Small Steps To A Healthier Office
Most standard corporate offices are greatly in need of a major overhaul. Fluorescent lighting, recycled air, and a lack of healthy snack alternatives are ubiquitous. And if you spend at least 40 hours a week — although it seems like in America 60 hours is more likely — a healthier environment is absolutely necessary for your physical health, productivity, and well-being. And of course, there are a few small, low-impact, everyday changes that can be made to create an environment that is conducive to your wellness.
Be conscious of your posture while sitting and make sure your employer provides you with a high quality chair that is ergonomically right for you. You will feel less tired at the end of the day and you will likely experience less back pain. I have already talked about the benefits of standing desks here and there is absolutely no reason why they should not be encouraged in the work place, especially since sitting long-term has been associated with so many negative health effects.
Make sure that the lighting is suitable for your space. Better yet, try to position your desk by a window. If you are doing a lot of computer work, try to give your eyes a rest every 10-15 minutes. Focus on objects of varying distances to alleviate eye strain.
Make your space green. Get a plant that does well in shade if your desk is not close to a window. Some very modern companies are putting indoor gardens or even living walls in their offices. Studies show that employees who are exposed to green spaces and plants feel less stressed, are more productive, and generally happier. Avoid flowering plants that may cause co-workers with allergies to suffer.
Take standing and walking breaks every 30 minutes or so. This will help with focus and concentration, and it will mildly offset the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time. I make sure I drink a lot of water throughout the day, so I am a least getting up and walking to the ladies’ room more than a few times an hour.
Get up and stretch – be that person in your office. Arm and leg stretches can be regularly done at your desk. Sometimes I will take a couple of minutes and stretch in the ladies room (more privacy than the kitchen)!
Eat well. This along with daily exercise, is the most effective way to benefit your health over the long-term. A simple office lunch is where you can really make a difference. Skip the carbs and you will likely skip the mid-afternoon slump too. Have meals that are based around vegetables and a quality protein. I choose vegetables and fish (fish in the office? Yes, be that person).
And do not eat at your desk. You are a civilized adult who should be eating a proper meal at a table, instead of slurping soup and spilling half of it on your keyboard. Also, when you are eating at your desk and in front of your computer you are neither eating well nor working well. Unchaining yourself from your desk will also allows for random meetings, conversations, and other niceties with co-workers from other departments.
It can be easy to get so involved in work so that things like physical activity, eating well, and simple ways to manage stress are forgotten or left “until there is time.” We all know there is never enough time in a day, so making a conscious effort as much as possible is critically important. One should not leave work exhausted, ready to just park themselves in front of the television. The little changes outlined above will make a different to your overall energy and vitality. What matters are the little things you do everyday.
On a final note: set your boundaries very early on. If everyone in your office eats at their desks or doesn’t take breaks, be that outlier and make that change. Chances are they want to do the same, but they are just waiting for someone else to make that first step.
Yet to come: posts dealing with ideas for healthy meals at the office and how to keep physically active throughout your 9-5 day.