There are 168 hours in a week. For today’s full-time professional, giving between 40-50 hours per week to our jobs (not counting late nights, early mornings and weekends for many), that’s between 25-30 percent of our overall time! For the majority, a high percentage of that time involves sitting… sitting… and more sitting. Sitting can be relaxing. It can also breed back aches, restlessness, mental and physical lethargy and – for 99.9 percent of us – copious amounts of snacking.
Freelance employees have the flexibility of setting their own schedule, remote professionals can step into the kitchen or out the front door over lunch, but for those confined to an office setting, the options can be limited. Remaining healthy when glued to an office chair is a challenge. But not an unconquerable one. Grab your mobile device, take a walk and check out the following seven ways to incorporate workplace wellness into your schedule!
Blink! Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is very real, people. CVS is described as a “group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use.” If you’re like pretty much anyone else in 2017, these electronic devices sum up the extent of our hobbies. The American Optometric Association says the best way to avoid straining your eyes – which in turn leads to neck aches, headaches, a sore back, cramps and exhaustion – is by following the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, stand up, stretch, blink; whatever you do, make sure to take a 20-second break to view something non-electronic at least 20 feet away. Your eyes will reap the rewards and your colleagues will stop asking why you look like an online poker player who hasn’t left the basement in 47 hours.
Pack a Water Bottle. Obvious, sure, but still important. Our body’s are 60 percent water. Next to oxygen, there’s nothing more important to the human body than water. So pack a water bottle. But here’s the secret trick: only fill it half way. Once every hour or so, stand up, trek to the office kitchen and re-fill your water bottle. Stock it full of ice, toss in a few slices of lemon or cucumber, and sip regularly! We’re much more likely to drink things we enjoy, which is why we often reach for soda, juices or the brilliant creation that is coffee. And that’s fine. But as you pack your more flavorful beverages, develop the habit of carrying a personal water bottle wherever you go. Habit becomes routine, routine becomes norm, and water being a norm provides nothing but positive benefits.
Invest in Mobile Meetings. Are mobile meetings a thing? If they’re not, they should be. And we’re not talking about mobile in the technology sense; but rather the “moving your feet” kind of mobile. Whether you’re in position to schedule and plan your team’s meetings or part of a team who attends planned meetings, take the initiative and suggest a meeting somewhere outside of the routine conference room. Your boss may be open to it, she/he may not be. But what do you have to lose by suggesting? The right workplace will be open to change, flexible and understanding of your needs. Hold a meeting over lunch at a cafe, take the stairs down to the office’s main lobby and gather there for a bit, or if you’re calling in to a meeting that requires only your phone, plug-in your headphones and attend virtually while walking around the office. Holding meetings somewhere new offers a nice change of pace, freshens the spirit and gets both your mind and body moving.
Wiggle. Historical Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life.” For some, music is a distraction. For others, it’s sharpens the mind. If you’re of the former, try listening to music during menial tasks like cleaning up your email or organizing your desktop. According to a study compiled by the New York Times, “melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma.” Our minds wander, we lose focus; we often hit the proverbial mental wall. Music can shake us out of that funk, improve our mood and, scientifically speaking, actually “break” us out of thinking just one narrow, isolated way. And as you listen, don’t forget to wiggle. Tap your fingers, bounce a knee, even spin around in your chair. Whatever your tastes – Irish dance, today’s top 40, orchestral hip-hop or nostalgic Disney tracks – heed Plato’s advice and give wings to your mind.
Instead of packing a lunch for work, make your lunch at work. Let’s be real, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs posts and articles on staying healthy at work. The majority, though, talk about staying healthy by packing a lunch before heading off to the office. Change that up. Most workplaces at the very least have a countertop, utensils, refrigerator and microwave. Try packing ingredients like an apple, lunch meat, tuna or tofu, and sandwich bread. Then fix your lunch at work. Arriving to work without lunch at the ready requires the act of preparation – it gets us moving, follows the 20-20-20 rule, gives us the chance to refill our water bottles, and can be done while wiggling to the music on our smartphones. You don’t have to be a chef to make lunch at work. TV dinners are still a thing, and there are plenty of healthy options on the market today.
Cancel lunch. Not quite! Do not skip your lunch break. There is endless research around the cons of skipping not just your mid-day meal but also the important reprieve from work-think. However, the pressure to perform is ever-present. If new to a job or in a role that revolves around deadlines, it can be even more omnipresent. That voice in the back of your head shouting “Get back to work!” Much in the same way nutrition gurus suggest eating small meals throughout the day, if you’re not a 60-minute lunch-er, divvy that up throughout the day. Take 5-10 minutes every hour for walk around the office, a trip down the stairs (and back up), reading a few pages from a good book or following No. 7 below. It’ll improve your productivity and make certain you don’t succumb CVS.
Smile, ya’ll. Some people can arrive at work, root themselves to an office chair and not move for 8-10 hours. Some don’t need breaks or coffee or music to remain physically and mentally motivated, engaged and healthy. But we work in environments that often limit our interaction with colleagues. It’s all too easy to plow through weeks of work without interacting with your peers. So smile. When you make lunch, smile. When you top off your water bottle or coffee cup, smile. Smile to your favorite tune. Smile in the kitchen. Smile on your way in and out of the office. Smile when someone does something nice for you. Smile when someone won’t smile in return. Smiles, greetings and laughter are infectious; the impact is priceless and unquantifiable. Offer up a smile – you never know how genuine engagement will impact those around you.
Extensive research, highlighted in the WilsonHCG 2017 Fortune 500 Top 100 Employment Brand Report, shows that today’s top-performing companies truly invest in the well-being their people. Specifically, organizations that take care of their employees, with integrity, work-life balance and an inclusive culture, perform better than companies strictly focused on profit. Check out the complimentary report at the link for a glimpse into these cultures, and to further explore what you need as an employee!
Richard supports WilsonHCG's marketing team as global communications specialist, focusing on content strategy, public relations and telling both client and WilsonHCG stories. Richard finds true joy and passion developing real, genuine relationships and connecting people across the talent landscape through inclusive and engaging content. He's an ardent coffee drinker, book-aholic and adores his English lab Maggie.