Building an Active Office
Louis is the Founder and President of Fitter International Inc. Since 1985, his brand, “Fitterfirst,” has been the world leader in providing professional and personal balance-training products that help people prevent and recover from injury. You can contact Louis via e-mail at [email protected]
It was the spring of 1995. Ten years of building my business and five years of competitive ski racing were behind me. I was flying home from the World Championships of Speed Skiing in Finland to see my wife, who was expecting our first child. We had been married for nine months, and I was ready to raise a family and build my company.
At that point in my life, I was sick of flying and tired of training. I found myself wondering: How would I fit my new family, business and fitness into my busy life? After giving it some thought, I decided to start “active sitting.” To improve my confidence and reaction skills, I removed my executive chair and replaced it with an exercise-ball chair. The decision to focus on movement became the driving force behind my building a more active office.
When I was racing for Canada, I wasn’t too concerned about aging or the well being of my body. I felt I was bullet proof. But by the time I was 23, I had undergone one knee surgery and two serious foot operations, followed by months on crutches and painful walking. During this time, I learned that movement, specifically balance and mobility, are easy to take for granted and hard to get back once they are compromised. Maintenance, or “prehab,” proved to be a much better approach, and it helped me set good habits for a lifetime of active living. I took these lessons I learned and applied them to my business.
Today, my company is better than ever, and it all has to do with our active approach to health and wellness. I still make time for workouts and sports. When travel, business and life get in the way, I now have an easy, fun and stimulating health program I can do at my desk. I use a stand-sit desk, ball chair and various other surfaces to stand on while working. My employees use properly sized ball chairs, German-made Swopper chairs or sitting discs, all of which are engineered to increase maximum productivity and performance. As a team, we make it a point to sit for shorter periods of time and stand whenever possible. I’ve even placed balance boards in every meeting space to help promote better balance and proprioception (the body’s spatial awareness). In my office, desks are fit to the person, not the person to the desk.
Monitors are eye level to promote proper heads-up posture. Keyboards are low enough with pull-out trays so that shorter staff members don’t have to scrunch their shoulders to type. Our laptops are equipped with extension keyboards and hands-free headsets. The goal is simple: Keep the core moving and the spine in a good relationship with gravity. As a result, we are more productive, we have more fun and we have a greater appreciation for our health.
After 24 years in the rehab and wellness industry, I’ve learned that the key to good health is movement. Humans are designed to move and have done so for thousands of years in order to survive. Extensive sitting at work or while driving is a new thing in mankind’s evolution, and in my experience, it’s not good for us.
I like to remind people that balance is the essence of movement and movement is the essence of life. It’s imperative that the office environment is an asset, not a liability, to good health. Throughout my experiences, I’ve learned that an active office is a great place to invest one’s energy, and the return on investment is happy, healthy and productive people who make the best of their “9 to 5” everyday.