with sugar, the result was the disastrous New Coke. The public backlash (albeit from a particularly vocal minority) led Coca-Cola to return to the original recipe, rebrand it as Coca-Cola Classic, and try to forget the three month period where New Coke was on shelves. In the end, sales of Classic Coke skyrocketed, so it doesn’t end badly. But lesson learned: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

Crystal Pepsi 

It’s pretty clear (pun intended) how much color effects taste. I was only 8 when Crystal Pepsi hit the market, so I don’t know that I ever even tasted it, but even imagining drinking something clear flavored like cola boggles my mind. Initially well received, the sparkling beverage was marketed toward those who believed the clearness made it healthier. But it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off and Crystal Pepsi was pulled from shelves. Maybe people were driven mad by the lack of caffeine?

 

Surge

Now this one I remember vividly! This was pretty popular among the middle school crowd, who thought they were pretty cool for consuming boatloads of sugar and caffeine in the form of Coke’s answer to Mountain Dew. It was marketed like an energy drink with ads depicting extreme sports. Surge enjoyed a seven year run, and I’m assuming that my friend who swiped a display tablecloth destined for the landfill still has it proudly displayed in her parents’ basement (true story).

 

Maxwell House Ready-To-Drink Coffee

I’m going to admit, this seems like something that I would actually use. I don’t drink enough coffee to brew a pot, so I’ve switched over to a French Press, but even then I end up reheating my single cup several times daily and refrigerating the leftovers. It’s believed that a major flaw was that the container wasn’t microwavable and having to pour the coffee into a mug before heating it negated the supposed convenience. I dunno, I feel like this one actually makes sense. Sadly, I’m probably one of a very select few who do. Nice try, Maxwell House!

What discontinued drink do you wish would make a comeback?

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Breakroom Hacks

I stumbled upon this clever solution to one worker’s tea ball being tossed out by the cleaning crew.

The author says  “I MacGyvered a new tea ball by putting the tea into a coffee filter. Then I gathered the edges around the tea and poked tiny holes into the filter with a paper clip. I secured the tea by pinching the filter at the middle and twisting half of the same paperclip around the pinch point. The curve of the other half of the paper clip hangs perfectly on the edge of my mug. I SHALL NEVER BE WITHOUT TEA!”

Another clever trick is this one for knowing how fresh the coffee is.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to be in an office with a well stocked breakroom, but I can certainly imagine the horror! At home I’ve discovered the joy of steeping loose leaf in a French Press and don’t know that I ever want to go back to the tea ball method.

People do crazy and insanely resourceful things to get their caffeine fix! What other breakroom hacks have you come up with?

The Art Connection

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with Birgit Whitelaw, one of the ‘creative masterminds’ behind The Art Connection. Together with her partner Renata Dolz, Birgit is giving the corporate world a much needed creative boost. From event decor to team building workshops, The Art Connection helps businesses “harness the power of ‘art’ to inspire ideas, further causes and connect people!”

Birgit was kind enough to sit down with me for a chat and tell me a little bit about how it all got started.

How long has The Art Connection been in existence?

The Art Connection started back in 2000 as a Corporate art consultation firm. Today, we are bringing ‘art’ to corporations in a more meaningful, experiential way. Using creative methods and ‘art’, we help spark new ideas and connect teams.

The management skills that I acquired in the hotel business coupled with my artistic bent have proven to be the key ingredients driving the success of The Art Connection.Prior to starting The Art Connection, I worked in hotel management. Starting in Germany,I worked my way up through the ranks at various hotels in Europe, including London and Switzerland. I finished my hotelier career in the U.S. as Director of Sales & Catering for The Burnsley, a former boutique hotel in downtown Denver. Additionally, I have studied under various Art Professors in different countries completing my studies under the instruction of Lee Milmon at the Colorado Institute of Art.

Renata joined me in 2007 and with her corporate marketing and art background we are the perfect team–combining art and business.

Until recently we had a studio in which we offered various art workshops for individualsbut realized very quickly that Corporate America is where we needed to concentrate and where the real ‘starving artists’ are. Whether it’s for branding, ideation, or team-building, we customize each experience. We also do creative branding and planning for meetings or events.

What would you say is the benefit of adding the creative process to events like that?

It is all about event branding in the end, the touch points/metaphors, environmental design, participant engagement and the creative experience. The more senses you engage at a meeting, the higher the engagement and retention.

Are the art team building experiences totally unique?

Yes, we offer them to fundraise, build teams, inspire ideas, bolster employee morale or create a vision. Every company and non-profit is different: different stages of development, goals, culture and priorities. Our job is to understand the purpose an organization needs art to serve and to customize a program specific to that need. Our programs typically span 2-3 hours and often combine upfront brainstorming and alignment, culminating in collaborative masterpieces.

Do you do any non corporate work these days?

We are increasingly working with non-profits and foundations to help facilitate board engagement and direction. We also do private events like anniversaries or weddings where guests get to create an art piece for the couple that reflects personal memories and experiences.

Do you find guiding them to be a challenge? 

No! We typically do fun warm-up exercises to get people relaxed and engaged. Once the ‘creative child’ in everyone starts to surface, there’s a great, electrical momentum that develops throughout the experience.

Is there anything else specific that you’d like people to know about The Art Connection. 

A wise woman once said, “It takes a village….:” Whether it is raising children, growing a business, or living in a community, we live in an interdependent ecosystem and should help out whenever and however we can. To us, that means many things – spreading the word about our talented partners, supporting non-profits, and sharing the gift of art not only with clients, but with individuals that can benefit most from the healing effects of the creative process. It’s important to us that we use our creative tool box to really help people.

 

As an artist myself, I’m so thrilled to know that there is a service like this available to the business community and am excited to watch Birgit and Renata take the world by storm!

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Electric Kettle, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways…
I love the variety of temperature options you offer at the touch of a button.
I love the fraction of time it takes for you to boil compared to that cursed glass stove top.
I love that you stay warm for 30 minutes, all I have to do is ask.

In all seriousness though – buying a Cuisinart Electric Kettle was the best idea ever. My electric stove top takes LITERALLY 20 minutes to boil a kettle, and microwaving water for tea is just the worst. After my husband decided to stop preparing a giant thermos of coffee before work every morning, I have been on my own scavenging caffeine. It was enough to make me shell out for a new piece of equipment.

The pre-set temperatures for different teas and even coffee are a huge plus. I also recently received a new French press as a gift and the combo of it and the kettle is amaaaazing for loose leaf tea.

Overall, I’d give the Cuisinart PerfecTemp five stars. My only complaint is that I keep forgetting to push the Start button. But that’s really a personal problem…