Keeping Active at the Office

Let’s face it: with some exceptions, library work consists of a lot of sitting and staring at a computer screen. Sure, you might be doing roving reference, or taking a patron up three flights of stairs to find the book they need for their project, but if you’re doing any sort of research or cataloging or participating in a meeting, you’re probably doing it while sitting at a desk. Student life – watching a lecture, studying from a textbook, meeting with your group to plan a presentation – can often involve a lot of sitting, too. Not to mention the fact that a lot of us have long commutes, where you’re pretty much stuck in your seat. This can lead to stiffness and soreness, eye strain, and even heart trouble. One of my goals this past year as we eased away from work-from-home and back to in-person library service was to keep up with as many of my more active habits as I could. (It was a lot easier, while working from home, to take a break in the middle of the day to take an online cardio or stretching class than it is from the office!) Here are some resources I’ve used and liked.

  1. The Pomodoro Technique. This isn’t particularly movement-based, but more of a system to remind yourself to get up and move. The basic idea is, you set a timer for 25 minutes to work on your task. When the timer dings, you take a short break. After four of these sessions, you take a longer, 20- to 30-minute, break. These built-in work breaks are a great time to stand up, stretch, and give your eyes a break from looking at a screen. Which leads me to…
  2. The 20-20-20 rule. The technique behind this is, every 20 minutes (or 25, if you’re using Pomodoro, is probably OK), you look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. (You may not have a 20-foot office, but if you have a window, you can pick something outside.) This lets the eye muscles you were using to look at your phone or desktop rest while you focus them on something else. And don’t forget to blink!
  3. Stretches you can do at your desk. I attended a virtual conference earlier this year that featured an opening stretching and mindfulness session taught by Jenn Carson, a librarian and yoga instructor. She has a lot of good resources on her website, but my favorite is the De-Stress at Your Desk handout, a copy of which I keep behind the circulation desk of the library where I work. They’re simple back and wrist stretches you can do while either sitting or standing.
  4. The 7-Minute Desk Detox. If you have a little more time (like your lunch or the longer Pomodoro break), you can try something a little longer (as always, of course, adapting to your own body’s unique needs and requirements). There’s a good, free example of one here. Of course, you can certainly get more intense, especially if you have equipment or you’re at your own home, but while I’m at work I like something simple that won’t make me too sweaty and can be done with a very small amount of available floor space.

I hope this is of some help to you, and if you have any more suggestions, tips, or easy workouts you like to use, please share them in the comments!

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Lauren Bauer is Associate Editor of Hack Library School and is in the MLIS program at San José State University. Her favorite part of her job is fulfilling ILL requests for people who say, “You probably won’t be able to find this but…” You can find her on Twitter @darthbookworm3, but she wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

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