As acclaimed American novelist and screenwriter John Irving once said, “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” This is true especially when it comes to healthy habits we’ve established or recently picked up and applied to our everyday lives. I would argue that the habits of the utmost importance are everyday health habits we adopt. One could argue that healthy habits are instilled over the course of time or from an early age. Even further, it can be difficult to break bad habits that contribute to our health especially around diet and exercise, or lack thereof.
Most people spend their daily lives at work, with the majority sitting behind a desk 7-8 hours per day. We’ve seen many studies about sitting for long periods of time and its effect on our health or overeating junk food as snacks throughout the day. The truth is we are in control of our own lives, even at work. The stress and demands of a job keep you focused on your work but can aid in neglecting your health and physical well-being. This can lead to 40 hours of poor health habits each week…think about that.
What follows are 10 tips for creating healthier workplace habits.
1. Get On Up
Those who work in an office environment, sit behind a desk or stare at a computer screen can feel stress and neck pain at the least. The long-term effects of sitting all day have been touted in many recent studies. To combat the effects of sitting through your 8-hour shift, get up every 45 minutes for 15 minutes. Walk around, stretch or hit the bathroom. This will help get the circulation moving in your body and fight muscle stiffness or tension that sitting for long periods of time can cause. Set an alarm if necessary.
2. Snack Smart
Snacking throughout the day is not a bad habit, so long as it’s conducted in moderation and with healthy choices. Good-for-you snacks can be part of a healthy diet if snacking is done in a sensible way—hence not eating the entire bag of Hershey Kisses. The truth is what you snack on in between meals goes a long way, especially in keeping your metabolism burning. If you have a regular exercise routine, it can also help continue to tone your muscles throughout the day.
Try these five healthy options instead:
- Small dark chocolate square
- Banana with nut butter of choice (such as almond, pecan or walnut butter)
- Veggies of choice with hummus
- Hard-boiled egg
- Plain Greek yogurt with berries and a drizzle of honey
3. Take advantage of health benefits
Many employers offer health benefits such as a discount on a gym membership, access to an on-site gym, wellness coaching, counseling sessions and others. Some even reward employees for taking part in these. Ask your human resources representative for a list of your health benefits and take advantage of all you can.
4. Tidy up
A messy desk can really contribute to feelings of anxiety and also lead to inefficiency. Keeping your desk clean will help you stay productive and on task. It’s also important to thoroughly clean your desk once per week. Use a simple disinfectant wipe and clean all surface areas. You’d be surprised to know that studies have shown work desks carry 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Organize the items on your workspace so your body and eye sight isn’t strained.
5. Go Green
Get an office plant for your desk to increase your productivity. A 2014 study from Exeter University found that employees were 15% more productive when their workplace had a few houseplants present. Why? Employees who interact with their surroundings are more productive and overall happy employees.
6. Drink water all day
Keeping a reusable bottle (there are so many nice brands out there) on your desk will remind you to keep refilling it and before you know you’ll be mindlessly drinking the water you need for the day. Stay away from other sugary beverages throughout the day like soda and gourmet coffee drinks from you know where. Focusing on water can really improve hydration.
7. Don’t skip lunch
Skipping lunch may seem like a good idea. Hey, I’m not eating so I can’t be gaining right? Wrong. When you skip a meal, especially early in the day, your metabolism slows way down and your body enters in fat storing mode to preserve or produce energy. Try bringing your lunch to work like a big salad full of protein and vegetables that will keep you full throughout the afternoon and stave off cravings. Even if you’re really busy at work, don’t neglect eating healthy. It will only lead to unhealthy binging later on that night.
8. Workout during lunch
Instead of online shopping or reading, try going for a walk or better yet the gym for a quick cardio session. For starters, you’ll get your workout in for the day without waking up 2 hours earlier and your mind and body will be awakened for the usual afternoon slump we sometimes suffer through during that 2-5 p.m. period. Even a simple jog or walk for a few blocks will boost your metabolism just before lunch and reboot your brain. If your employer will let you, purchase an under-desk stepper to boost your heart rate anytime during the day.
9. Sit Up
Poor posture can lead to a number of health issues, not to mention joint pain, muscle stiffness and others. Ask your employer if a standing desk is available. If not, focusing solely on your posture, especially for those 8 hours, can do wonders. First, adjust your chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and arms and legs remain at a 90 degree angle. The top edge of your computer screen should be even with your eyes and tilted up ever so slightly so you’re not looking straight but at an angle throughout the day.
10. Meditate On This
Yes, that’s right, it’s possible to have a mini-spa session during the day at your desk. Brew a cup of tea which can help you have 2-5 minutes of meditation and relaxation. Close your eyes for 3-5 minutes or a minute at a time to boost brain activity. Let your shoulders down and focus on relaxing even as you continue your tasks. Try focusing on one important task and put all your energy into that. Thinking deeply around an important project is often overlooked as many people need to perform 50 or more tasks per day. But this can really boost your creativity and give a sense of ownership over your work, which is always a good thing, and after all, what work is all about right?