"Work" and "exercise" are being combined to a greater and greater degree, as if someone forgot that these are two totally separate things, not meant for combining at all. People are sometimes wanting to do these things at the exact same time, for instance, perched smugly on exercise balls at their cubicles, standing at their standing desks and looking self-righteous and imperious, even attending office yoga classes or participating in 12-mile obstacle races after hours, as Alina Dizik writes in The Wall Street Journal, in the freezing cold air and mud, to forge "bonding" among coworkers. Our obsession with healthiness—and exercise—in the workplace is getting out of control.
Remember that research that said sitting would kill you? Well, offices aren't requiring you to sign a liability waiver to sit. But people do have to sign "death waivers" to participate in the Tough Mudder obstacle race Dizik writes of. Remember, also, that research that found that exercising too much is not good for you either, in fact, it's like a drug, and you're an addict? Yes, we're looking at you, person working out on that "treadmill desk." You have a sickness, and it must be treated!
Yes, we have a vastly unhealthy, largely obese nation. Yes, we are all going to die someday, possibly by sitting (if we are lucky!). But is incorporating our exercise routines into the office (a "method" that I suspect employers are using simply to get people to work more, not less) really the answer? Am I the only person nostalgic for Mad Men-era-esque lying on your office couch to "think" and sip whiskey? Am I the only person who, upon seeing a person seated atop an exercise ball, working cheerily away, wants to kick said ball out from under them and see if their core is up to the challenge?
I like sitting in an actual, not-even-ergonomic chair and typing, exercising only my fingers, and maybe my left hand as it lifts and delivers swigs of ice coffee to my lips—as opposed to doing squats interspersed by triceps curls and leg lifts with brief sprints to and fro in the office, with a sentence written for each back-and-forth trek. I do not want to exercise with coworkers willingly, nor even accidentally, if we are unlucky enough happen to belong to the same gym. (No offense, dear coworkers. This is about me, not you.)
Back in the old days, we'd finish up a hard day's work of sitting and writing and then go to a bar and sit some more, imbibing liquid calories from the comfort of a bar stool, bonding. That worked perfectly well, and we didn't have to "wade through waist-deep mud, crawl under barbed wire, submerge [our]selves in ice water and jump through fire," or even run through curtains of electrical wires with 10,000 volts of electric shock, as participants in the Tough Mudder obstacle race do. We didn't even have to shower after, if we didn't want to. And we were deeply, deeply satisfied, or if not satisfied at all, at least not faced with the regular, non-electrical shock of seeing someone healthier than we were in the office rub it into our puffy faces daily. That kind of thing hurts a person's soul, and it can't do much for the work ethic, either. The office was our last bastion of unhealthiness and workaholism, our homes away from home! Now...what do we have? Paper cuts. Neck strain. Dry eyes. Carpal tunnel. A big blue exercise ball that sags when we sit in the middle of it. The mortifying stench of perspiring with coworkers. A fridge full of uneaten yogurts. A broken desk-treadmill. Sadness and desperation. We have failed ourselves, America.
Look, all I want to do is sit in my desk chair and type type type like a normal person, and maybe order something vaguely unhealthy for lunch, and then go out with friends to a bar, and then go home and sleep, and get up, and do it all over again. Is that too much to ask?
Work is so hard these days.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.