A transportation revolution is underway, and you might have noticed the changes. The number of choices for how we get from one place to another is rising. In cities across the country, transportation choices now include driving a car, biking, taking a bus, using a shared car service, calling an Uber car, using the subway, and renting a shared bike.
Robin Chase, a founder and former CEO of the car-sharing service Zipcar, has talked extensively about the importance of choices for transportation. As these choices expand and become easier to access, fewer people will opt for what some consider the worst transportation choice: driving your own car.
Skeptics wondered if people would be overwhelmed by the plethora of transportation choices. Chase argues that we can handle all of these options. She likens deciding on your transportation throughout the day as similar to deciding what to eat:
Just like I wake up in the morning and there are 38 choices of how I’m going to feed myself during the day — am I cooking for myself, is someone cooking for me, am I buying it packaged, am I doing it pre-made? We don’t fret over those choices. You just go along and it’s just easy. And that will be how we move through our day when it comes to our transportation.
So far, Chase’s predictions are proving correct. The rise of alternatives to private car travel in cities is big news and big business. Bike sharing ridership is surging. Public transportation use in the U.S. is at its highest in 57 years. A lack of alternatives to car travel even is being blamed for a “brain drain” in Wisconsin. Companies such as RideScout are emerging to help people discover which transportation method is the best one at any given moment.
It turns out that when given alternatives to a less-than-ideal solution, people take full advantage of their options. So what is the next wave in the choice movement? It happens to be the place that your alternative transportation takes you most often: your office desk.
Right now, nearly all working adults have no option but to sit at their desks. Unfortunately we are spending more time than ever doing nothing but sitting. The average person spends nearly 21 hours a day being sedentary. Over 9 of those hours typically are spent sitting. Between cars, computers, and couches, we sit at unprecedented rates. In doing so, we are engaging in a grand experiment with our bodies. The results are not good.
Prolonged sitting is a contributing factor in four of the top seven leading causes of death. It has been linked with ashortened life span, increased risk of diabetes, certain cancers, and back pain. Not to mention that slouching in a chair can make you feel depressed, tired, and evenpowerless. It turns out that we were meant to move, not sit all day.
Imagine if each morning instead of having one choice for how to work (a chair at a desk), you had lots of choices. You could work at a standing desk. When you wanted to move some more, you could switch to a treadmill desk and take a stroll. When you needed a break, you could sit down. Workplaces are starting to offer alternatives to private offices and cubicles, but options other than the typical office chair in those spaces still are needed.
Choice in office furniture is the key because it gives people the freedom to decide how they want to work each day. Just as some days you feel like biking and other times it is easier to hop in a cab, some days you feel like standing and other days you may need to sit more. For many people though, when given the option to sit, stand, or walk, sitting becomes what they do when they need a break – not what they do all day. By relegating sitting to an occasional event, they can improve their chances of being happy and productive at work, feel better physically, and boost long-term health.
Choosing how you want to work each day based on how your body feels and the tasks you have to get done should become an accepted part of our work lives. As the transportation revolution is in full swing, the healthy office revolution is not far behind.