employment & bare feet
The comfort of bare feet can extend to your workplace -- and it might even make you more productive!
Let's face it: Our jobs can be stressful. There are deadlines to meet, orders to fill and annoying customers to deal with. What's a great way to help relieve some of that stress? Take off your shoes!
Employees who are allowed to shed their shoes can be more focused on their work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that unpleasant environmental conditions -- including ergonomic factors -- can be a leading contributor to stress in the workplace.1 German ergonomics researcher Dr. Dieter Breithecker explains a tie between going barefoot and lower stress: "Putting the soles of your feet in contact with all the normal sensations helps to relieve internal tension and reduce stress."2
Why not consider going barefoot in the workplace? Many common workplaces, including offices, schools and retail stores, are generally free of dangers to the feet. If we're more comfortable and have less non-work-related problems on our minds -- like how uncomfortable our shoes are -- we can focus better on the tasks at hand. Better focus means higher productivity.
Barefoot workers will also have healthier feet. If an employee can avoid sticking their feet in cramped, uncomfortable shoes for eight hours or more each day, they will be far less likely to deal with common shoe-caused afflictions that remove workers from the job. These ailments include bunions (and the subsequent surgery to remove them), hammer toes, degenerative arthritis, hip problems and back pain. Obviously, the healthier that workers are, the less time they will be absent from the workplace.
It's very unlikely that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. or any other similar agency elsewhere would require you to wear their standard of protective shoes. It's a myth to think that most people who bring home a pay check can't go barefoot on the job. Only a few very specific situations are mentioned in OSHA's policies,3 and frankly we'd want to wear shoes to do those jobs, too.
Some may say, however, that the very concept of going barefoot in the workplace is unprofessional. We believe that employees are professional based on a number of factors, the least of which is someone's choice in footwear. Merriam-Webster's dictionary partially defines professional as, "exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace."4 This is not in opposition of comfort and improved foot health. That's why "business casual" attire is a staple of the modern workplace. According to Monster.com, business casual "means dressing professionally, looking relaxed, yet neat and pulled together.''5 If an employee's attire is otherwise neat and pulled together and their conduct is professional, why not they also be more comfortable and productive by going barefoot?
1. NIOSH Publication No. 99-101: STRESS...At Work (Link)
2. "Walking Barefoot an Effective Reflexology Method" Earth Times, Dec. 6, 2010 (Link)
3. "OSHA. Oh, Sure." Ahcuah (Link)
4. professional. (2010). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professional
5. "Redefining Business Casual" The New York Times, Oct. 23, 2007. (Link)