Working in an office setting can be very dangerous on your body, from sitting for extended periods of time, to being set up incorrectly in front of your desk- your monitor is too high, the keyboard is too low, legs not sitting at a 90-degree angle to your hips. All of this can promote physical strain on your body!
You need to prioritize your workspace and make it something your physical body can get into and not get harmed from. This will help you concentrate better and focus better. When your physical body is supported, so is your mental space.
The best thing you can do for yourself is set up your office for your health, as you spend (more than) 40 hours a week in this environment. You can be sure this is affecting you! And the goal is to have it positively affect you, rather than negatively.
It is never too late, so even if you have been working in an office job for 20-30 years, start now and get your workspace set up for health.
Here are 10 easy-to-implement strategies to dramatically increase your physical well-being in the office.
1. Get Control of Your Stress Response — If your nervous system feels like it’s approaching overload, your anxiety is rising, or you are getting completely overwhelmed with requests from others- STOP what you are doing, and step outside for a few deep breaths of fresh air. I promise you this will make a WORLD of difference in how you come back to the office. Give yourself 10 minutes. I know you want to say no to me because you have so much to do, but you have to say YES.
You will be so much more productive if you take a break! This will help soothe and calm your mind. If you can’t get outside, close your eyes and focus on your breath for 2-3 minutes. But I highly encourage you to remove yourself from your workspace, as this in and of itself will calm your nerves. Go to the bathroom if you have too!
Remind yourself: This too shall pass.
2. Bring Nature Into Your Space — Plants help mitigate the toxic effects of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) that you are exposed to through computers, fluorescent lights, smartphones, and other tools typically needed to do your job. Anything that is plugged into electricity actually releases EMF, but the computers, phones, and handheld electronics tend to be the strongest.
Plants help ground you and help purify the air. They work hard to clean the air of carbon dioxide and provide you with fresh oxygen! They will also brighten your mood. When you take care of another living thing, your emotional body gets supported in a very “silent” and nourishing way.
3. Clear Your Desk — A neat workspace can help you be more productive and clear any clutter in your head. Your desk may easily get messy throughout the day as a result of demanding priorities and multitasking. Take 5 minutes a few times throughout the day to pick up after yourself. You don’t have to do it incessantly as this can be stressful. But as you switch from one project to another, you can clear your mind and give yourself a much-needed break by just cleaning up.
Any physical activity you do in the day helps to give the mind a break!
Keep inspirational images on your desk or pinned to your bulletin board to help you stay motivated during crunch times.
4. Get Ergonomic — If your office setup doesn’t feel comfortable and you feel hunched over or otherwise in pain when you sit to do work, talk to your supervisor about getting more ergonomic furniture. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT!
Healthy alternatives include a standing desk which allows you to elevate your computer so that you can stand throughout the day. This will also allow you to sit when needed. Sitting at a desk job actually, shortens your life span. This is how important it is to get a standing desk!
Standing also burns more calories.
5. Move — If you primarily do computer work, you’ll find that it’s easy to become sedentary from hours spent in front of a screen. Here is my best recommendation: Set a timer in your office for every 50 minutes of work, you get up for minimally 5 minutes and ideally 10 minutes. THIS is NON-NEGOTIABLE.
Every time you take a break, you get your blood pumping, your lungs breathing deeper and you give your brain a much-needed break. You will be 100% more productive for the next 50 minutes of work time. Your brain is not meant to work 8 hours straight. You will start to feel clearer headed from the moment you start doing this as part of your work routine!
6. Socialize — Carve out time during for good ole water cooler talk!
One of the best benefits of working in an office setting is that you have an opportunity to build community each and every day.
Even when you are faced with a big deadline, make it a point of at least chatting with work friends for a few minutes daily. This helps release tension and gets your nervous system calmed down.
7. Eat Well — Don’t skip lunch and ideally don’t eat at your desk!
Plan ahead so that lunch doesn’t become an afterthought.
Bring leftovers as well as a host of healthy snacks so you aren’t tempted to go for takeout or hit the vending machine at 4 pm.
ALSO, make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. This will fuel you better than caffeine. If you need a pick me up at 3pm, reach for a cup of organic green tea or herbal tea such as peppermint or tulsi (holy basil). Your body and adrenal glands will thank you for skipping the coffee.
8. Set Boundaries — It’s OK to say no to meetings that feel redundant or aren’t a priority for you given your workload. I know this will be hard for some of you, esp some of you women. BUT I promise you, once you do it a few times, you will get used to setting boundaries.
It’s also OK to say no to overtime.
Train your co-workers to know that you arrive at a certain time and you get your work done during work hours and there won’t be as strong an expectation for you to log overtime hours.
By saying NO to others, you say YES to yourself.
9. Delegate — Trust those around you enough to hand off work to them.
Being a martyr is not good for your long-term mental health!
This also applies to those of you who like to micro manage and feel that you are the “only one” who can do things right. Give it up! Seriously. People do things differently and everyone’s contribution is important. Sure, if someone isn’t pulling their weight or you feel as though someone would benefit from a little constructive feedback then, by all means, offer some insight. But the whole “I have to do it because no one else does it as good” mentality is honestly a disservice to you and those around you.
Once you realize this and let go of it, you will be much happier!
10. Take Time Off — Finally, take your vacation time.
Even if you can’t take a week at a time to unplug, definitely give yourself the gift of a long weekend here and there to recharge. These rejuvenating periods of time can do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
You work hard and you deserve a break in life!