How To Be More Human At Work
How many days have you spent sitting still, staring at a screen, typing methodically and moving only to visit the kitchen and bathroom? Most professionals would say quite a few. Modern offices can lead to unhealthy workplace habits that aren’t congruent with being more human. This way of operating, like robots that have been programmed, takes us far away from our primal, human selves and most of us don’t realize it’s happening.
Tony Riddle wants you to be more human, for your health and happiness. An ultra-endurance barefoot athlete and natural lifestyle coach, Riddle is known as the Natural Life-stylist. His book, Be More Human, was released in 2022 and in 2020 he ran the three highest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland, marking almost 450 miles in nine days, seven hours and 19 minutes and breaking the men’s running record for barefoot running. Riddle devotes his life to helping people be more human, including having healthier work habits. He offers one-to-one coaching and hosts classes, workshops and retreats about the topic, to share what he knows and improve the lives of his clients.
I interviewed Riddle about how he works and how everyone can be more human in business. Here are four ways to rethink your work accordingly.
Audit your schedule and set boundaries for work
Riddle is a dad of four who gets up “before the tribe wakes.” His mornings are spent with 20 minutes of mindful mobility, 100 cycles of nasal breath, intention setting, a plant-based protein smoothie and getting into nature. Sometimes he will take, “a dip in an ice bath, to practise staying calm in the ice-cold water.” Riddle can tap into that same soothed state for any stressful calls or emails that might crop up throughout the day.
Next, it’s onto work. “I have coaching sessions in the morning and in the afternoons, I have meetings or podcast recordings.” Evenings are spent with his family, down regulating. After a full day with plenty of movement and nature, Riddle is in bed by 9pm. Sleep counts, and you don’t need to compromise.
“I set eight hours aside for sleep in the bedroom, then I have a whopping 16 hours remaining to be a successful human.” He said, “when you view your diary this way, you soon see how subjective time can be.” The complaint of not having enough time is a myth. If you audit your schedule and focus on what matters, you have plenty of time to do everything you want to do, including appreciating your family and friends, movement, rest, meditation, food, community and being creative. “If I stay focused, I can complete most of my work in six to eight hours,” said Riddle. The key is staying focused.
Stand up more and sit on the floor
“We have become domesticated beings, spending 90% of our lives indoors, and 83% of us living in urban environments. Most of that time is spent sitting down.” Sitting down is not good. Described as the “modern-day smoking” by health professionals, “Sitting for long periods of time creates stagnation and encourages lack of movement.”
Standing all the time isn’t necessarily what you want, either. As Riddle said, “It is as detrimental to stand for long periods of time with poor posture as it is to sit with poor posture.” Riddle rethinks seating while he works, using a low sitting desk set up for floor sitting. He transitions between, “ground sitting positions to help unravel, keep supple and strong. They maintain my posture and athleticism and keep me grounded and in my body”
The equipment? A large dining table with the legs cut off, to accommodate his ground living experience. More importantly, adds Riddle, is to regularly move in the right way, “Every 25 minutes get away from your desk and drop into a squat.” He said this helps, “reset our posture from C-shape primates to more capable upright beings.”
Choose sky time over screen time
How many days has the sun risen and set, only for you to wonder where the time went? Back-to-back Zoom calls and having heads down, ploughing on with tasks, can make the workday a habit of non-stop grind. Riddle practises a different method. “I opt for sky time over screen time so try to spend as little time in front of my computer as possible. I prefer to arrange meetings outside or make calls out in nature.”
Living more in sync with your natural human biology doesn’t mean booking call after call and not moving in between. It doesn’t mean staring at a screen. A better strategy is to think like a lion. Rest, play, sharpen your claws, then pounce in one swift movement before resuming the relaxation. Chances are you’ll get far more effective work done than grazing all day like a cow.
Blue light is another killer, and Riddle calls it “junk light” because of how it can affect your natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. He wears amber glasses in the evening if he’s looking at a screen, to minimize disruption. “Rewild yourself,” advised Riddle. Look at your home and office habitats to figure out where you can make small changes.
Get outside or bring nature inside
We know by now the positive health benefits of being outside. An increase in cardiovascular health, immunity, reduced inflammation and faster recovery times, not to mention stress reduction via downregulation of the nervous system. All sound great for an entrepreneur on a mission. Mental health benefits are on top of this list, and people who spend more time outside are generally happier. It makes sense when you think of how closed-minded walls and ceilings can make us.
Riddle is a fan. “Getting out into nature as much as possible keeps me clear-headed, connected and on my A-game.” Fresh air, fresh scenery and fresh perspectives that prevent us homing in on minutiae that keeps us playing small.
When getting outside is out of the question, bring the outside in for some of the benefits. Riddle recommends you surround yourself with plants. “They purify the air and help drop your cortisol levels, keeping you in a rest and digestive state.” Resting and digesting to conserve your energy for the things you really care about.
To be more human, reimagine specific parts of your world. Rethink your schedule, your seating arrangements, your daily habits and your relationship with nature. Within a 24-hour day there is plenty of time for doing the work that matters, the relaxing that is essential, and everything else that matters to your soul. Aim to be more human in everything you do, not a machine on a mission to achieve at all costs.