Healthy Work Environment: How to Create Your Own
Jul 01, 2019
Most of us spend the majority of our day at work, so it’s important to create or maintain a healthy work environment. The problem — we slouch, we ache, we groan, we work overtime and caffeine feels like our only true friend. A healthy workplace can help you manage your stress levels and lead to higher productivity.
Eat Healthy at Work
Trying to eat a balanced diet in your workplace can be very difficult, especially if your co-workers bring in delicious cookies or donuts. Just as important as your home eating habits, make sure you eat nutritious meals at work throughout the week.
Shopping in advance allows you to come up with a game plan for work meals. Planned snacks and lunches will help keep you from the temptation to down something quick or junk food. Need recipe ideas? Take a look at our healthy recipe library.
Don’t forget your water intake amount for good overall health.
Sit Up Straight
At some point in your life, an older adult yelled at you to “sit up straight!” As we get older, we need to understand the importance of good posture. Without good posture you will feel the pain, literally. You will start to notice soreness and pain in your back or neck if your crouch over most of the day. Have you already corrected your posture while reading this?
Good posture reduces aches and pains in the upper body, allows your diaphragm and lungs to fully expand and aids in digestion. Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido notes, “a good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
If you work in an office or work place where you’re sitting for long periods of time, remember to:
- Keep your back straight and your shoulders back
- Your butt should touch the back of the chair
- Distribute your weight evenly over your hips
- Never cross your legs, as it disrupts blood circulation, causing varicose veins
- Avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes
If your work environment requires you to stand, you should according to American Chiropractic Association:
- Bear your weight on the balls of your feet
- Keep your knees slightly bent
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart
- Stand straight, with your shoulders pulled back and tuck your stomach in
- For extensive standing, shift your weight back and forth from your toes to your heels, or from one foot to the other
Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel is a concern while working with a keyboard and mouse. This condition occurs when there is too much pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. You can experience numbness, tingling, weakness or muscle damage in the hands and wrists.
You can lower your chances of developing carpal tunnel by:
- Minimizing repetitive hand movement
- Alternating between activities or tasks to avoid strain
- Keeping your wrists straight; let your arms and shoulders share the stress
- Taking breaks at least every hour to rest or shake your hands
- Massaging your palms or the back of your hands
- Cutting down on caffeine and smoking, which can reduce blood flow to your hands
Take a Minute to Yourself
Taking a break from work can actually make you more productive. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) notes that a healthy pause from work can help us:
- Increase focus
- Reduce stress
- Maintain interest and energy levels
You’ll notice when your body experiences too much stress, mentally and physically. The National Institute of Mental Health shares long term stress can harm you. Your body’s response to stress can suppress your immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems.
Others serious health problems, that stress plays a part, are heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. Don’t stress over the headache you might have, that is most likely caused by stress. There are ways you can manage it and taking a minute for yourself at work can help.
At work, take a pause at least once an hour. Anne Lamott, an American novelist, points out “almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including yourself.” Take time to meditate, stretch at your desk or leave your desk and walk outside. The VA offers some tips to motivate your breaks:
- Set up an automatic daily reminder
- Decide on how often and how long
- Mix it up and change locations or activities during your breaks
- Relax and notice your surroundings
- Screen-Related Eye Problems
When breaking for your mind, don’t forget your eyes! Staring at a computer screen, tablet or cell phone can cause vision problems. The American Optometric Association shares the most common symptoms caused by too much screen time:
- Eyestrain and discomfort
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
To avoid eye strain, UVA ophthalmologist Tara McGehee, MD, recommends the most ergonomic position for your head, neck and eyes. When using a computer, sit arm’s length away position the monitor so that your eyes are at a slight downward gaze.
McGehee also recommends the 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. You can also ease eye issues by adjusting your computer screen location, changing lighting or adding an anti-glare screen.
Tidy Up Your Workspace
Having a clean workspace can help you feel mentally and physically healthy. The average workplace desk is 100 times less sanitary than your kitchen table. Bacteria and germs live everywhere, including on keyboards, door handles and public eating areas. A clean workplace and personal hygiene will help prevent the spread of illness. During flu season, it’s always convenient to have Lysol or hand sanitizer nearby.
Additionally, an organized office helps reduce distractions and wasted time. Maintaining an organized work space increase efficiency. Do you find a mess hard to manage? Treat it as an on-going project. Declutter, empty, shred and get rid of everything you no longer need or want. Focus on one area at a time to help you eventually get through everything.
Lastly, don’t neglect your computer’s desktop (if you use one). Organize your files and images in their proper folders for a more productive work day.
Article provided with permission by the University of Virginia Health System.