Ten Healthy Habits You Need to Start Doing at Work
A large portion of our lives is spent in the workplace, and over time, the habits we develop at work can begin to influence our health long-term. As such, it is essential to establish good practices that can not only improve our health but also be a key booster for productivity. Here, we explore ten positive habits you can start doing at the office, discussed in terms of physical and mental health.
1. Maintaining proper posture
If you have a sedentary job, less-than-ideal sitting positions and prolonged hours in your chair can cause long-term health problems. Bad sitting positions can be caused by sitting too high, too low, or having the screen at an unideal distance away from you. As such, purchasing a comfortable, ergonomic chair, getting the right equipment, and positioning yourself at a good distance away from your computer are the first steps to maintaining a healthy posture. Acer, for instance, has produced some robust guidelines on how to maintain proper posture in front of the computer.
2. Prioritizing eye care
Many jobs today necessitate that workers spend a significant amount of time in front of screens. In a world where many meetings and tasks are handled online, it's not uncommon to spend entire days in front of a computer. Extended screen time can cause not only eye strain and discomfort but also occasional severe migraines, and in extreme cases, may even lead to temporary short-sightedness.
For this reason, it is crucial to go through regulations on Display Screen Equipment (DSE) – an informative guideline on how best to position your screen and other electronic devices used at work. This healthy practice also acts as a reminder for you to pay heed to things such as your screen’s brightness levels, text size, contrast, and color temperature.
Additionally, taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes– even for a short duration of 20 seconds–can help prevent eye strain. During this break, it's ideal to look away from the screen and focus on an object at least 20 feet away. The benefits of doing so extend beyond eye health – by taking reasonably paced screen breaks, you can increase blood flow and clear your mind, reducing the chances of aches and mental burnout.
3. Limiting caffeine intake
Globally, many rely on a morning coffee to jumpstart their day. Coffee itself isn’t inherently unhealthy, provided it's not loaded with milk or sugar, and moderate caffeine consumption can even offer some health benefits. However, workplace stress could tempt individuals to consume excessive amounts of coffee, a condition otherwise known as ‘caffeinism,’ which can lead to caffeine-induced anxiety or sleep disorders. As tempting as it is, it’s prudent to limit visits to the coffee machine— a reminder that’s particularly important if the coffee at your workplace is free!
4. Staying hydrated
Given the predominant focus on caffeine in office culture, the importance of hydrating with water can often be overlooked. Not only is drinking water a simple and healthy choice, but it can also boost your blood circulation greatly on a day with intense schedules. Water can cool you down when emotionally stressed, and also lubricate your potentially achy joints after an entire day of work.
5. Practicing mindful eating
Closely related to caffeine overdose, there is also the concern of excessive snacking at work. For some people, eating snacks (particularly sweet ones) is a coping mechanism for stress, but a long-term habit of doing so could lead to an unnecessary build of sugar in the body, leading to diseases such as cancer. Conversely, opting for the right snacks at work, particularly those rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, and essential nutrients, can significantly enhance productivity by providing sustained energy, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and improving cognitive function. By prioritizing nutrient-dense snacks, such as nuts, fruits, and yogurt, and maintaining proper hydration, employees can counteract energy slumps, bolster focus and concentration, alleviate stress, and foster overall well-being.
6. Incorporating office exercises and walks
Long hours of focusing on the same thing can easily generate stress, particularly if you’re constantly on the computer. Time permitting, there are multiple benefits of taking a walk during work – not only does it boost your physical and mental health, but research also suggests that taking a walk can stimulate the brain to be more creative and productive. A true win-win situation indeed! A similar activity would be office exercises – there are several simple exercises you can do at your desk, such as squats or desk push-ups.
7. Power napping
If allowed at your workplace, consider taking some power naps of 10 to 30 minutes. Power naps cannot only temporarily rejuvenate you (in case you haven't had enough sleep from the evening before) but also lead to better work performance after your nap.Studies suggest that a short nap can improve mood, alertness, and cognitive performance, particularly in areas such as reaction time and memory. It can also alleviate stress and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease.
To optimize the benefits of power naps, find a quiet and comfortable place to avoid disturbances, block out light and noise, and set an alarm to prevent oversleeping, which can lead to grogginess. Avoid late-day naps to maintain regular sleep patterns at night. While the duration and environment for optimal power naps can vary individually, they are not a substitute for getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night, which is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and optimal health.
When time is tight, even simple stretches can level up your energy. The importance of stretching is that it prevents your muscles from shortening and tightening, which, in the long run, can help prevent strains, joint pain, and even muscle damage. Additionally, regular stretching can improve flexibility, increase blood flow to the muscles, enhance range of motion, and reduce stress and tension, contributing to overall well-being and improved physical performance. It’s advisable to incorporate a variety of stretches targeting different muscle groups and to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to gain maximum benefits.
9. Meditating and practicing breathing exercises
Work life can be hugely stressful, so it can be beneficial to try meditation exercises during break time. Meditation doesn’t necessarily entail sitting cross-legged with eyes completely shut–you can meditate at any moment when you’re not actively doing something intense, such as when taking a walk during lunch or enjoying your coffee break. Meditation works by shifting the brain’s focus from stress-producing thoughts to a more relaxed state, promoting a sense of peace and calm. The 4-7-8-4 breathing technique is also said to ease anxiety when things get intense–try breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7, exhaling for 8 seconds, and redoing it four times. Regular practice can make it easier to return to a state of balance and calm in the midst of workplace challenges.
10. Building social connections and a supportive workspace
Lastly, since most people spend a considerable number of years working throughout their lifetime, it is important to create a working culture where socializing is the norm. While it is enjoyable to organize and attend dinners or parties, a supportive workplace doesn’t have to be based on grandiose events. Sometimes, a daily check-in with your colleagues–a kind gesture to inquire about each other’s well-being–could help construct an encouraging and mentally healthy workplace.
Work takes up around one-third of our lives, and the habits we create in this space will determine how healthy we are in the long run. A healthy work routine is essential not only for your own good but is also heavily linked to your physical and emotional well-being. Health at work, therefore, should be a collaborative effort between both the employer and employees.
Esme Lee is a science writer and editor in the UK, carrying a passion for tech copywriting. She has a background in educational neuroscience and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.