A man leaning down to talk to a woman sitting down but looking up at him, with a light in the background

Making Strange the New Norm

5 July 2017

Sometimes the only thing stopping us from changing our behaviour is in fact ourselves writes Natalie Slessor, Global Head of Workplace at Lendlease. 'Making 'strange' the new norm published on Huffington Post discusses how the workplace can be used as the perfect platform to help support healthier behaviour at work.

Where hearing your employer has a wellbeing program in place was once a ‘nice-to-have’, it is quickly becoming an expectation. It appears that our growing interest with health in our private lives has steadily drip fed into our workplaces. And so it should.

In fact, nearly six in ten millennials (57%) say work-life balance and wellbeing is “very important” to them, according to data from management consultancy Gallup. As a result, the topic has quickly risen up the workplace agenda and into boardrooms. You only have to look at the growing number of wellbeing-related job titles to see it is increasingly becoming a business priority.

But while companies are making conscious efforts to invest in our wellbeing, we are all at our core, creatures of habit - and it takes more than a poster or company email to shake up our deeply habitual behavior.

So, how do we create change?

Recent research we conducted into sedentary working in the UK revealed that one of the key barriers stopping us from being more active at work is, ironically, ourselves - or more specifically what we feel others might think.

This new study conducted by YouGov found 60 per cent of us would not feel comfortable keeping active by standing, leaning against a wall or pacing for a few minutes during a meeting that lasted longer than an hour; and when asked why, the majority (83%) said they were deterred in case management or clients perceived this as “strange”.

When you think about it, it’s this perception that could be the reason many of our unhealthy behaviours at work seem impossible to shake. We need to let go of these inhibitions. We need to make “strange” the new norm.

Fortunately, our workplaces, where we now spend almost a third of our lives provide the perfect platform to start. And I don’t mean installing a slide between floors or replacing swivel chairs with beanbags. It’s about making smart changes - that not only respond to the changing needs of the businesses we work for but also how each of us now works.

Don’t get me wrong, creating a workplace that meets all the needs of a diverse mix of people is no easy feat. For some, the workplace is a space purely to collaborate - only useful for meetings, for others it’s a place to focus, be in the zone with the equipment and technology they need.

But by creating a work culture that encourage these, and the many other different work styles - we’re giving people control and ownership of how they want to work. And with that, the concept of doing something your colleagues may consider “strange” or different to benefit your health, simply slips away. If we can nail that, we may never have to worry about the “norm” again.

The new report ‘Fit for purpose: steps to tackling Britain’s sedentary working culture’ can be downloaded here.