Create a Workplace that supports Wellness.

by in Uncategorized May 18, 2022

We spend half of our waking hours at our jobs, sometimes even more. While some occupations are healthier than others, research shows that occupational stress, sedentary behaviour, and unhealthy habits we form during our working hours can take their toll both physically and mentally. While we all have bills to pay and obligations to fulfil, we may as well make our workspace as supportive of wellness as possible. Whether you work from a home office or sit in a corporate cubicle, there are things you can do to make your workplace better for your health and wellbeing. Here’s how to give your office space a health makeover.

Start by turning your desk into a mini oasis.

Get yourself a plant. Think about getting one or two small plants that you can keep on, or by your desk on the floor. Certain varieties of plants are particularly suited to an indoor environment, and are known to clean and filter the air, making for a healthier space. If you’re a novice, spider plants are famously low maintenance for forgetful owners, as are peace lilies, snake plants and the humble aloe vera. Since many indoor spaces are host to a number of toxic chemicals and pollutants such as ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde found in industrial paints and furniture, purifying the ambient air is paramount. In addition to providing clean air, indoor plants are proven to improve focus, boost your mood, and lower your stress. They’re really a small addition that give back so much!

Take cues from South Korea

If you’ve ever been to an office in Seoul, you’ll notice almost everyone has a mini humidifier on their desk. Koreans are known to be sensitive to ambiance, atmosphere and in particular health and hygiene. With air-conditioned environments being notoriously dry, sucking moisture from not only your skin but also your nasal passages and delicate cell membranes, they’re certainly on to a good thing! In fact, companies in the west are increasingly adding humidifiers to their office spaces in a bid to reduce absenteeism and turnover resulting from poor health. Humidifiers are purpose built to abate dryness in air-conditioned spaces by adding humidity back into the air. A humidifier can help fight irritated eyes, dry skin, an itchy throat, coughs, allergies, cracked lips and sinus headaches. Humidifiers also boost your immune defenses by preventing the nasal membranes from drying out. That means offering protection from bacteria and viruses.

BYO Lunch

If you’re office bound, this is going to be a major factor in improving your health. Regaining control of your diet is one of the most powerful ways to boost your vitality, energy and longevity. Skirt the temptation to order in fast food even if your colleagues are chowing down on pizza, burgers, and curries. We live in such a convenient world, where we can satisfy almost any craving at the click of a button, but making the effort to prepare your own lunch will have far-reaching benefits for your waistline, wallet and mental performance. Invest in a thermos to bring soups or lentils, and a thermal bag to store salads, quinoa and veggies or a healthy wrap. You’ll have colleagues fawning over your home-made food faster than you can say Mr. Delivery. Bonus tip, pack a few organic tea bags of your favourite tisane and enjoy in the afternoon when your energy dips.

Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

Unless your office is super high up, pretend the elevators don’t exist so they aren’t even an option. If you sit on the third floor or lower, head for the stairs. If you’re higher up, do the first few flights in the lift and exit early to finish the last few flights via the stairs. Sneak more movement into your day by making it a habit to take the long route every time you go to the bathroom. If you work from home, take regular breaks to get your heart pumping a little. Break out a series of squats, throw in some push ups and breathe deeply through some gentle stretches. Frequent short breaks are better for your back than fewer long ones. It gives the muscles a chance to relax while others take the strain, and the benefits are accumulative.

While we’re on the topic of moving, see if you can get a standing desk at your work or home office. It’s a one-time investment that will bring numerous benefits to your health and fitness. Failing that, make it a rule to take any phone calls standing. Anytime you’re on the phone, stand up and pace around if it’s a mobile device, and if it’s a landline, just stand in place for the duration of the call. It might seem strange at first, but your body will thank you in the long (and short) run. Another health hack that you can practice without leaving your desk? Keep a medium to lightweight resistance band stashed in your drawer. You can alternate a range of movements without even getting up and using your precious lunch break for movement. For upper body, hold one end of the band in each hand with your arms stretched out in front of your chest. Start with the fists parallel close together and then gentle pull them apart towards the sides. Maintain a decent resistance and focus on slow, steady muscle activation. There are tonnes of resistance band exercises you can do at your desk, especially for the upper body that will remind you to keep a good posture. Which brings us to…

Improve your posture.

If you’re at work, look around you. How many of your colleagues are slouching in their chairs? Sliding off the seat? Hunching over the keyboard? Maybe you’re doing it right now. Most of us aren’t sitting in a correct posture. We know it’s bad for us, we even complain about our aches and pains, but we still do it. Set an intention to correct your posture. Adjust your chair so that your lower back is properly supported. If you need to, add a cushion to elevate yourself so that you can have the lower back flush with the back of the chair. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. Use a footrest if it feels necessary, or place your feet to rest on a shoe box if you’re in a pinch. Make sure they’re at a level that feels comfortable, for some that will be flat on the floor. Prevent repetitive strain injuries by adjusting your chair height so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor. Your elbows should be by the side of your body so your arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint. Place your screen at eye level so your neck doesn’t have to work too hard. If your screen is too low, you’ll feel it in the shoulders. Break the habit of crossing your legs since it can restrict blood flow to the lower legs and contribute to posture issues down the line.

Make it feel a bit more homely.

Decorating your desk can help you feel comfortable, which can reduce workplace stress and dissatisfaction. But to avoid a cluttered feeling, which can cause more stress, stick with just a few items. Choose three or four things that are important to you, like a photo of loved ones or a trip you loved, a favourite hand cream or anything else that makes you feel a bit more at home. Be selective as working in a crowded space can be mentally exhausting, even if you don’t realise it.

Smellies are great!

Scent is a powerful way to revamp, reenergise and refocus. The smell of citrus in particular is proven to improve thinking and memory. Keep a vial of lemon, peppermint or spearmint essential oils in your purse or drawer to pep you up whenever you feel stagnant. If space permits, you can also keep an aromatherapy dispenser on your desk to infuse the space with uplifting scents.

Whether you’re logging in the hours from the office, or the home office is your reality, creating an environment that’s conducive to health will have positive benefits also in productivity. These tips are easy to implement whichever the case. Try them out to start loving your work-time a little bit more.

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