How to Stay Healthy at the Workplace
Being sick makes you miserable, takes a toll on work and productivity and may require doctor visits as well. Building your immunity and staying healthy so that you can work optimally is essential for your mental, physical and financial health. Workplace health is gaining importance as more people spend more waking and productive hours at the office or workplace. Traffic, commuting and other work-related activities take up even more time. On top of that, you may be bringing work home or catching up with work while in your car or traveling.
How much time do you actually spend at the workplace? While most people don’t actually stop and think about it, if you do, you will realize that you spend a minimum of a third of your day at the workplace. Considering that around a third of 24 hours (ideally) goes to sleep that does not leave much time.
Is the Workplace Conducive to Health?
If you have a good office environment that offers you what you need to work optimally you may not be stressed out. However, all office spaces and workplaces are not created equal. Among the workplace stresses many people experience are
- Unrealistic expectations from those above you (supervisors, bosses)
- High workload
- Tight deadlines
- Strict time commitments, including appointments, conferences, and others
- Targets to be met
- Unhealthy food available at the office
- Too much coffee
- Not enough movement
- A great deal of computer time
- Sitting for long in one position
Stress, physical, mental, emotional and financial, results in many health problems and is the leading cause of death. Stress from work comes in the fifth place of various causes of death in the US. Thanks to smartphones, laptops and internet connectivity, even people on a day off or on vacation are always switched on.
In a Stress Causing Environment, How do You Stay Healthy?
It is important for many reasons that you look after your health even if you are in a stressful job. When you are in good health, you can be more productive in the workplace and work more efficiently without any repercussions.
While it is easy enough to say that you should avoid taking your work home, adopt relaxation habits, eat right, exercise and try and adopt a work-life balance, this may not be as simple as it sounds. For one thing, you have to find the time to achieve your health goals. For the other, you may have to change long-standing bad habits.
What are the steps that can lead to greater health when working?
The Immeasurable Importance of Diet to Stay Healthy at the Workplace
While many offices are now adopting healthy foods on their menus, it may still be difficult to stay away from temptation. Junk food is often the mainstay in offices and workplaces and the low nutrient value and high calories in foods like doughnuts, pastries, white flour goods, high sugar foods are well documented.
When you are in a hurry, you may be tempted to miss breakfast or even regularly do so. This is a bad idea – if nothing else, have a healthy smoothie in the morning. For the same reason, avoid fast food and junk food at lunch – that burger, pizza or hot dog may be tempting and satisfying, but is high in sodium, has lots of empty calories and is not the healthiest meal option.
If you brown bag your lunch from home and choose healthier meal options, you can reduce your intake of empty high-calorie foods. Whole foods have many health benefits – eschew white bread, pies, cakes in favor of foods made with whole grains. Incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet. Add low-fat white meats and fish to your diet at the workplace.
A colorful salad is easy to pack and you can make it more satisfying by adding some super food like quinoa, sprouts or having it with whole grain bread. A low-calorie soup and a piece of whole fruit are better than snacking on junk food like pizzas and burgers. Keep that steak for special occasions.
Health in the Workplace
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace that is necessary for expected productivity. Apart from that, employers are increasingly being conscious of healthcare costs and losses in the workplace due to poor employee health. The employer should provide healthier diet options (where food is available in the workplace) and many are now doing so.
Exercise and fitness are so important that even employers have recognized this. In many large office buildings, there may be a gym. Some employers offer a subsidy or even pay for a gym membership as it is likely to decrease their health insurance premiums and reduce workplace loss due to sick days were taken by employees.
Many corporations also have wellness programs where you may be able to take advantage of regular health screening, a health and diet coach and more. They recognize the fact that employee health is vital and provides a good return on investment, apart from being a morale booster.
The Role of Exercise in Becoming Healthy and Maintaining Good Health
When you are busy working and perhaps commuting for long periods of time and even taking work home, you may well give exercise a miss, thinking you are don’t have time, you are too tired and other excuses. The fact of the matter is that you need to find the time to exercise even if it is as simple as getting up half an hour earlier in the morning and going for a run or a brisk walk.
If getting up in the morning is a problem, then you can do the same in the evening or night. And when you think you don’t have time at all, you can always refuse to take the elevator, but take stairs instead of going up and down – obviously, you can start with a few stories and go up as much you comfortably can.
Reducing Stress Levels at the Workplace
The third factor impacting health is stress in many forms. According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Stress is responsible for a number of minor and major ailments and you can reduce any stress in your life that may be persistent by adopting certain healthy habits.
You can do
- Some daily meditation or relaxation exercises
- Exercise is a stress buster
- Yoga, Tai-chi, Pilates that are slower forms of exercise help focus the mind and tone the body
- Practice mindfulness
- Get enough sleep and rest
- Eat at regular intervals
- Adopt a hobby
- Meet friends or other people regularly – loneliness is a big contributor to stress and depression
- Indulge in group activities
When you can manage your stress levels, you can avoid many physical and psychological problems. If you need professional help in treating stress or any stress-related problems, don’t hesitate to get it.
Staying Healthy in the Workplace
Considering that you spend possibly more than a third of your time in the workplace, it is essential that you spend time meaningfully to stay healthy while attending to your work and manage your diet, exercise and stress-busting even at work.
Here are some things you can do:
- Eat smaller and lighter meals and avoid alcohol when going out for lunch during working hours. This will also prevent any sugar slump that can make you lethargic and unable to focus and concentrate.
- Have protein foods to boost your health and fruits and vegetables that are rich in anti-oxidants. Complex carbohydrates in small quantities should also form part of a healthy diet. Avoid eating your meal at the desk and while working.
- Keep some granola or health bars in your desk that you can have if hunger strikes instead or reaching for high-fat high sugar doughnuts or cookies. Or you can keep whole fruits like apple, banana, orange or others that are easy to eat.
- Drink sufficient water – hydration is very important for the body and helps remove toxins from the body and also keep you fuller. Plain water should be your drink of choice instead of sugar-laden sodas, fruit juices or endless cups of coffee.
- If you feel overwhelmed at work due to an issue, take a few minutes off to de-stress and calm down. This will reduce any anger or resentment that you may have as well.
- In case you can manage it, go for a walk at lunchtime. Getting out in the fresh air will help clear your head and improve your physical health. It will also give your eyes some time to rest from the computer screen or doing work in a closed environment.
- Exercise at your desk – there are many exercises you can do while sitting at your desk, including stretching and hand and leg and neck exercises that will give you more flexibility and prevent neck, back and leg cramps.
- Poor posture and slouching at the desk or on your computer can cause muscle cramps, tiredness and health problems. Constantly keyboarding in an odd position can even lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Walk around your office when you feel claustrophobic or when things get you down. Take a water cooler or toilet break or meet co-workers – a few minutes will help rev you up.
- Give your eyes a break by setting an alarm if need be. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer (20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. This will also keep you from squinting and frowning when using a screen.
- Consciously blink more often. If you want to prevent dry eyes, use some lubricating eye drops. In case you have any vision problems and wear prescription glasses or contacts, do go for regular eye checkups and change your contact lenses and glasses as required.
- Make sure that your smartphones, desk phone instruments, keyboards and other surfaces that you constantly use are kept clean as these are a source of many germs that can make you sick. For the same reason, wash your hands frequently or at least use a hand sanitizer that you can keep at your desk.
- If music calms you down, you may be able to listen to music on your smartphone or computer – use earphones so that co-workers do not get affected. Background music at a low volume can actually make you more productive. Don’t blast the music at a high volume as it can affect your hearing and even cause stress when working.
- Wear comfortable clothes that are in tune with the kind of work and your office environment and the season.
- Ensure that your footwear supports your feet well and avoid uncomfortable high heels, keeping them for special occasions. If possible, take your feet out of the shoes occasionally and flex them to avoid heel and foot pain.
Health at the workplace includes physical, mental, psychological and emotional health – all of which have an impact on overall health and longevity. Anxiety, bad eating habits, poor physical routines can adversely affect you on many levels.
Start Adopting Healthy Workplace Habits Now
No matter what your fitness levels are, even a small change helps. When you make the appropriate positive changes, you will achieve your health goals, reduce your risk of developing many lifestyle diseases, increase productivity and improve the quality of your life.
While it may not be possible to make sweeping changes quickly, you can start small, taking steps towards achieving better health at the workplace. In the beginning it may take a great deal of effort to change your lifestyle and your habits, but when you do it slowly, but with determination, you can definitely achieve your goals.
Mindfulness in all aspects will help you a great deal. Diet, exercise, nutrition, stress can all be managed so that you can stay healthy in the workplace.