Does your work make you sick? Sometimes, it probably does. Think about the typical routine of an office worker: dry eyed and hunched over a crumb-infested laptop in an air conditioned, sometimes windowless environment for more than 8 hours a day. This zen like state is briefly interrupted to consume copious cups of caffeinated poison and a processed, soggy, ham sandwich. So, it is no wonder that we suffer from all sorts of ailments from back and neck pain and headaches to irritable bowel. Now, to be clear, I am about as medically qualified as Dr Oetker. However, I have spent many years managing office environments and working with employees, suggesting changes to their habits which could have a positive impact on their working day. If you’re relatively quiet in the office at the moment, spend a bit of time introducing some new habits to your working day. They will help, and if they don’t, well, they won’t hurt.
1.Adjust your screen
Many people, especially hotdeskers work off their laptop and assume a natural position of hunching over the keypad and screen. This results in tension in neck and shoulders and, in my experience, chronic headaches. By raising your laptop screen, you will sit straighter and lower your shoulders. (have you just straightened yourself while reading this?!) There are lots of tools available to help this, (laptop brackets and stands etc.) but a few thick books under the laptop and a wireless keyboard works just as well. Notice your wrists and fingers too. Pain in the hands and wrists is often Carpal Tunnel syndrome caused by the positioning of the keyboard. Wrist rest and wrist supports can alleviate this. There’s lots more information on this here.
2.Clean your desk.
If you are not a hotdesker, chances are your desk is covered with all sorts of crud accumulated from your years sitting there, as well as the piles of work on your to do list. Clutter is distracting and stressful, harbours germs and stops you performing at your best. Clearing your desk will clear your mind and help you focus on what you are there to do. It can seem insurmountable at times, so start small. And don’t forget to give your keyboard and mouse a good scrub, unless you are happy in the knowledge that your keyboard is 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Nice.
We all spend too much time sitting down at our desks. Using Instant Messaging instead of walking over to a colleague, eating al desko instead of the canteen or leaving the office altogether. Apart from the musculoskeletal challenges that all day sitting can bring, sedentary activity can lead to heart disease, cancer, poor mental health and type 2 diabetes. Taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to another desk, leaving the building (gasp!) and going for a walk at lunch, and even standing while on the phone are just some ideas that can get people moving. And… by standing for an extra 30 minutes every day for a year, it is estimated that one can lose 5.2lbs.
4. Eat (and drink) better
Headaches are a common complaint of an office worker. Often caused by the desk scenarios as described above, but frequently caused by dehydration. Our bodies need fluids, and coffee isn’t necessarily one of them. By increasing your water intake during the day, you are increasing energy levels, flushing out toxins, boosting immunity and giving yourself an excuse to get up and walk to the toilet (see point 3 above).
Food plays a major factor in how we feel too. Not just what we eat, but how and when we eat it. I’ve worked in organisations where everyone ate at their desk, mindlessly inhaling their food, while still working. By 3pm I’d be slumped and generally need tea and chocolate to make it to 5pm. Other organisations had canteens where everyone ate together, like a family. We all ate slower, and more elegantly, talked about things other than the day job, and went back to our desks feeling like we had had a proper break. There’s no question that the latter option is better for the body and the mind.
A few tips to help improve how you feel during your working day. We spend over 40 hours a week at our desks so it is important that we do what we can to enhance the experience as much as possible. Any suggestions or ideas you would like to add to this, please feel free!