How to be more human at work

How many days have you sat still, staring at a screen, methodically typing and moving only to visit the kitchen and bathroom? Most professionals would say quite a bit. Modern offices can lead to unhealthy workplace habits that are inconsistent with being more humane. This way of working, like robots that are programmed, takes us far away from our original human selves and most of us don’t realize it’s happening.

Tony Riddle wants you to be more human, for your health and happiness. Riddle is an ultra endurance barefoot athlete and natural lifestyle coach, known as the Natural Life Stylist. His book, Be More Human, was released in 2022 and in 2020 he ran the three highest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland, covering nearly 450 miles in nine days, seven hours and 19 minutes and the men’s running record for barefoot running. Riddle dedicates his life to helping people become more human, including healthier work habits. He offers one-on-one coaching and organizes classes, workshops and retreats on the subject, to share what he knows and improve the lives of his clients.

I interviewed Riddle about how he works and how everyone can be more human in business. Here are four ways to rethink your work accordingly.

Check your schedule and set boundaries for your work

Riddle is a father of four who gets up ‘before the tribe wakes up’. His mornings are spent with 20 minutes of mindful mobility, 100 cycles of nasal breathing, intention setting, a plant-based protein smoothie and out into nature. Sometimes he takes “a dip in an ice bath, to practice staying calm in the icy water.” Riddle can tap into that same calm state for all the stressful phone calls or emails that can pop up throughout the day.

Then it’s up to work. “I have coaching sessions in the morning and I have meetings or podcast recordings in the afternoon.” Evenings are spent with his family, down-regulating. After a full day with a lot of exercise and nature, Riddle is in bed at 9 pm. Sleep counts and you don’t have to compromise.

“I set aside eight hours to sleep in the bedroom, then I have a whopping 16 hours left to be a successful human being.” He said, “If you look at your journal this way, you quickly see how subjective time can be.” The complaint that you don’t have enough time is a myth. If you check your schedule and focus on what’s important, you’ll have plenty of time to do everything you want to do, including appreciating your family and friends, exercise, rest, meditation, food, community, and being creative. “If I stay focused, I can complete most of my work in six to eight hours,” Riddle said. The key is to stay focused.

Get up more and sit on the floor

“We have become domesticated creatures, spending 90% of our lives indoors and 83% of us in urban environments. Most of that time is spent sitting.” Sitting is not good. Described as the “modern smoking” by health professionals, “sit for long periods of time causes stagnation and encourages lack of exercise.”

Standing all the time isn’t necessarily what you want either. As Riddle said, “It’s just as harmful to stand for long periods of time with bad posture as to sit with bad posture.” Riddle rethinks sitting while he works, using a low sitting desk set up for sitting on the floor. He alternates between, “ground sitting positions to help unravel, stay supple and strong. They maintain my posture and athleticism and keep me grounded and in my body”

The equipment? A large dining table with legs cut off to accommodate its living experience on the floor. More importantly, Riddle adds, is to get regular exercise in the right way: “Get away from your desk every 25 minutes and drop into a squat.” He said this helps, “reset our posture from C-shaped primates to more capable upright creatures.”

Choose air time over screen time

How many days has the sun risen and set, only to wonder where the time has gone? Back-to-back Zoom calls and head down plowing with tasks can turn the workday into a habit of non-stop grind. Riddle practices a different method. “I choose skytime over screen time, so try to spend as little time as possible in front of my computer. I prefer to organize meetings outside or make phone calls in nature.”

Living more in sync with your natural human biology doesn’t mean you have to book call after call and not go in between. It doesn’t mean staring at a screen. A better strategy is to think like a lion. Rest, play, sharpen your claws, then jump in one swift motion before resuming relaxation. Chances are you’ll get much more effective work done than grazing like a cow all day.

Blue light is another killer, and Riddle calls it “junk light” because of the way it can affect your natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. He wears amber glasses at night when he looks at a screen, to minimize the disturbance. “Rewild yourself,” Riddle advised. Look at your living and office environment to find out where you can make minor changes.

Go outside or bring nature inside

We now know the positive health benefits of being outdoors. An increase in cardiovascular health, immunity, reduced inflammation and faster recovery times, not to mention stress reduction through down-regulation of the nervous system. It all sounds great for an entrepreneur on a mission. Mental health benefits top this list, and people who spend more time outdoors tend to be happier. It makes sense when you consider how cramped walls and ceilings can make us.

Riddle is a fan. “Going out into nature as much as possible keeps me clear, connected and on my A-game.” Fresh air, fresh landscapes and fresh perspectives that prevent us from delving into details that keep us small.

If getting outside isn’t possible, bring the outside in for some of the benefits. Riddle recommends that you surround yourself with plants. “They purify the air and help lower your cortisol levels, keeping you in a resting and digestive state.” Rest and digest to conserve your energy for the things you really care about.

To be more human, you have to rethink specific parts of your world. Rethink your schedule, your seating, your daily habits, and your relationship with nature. Within a 24 hour day, there is plenty of time for the work that matters, the relaxation that is essential, and everything else that is important to your soul. Strive to be more human in everything you do, not a machine on a mission to achieve at all costs.