This month isn’t just about heading back-to-school, but also about getting back-to-life – “life” being work for most of us. This means a shift in pace, space, schedule, activity and even mood. If the prospect of this has made you grimace a bit, we can understand why. Most companies don’t attach particular importance to workplace wellness, and this can affect your life quality considerably.
Nowadays, many of us have office jobs where we end up sitting a lot. This kind of modern lifestyle contributes to suboptimal physical conditions, which can make us sedentary if we don’t watch out. Plus, considering the active nature of human beings, it’s no surprise that this behavior starts affecting our bodies and minds.
From lack of movement to an imbalanced diet, our everyday work habits can lead to minor, chronic pain or severe health issues; like gaining weight, bad posture, limited range of motion, aches, compromised gut health and even our state of mind.
Wellness tips for the workplace
So what is a professional to do? The good news is, there are quite a few things you can do to create your very own haven of health. Work may be work, but as we spend so much time there, we should aim to make it the most nurturing environment possible. Filled with bits and pieces of your outside world that will invigorate your mind, body, and spirit.
Here are some workplace wellness ideas for you to break up the vicious cycle and turn your workspace into an inviting place you can call your own. Flowing creativity, increased motivation, and optimized productivity are merely an added bonus!
Set up an ergonomic desk space
Truth is we’re not actually built for being seated all day long, yet this is what most of us do. We plug into our computers, shut off from the external world and remain in this position for hours on end. This is so damaging to us that we would go as far as saying that sitting is the new smoking.
To counterbalance this, it’s important to make our desk space as ergonomic as possible. If we try to align our body as best we can, this can avoid putting pressure on specific body parts, and can limit neck, lower back, and knee pains many of us experience.
Here are some basics to remember:
Your feet should be flat on the floor, with knees in line with hips. Keep your hands relaxed, with your elbows near 90 degrees, so you don’t have to bend your wrist much to type.
You should also be an arm’s length away from your computer so that the keyboard is easily accessible. Keep your keyboard and mouse as close to each other as possible.
Try to keep your back straight, and avoid slouching or tensing your shoulders. This can pinch nerves in your body that can spread to your hands and arms. If you find yourself slouching, invest in lumbar support or an ergonomic chair.
You want your monitor to be at eye-level, so your neck is in a natural position. Avoid sticking your neck forward while working. It can easily happen when you’re engrossed in your work, but it overloads your body with even more stress.
Working on a laptop is not ideal when it comes to ergonomics, because if the screen is at the right height for your eyes, then the keyboard isn’t, and vice versa. Invest in a separate wireless keyboard and mouse to avoid this.
Take regular mini-breaks
When we sit in our chairs, we do it as if we were parking a car for the day. We expect our bodies to rev up immediately after they’ve been shut down for hours. But our bodies need frequent movement to remain in good condition. So it’s important to give it the rest it needs and treat it to a short walk and/or stretch every so often — we recommend a five-minute break every 30-45 minutes. Even small or short movement will improve your circulation and prevent muscles stiffness.
As a matter of fact, it’s not just our bodies that need it. Our brains also need a break to rest and recharge. If you don’t have a proper time-out place to go to, simply walk around the room, go outside for a walk, or sit in a different type of chair and look out the window. Even if it’s close to your desk, it’s a different “station.” A change of environment can lend a sense of relief and spark creativity. And remember, looking off into the distance is excellent for our eyes.
If you don’t trust yourself to remember, start by setting a phone alarm to remind you. Soon, you’ll start remembering on your own.
Take walking meetings
Once you’ve started taking regular breaks, consider other “sitting” situations you can turn into “standing” or “walking” situations. Like meetings for example. If you don’t particularly need a screen for your meeting, try having catch-ups like 1:1 meetings outdoors. So you’re multitasking by exercising and working at the same time.
It can even shift the dynamics of a meeting, you may find yourself being more productive because there aren’t any distractions and your body and mind are alert.
Consider using a standing desk
You may see it as one of those trendy new office appliances, but standing desks can be very beneficial for the body. They allow you to alternate between sitting and standing, which is one of the healthiest things you can do, in addition to working out and eating right.
Switching from sitting to standing has been shown to improve blood flow, engage and strengthen the large leg muscles, and stabilize your core. This keeps your body running optimally.
You can even add an ergonomic ball to your daily routine. The instability of the ball requires you to activate your core muscles, which leads to improved posture and decreased discomfort. It’s like sneaking an undercover workout while you work.
Move closer to a window or sunlight
Another way to enhance wellness in the workplace is to move closer to natural light, if possible. This is a fantastic way to keep you feeling happy, alert and focused. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that staying connected with nature helps us regulate our circadian rhythm, and by default our mood and well-being. Being exposed to natural light has been shown to increase productivity, lower risk of eye damage and improve our overall state of mind.
So get yourself close to that window, if you can! If you don’t, make sure you have a good alternative. The eye strain from poor lighting can trigger headaches and migraines.
Creating a healthy workspace
It’s a great start to follow the tips above, as this adds tremendous value to your health. If you want to take it a step further, try the following suggestions to personalize and jazz up your workstation. You’ll start appreciating your surroundings more, and it can make you enjoy going to work (if you don’t enjoy it as much as we do!).
Stock up on healthy snacks
Keep easy snacks like fresh fruit on hand. Having fruit like apples, oranges and bananas around make it that much more difficult to reach for those naughty snacks. Having extra protein-rich snacks close by like nuts are even better, and will keep you fueled until your next meal.
Get some office plants
Plants are great friends to have around at work. They’re known to be natural air purifiers, clearing out toxins in the environment. Plus they provide you with extra oxygen throughout the day, which is always good when trying to be productive.
On top of that, it’s been proven that having plants in the workplace can improve your concentration, and make you feel happier by creating a peaceful atmosphere.
Personalize your space
As we spend so much time at work, be sure to make your space your own. If your job allows, keep photos of your nearest and dearest or favorite holiday destinations — it can brighten up a long work day and spur you on to keep going when things get tough. Add anything that inspires you and spreads positivity in your second home — even artwork you love or painted by your kids.
Alternative lighting for your desk
Nothing beats natural light, but depending on where you live or what your office space looks like, you may not always have the luxury of having it in abundance. But this shouldn’t stop you!
There are many types of lamps out there that could make you as happy as a clam, from regular desk lamps and light therapy lamps to Himalayan salt lamps. Pick something that’s the right balance of fun and functional.
The tips we’ve given you are just a handful of ideas you can implement to make your environment as hospitable as you possible in the pursuit of daily health and wellness in the workplace. The key is to do what feels right for you and what makes you feel good.
Experiment with different options and slowly tailor it to what has a positive impact on you. Because the happier you are at work, the better your overall quality of life will be, and the better an asset you are in the workplace.
Above all, keep moving and keep snacking (on healthy foods)!