By: Frederikke Malling Hansen
From January, all SDU staff have had to part with the waste bins in their offices, and the bins were also moved out of classrooms. Banana peel can no longer just be thrown into the right-hand side of the bin, and a little more work is required for disposing of your rubbish.
Linnea Marie Sjöberg, movement consultant at SDU Moves, sees it as positive that we now have to move a little more to get rid of waste:
‘Some people may feel that it interrupts their workflow, but it might also be that the interruption or the movement actually makes your next flow really good because you’ve interrupted your sedentary time.’
She explains that changing a habit can be difficult and, for some people, annoying and inconvenient, but she also questions whether it might not be a positive thing that we all have to get rid of a bad habit together.
‘By both moving and sorting rubbish, we’re contributing on several levels to this mishmash of sustainability. I think that’s also important,’ she says.
Movement is also sustainability
‘We’re also creating sustainability – or at least sustainable employees,’ explains Linnea Marie Sjöberg about the work at SDU Moves.
She explains that many people may think that the project comes from the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, but in reality it is an SDG project developed by staff and supported by the Executive Board. For that reason, she explains, there is management-level support for everyone at SDU to incorporate more movement into their everyday lives.
‘A lot of people think they only work at a computer, but I think many people forget that it’s the time away from the computer that makes the rest of the time here better. It may be that the half hour you took a walking conference call or walked during your lunch break means that there is more quality in the work you deliver, because you took a breather, broke your concentration and got some oxygen to your brain,’ she explains.
The project behind SDU Moves started back in November 2020 with the desire to create something social and collegial through everybody moving together and at the same time encourage people to introduce the small movements and activities in everyday life that make a difference.
So it is not only about the health benefits of changing your posture and giving your eyes a break from the screen, but also about well-being.
‘For us, it’s important that we also get to know each other as colleagues, and we do that in a different way when we’re on the move,’ she says, explaining that the project is about creating a social and collegial atmosphere in the workplace and also, in the long term, creating greater productivity and reducing the number of sick days.
Linnea Marie Sjöberg herself also thinks that this makes SDU a very attractive workplace with a sustainable working life.
‘Sitting is the new smoking’
Linnea Marie Sjöberg explains that while going to football twice a week or doing yoga every Monday is always a good thing, being healthy requires more.
‘It’s the total amount of sedentary time that’s dangerous for you,’ she emphasises and elaborates:
‘It's the same tiny muscles that are working under high pressure all the time when we sit and work in the same way without variety.’
So running five kilometres after work is all well and good, but if you have been sitting still from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., you still have some way to go.
‘There’s a natural break in having to consider a new working position, so I may not sit in exactly the same way as before. In this way, we also relieve some of the muscular load by changing our position,’ says Linnea Marie Sjöberg.
With SDU’s new waste sorting system and the removal of the small waste bins, both students and staff have been given an opportunity to change their seating position and break up the working day a little when napkins, banana peels and tissue paper are to be disposed of.
But does it have any effect?
Does that little trip make any difference at all? Or is it just a nuisance? According to Linnea Marie Sjöberg, it is not trivial and she sees it as a good opportunity to start changing our habits in the workplace.
‘Everything counts when it comes to interrupting sedentary work. Whether it's going out, breaking the habit and throwing rubbish in the bin, whether it’s going to a photocopier further down the corridor or having a walking meeting, it’s still this break in sedentary time that’s really important,’ she says.
A little goes a long way, as the saying goes – even if you are the kind of person who goes with the lazy option.
‘Even if you gather the waste into a pile and only go out once, it’s still one more movement than you would have made if the bin was still there,’ says Linnea Marie Sjöberg.
Even though life at SDU has become more difficult and demanding for some people, Linnea Marie Sjöberg emphasises that she would much rather focus on the positive and adaptable SDU users:
‘I could take issue with anyone who says no or finds it annoying to take out the rubbish or move about, but for us it’s those who say yes who are far more interesting, because they can help get some of the others involved.’
More movement in a sedentary working day
Although employees and students are now forced to embrace a little more physical activity in their daily lives, there are still many other things we can do during the working day.
And that is precisely what SDU Moves is going to nudge us to get done.
‘What we want to focus on is the movement we can integrate into our working day – taking a walking meeting because you have to have the meeting anyway, and doing some stretching with elastic resistance bands wherever you are,’ says Linnea Marie Sjöberg.
Activity and movement must therefore be an integral and accessible part of our daily lives. But at the same time, SDU Moves also organises annual events to give you something to look forward to.
For example, in weeks 17 and 18 they are running a Count the Steps campaign to encourage employees to take those extra steps during the working week.
‘You don't have to make it a chore to take out the rubbish, you might actually gain more steps than your colleague,’ says Linnea Marie Sjöberg.
As part of the SDU Moves project, there are also a number of movement ambassadors in the University’s departments, who can provide information about what events and offers are available from SDU Moves.
‘We’ve put a lot of effort into giving some autonomy and co-determination to all the staff we want to get moving,’ says Linnea Marie Sjöberg, explaining that this means that activities must be more locally anchored in the departments.