Workplace health and safety are topics that don’t see as much focus as they should. Proper ergonomics for employees will help reduce the incidence of workplace injury, but there are several other things that need to be done to really ramp up the healthiness of an office environment. While some of these changes can be done by individual employees, employers can do much more to enhance the health quality of the workplace. Below, you will find four important tips to increasing workplace and worker health.
Consider Standup Desks
When you think of a desk, chances are good that you picture the standard model – a flat surface a couple of feet off the floor with space for a chair and room underneath for the worker’s legs. While sit-down desks are still the norm, many companies are beginning to implement standup desks. These are designed to allow the employee to stand up and complete their duties, rather than sitting down. A mounting body of evidence suggests that long periods of sitting actually contribute to significant health problems.
Most workplaces use the most cost-effective type of lighting (usually fluorescents). However, that’s not necessarily the best option for creating a healthy workplace. Natural light is better for the eyes, improves vision and can also enhance mood and productivity. Letting in plenty of natural light is as simple as opening the blinds on your office’s windows. If your office lacks enough windows to make this feasible, look into lights that mimic natural sunlight’s wavelength and color.
Add a Fitness Area
Encouraging workers to take a break from the job and get their hearts pumping is actually a good thing for both your workers’ health and your company’s bottom line. It doesn’t have to be all that expensive, either. Find an unused office or area in your workplace and add a couple of treadmills and an elliptical machine or two. Encourage your employees to take periodic breaks and exercise. This gets them out of their sitting position, enhances blood flow and also improves overall health.
Encourage Healthier Eating
Lunch in an office environment is usually an unhealthy affair. Your employees might be wolfing down a massive burger and fries, or they might be eating quickly so they can get back to their responsibilities. They might be skipping lunch altogether. Encourage healthier eating in your employees. You can do this in a number of ways, including introducing meal plan suggestions, or hiring a healthy food vendor to come to the office. Of course, it helps if you (the manager or owner) are able to lead by example. Encourage your employees to take their entire lunchtime, too.
Creating a healthy workplace doesn’t have to require a revolutionary change. Small steps in the right direction can result in big improvements. Start small and think smart. Encourage your employees to get out of the rut and do things differently. Of course, you need to think differently as well.
It is the most dreaded time of the year again, flu season. With the one in a million tragic flu death stories running rampant on every news station, social media feed, and online publication out there, people understandably are growing concerned about catching this illness. And the easiest way to catch it? From others that have it. With the majority of us spending most of our time at our jobs with our coworkers, the chances of catching the flu from a coworker that is sick is highly possible. While the easiest solution may seem to be to pass a bottle of hand sanitizer around the office, there are other steps you and others can take to avoid getting sick while at the office.
Keep Your Workspace Clean
This is often easier said than done, however it is important to make a conscious effort to keep your workspace clean and tidy. The keyboard and your mouse come in contact with numerous individuals throughout the work week and it is easy to forget that these people could have easily forgotten to wash their hands after they sneezed or even worse used the restroom. Use a Lysol wipe to sanitize your keyboard, mouse, desk phone, and desk space at least once a week to avoid unwanted germs. Even if you do not share any of your office accessories with your coworkers it is still possibly to reinfect yourself with prior illnesses and germs you may have unknowingly been on your hands while working. Instead of using the old excuse that you are, “too busy”, make some time on a Friday to clean when you are anxiously staring at the clock avoiding your work to fill it up with cleaning. Time will go by faster, promise.
Exercise Common Courtesy
This may seem like common sense but most people seem to forget that when they are sick others can get sick as well. If you find yourself sneezing or coughing at work, remember to cover your mouth to avoid spreading germs. The best way to cover your mouth would be to find a tissue nearby, but if you are out of those or have a sneak attack cough, use your arm or instead of your hand. It is easy to forget after that you need to wash your hands and may find yourself continuing on with your work.
Stay at Home
Everyone knows the uncomfortable feeling of working in the same room as someone who is coughing a lung up or sneezing like they are having an allergic reaction. Your first response is to tell them to go home, but being the polite individual that you probably are, you usually have to suck it up and continue on with your work day or have to pop an Airborne in your water. If you feel like you might get people sick while you are working it is probably best to stay home. Most companies offer full-time employees sick and vacation days for a reason, so be certain to utilize that time off to rest and get yourself better. As the doctor always says, it is better to get rest and relax rather than trying to work through the normal work day’s stress and long hours. If you don’t have sick time, ask your boss if you can take a few hours off or have a half day at work. He/she will most likely understand as everyone has been in your position before.
Don’t Touch Your Face
This tip is perhaps the easiest to forget but is also the easiest and fastest way to get sick. Touching your face is one of those unconscious movements that you do not even realize you are doing because it has become such a habit which is why it is essential to try to make a conscious effort to avoid it. It may be tempting to want to rest your face on your hand as the day drags on but when germs get in contact with your mouth, eyes, or nose, you may as well get prepared to call in sick the next day.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
Your hands are the main carriers of germs and viruses, which is why they are the most important to keep clean. Form a habit (it only takes 21 days!) of washing your hands every time you eat food, after you use the restroom, after touching other people’s possessions, handling garbage, and blowing your nose. If you want to be extra cautious, prior to washing your hands get your paper towel pulled down and ready to use. Then proceed to wash hands for at least 20 seconds making sure to rub your hands together well. After, use your paper towel to not only wipe your hands but to turn off the faucet as well.
Exercise, Get Sleep, and Eat Healthy
You hear it from your doctor every time you visit them that eating healthy, getting a full eight hours of sleep every night, and exercising are the main deterrents of illnesses. It is advisable to get at least one hours of exercise in a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even if that means going on a short walk during your lunch break or spending an hour at the gym after work. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found in a study of 1,000 adults up to the age of 85 that people who are physically fit have fewer colds and, when they do get sick, have milder symptoms. Drinking eight glasses of water and eating a balanced meal are also advised. Pretending to be allergic to vegetables and fruit no longer applies once you are over the age of 5 so keep that in mind when selecting your meals for the day.
Follow these tips above and you may find yourself getting sick less often, or at the very least being more immune to your sick coworkers.
Sitting down most of the day has become a staple across the world, with most of us spending up to ten to twelve hours a day in a seated position. There is our morning commute to work, a full day of sitting at work, our afternoon commute after work, and then more often than not, sitting down at home to relax after a long day. With the long periods of time spent sitting in an idle position, it eventually begins to take a toll on our bodies and leads to problems that are detrimental to our health. Even if you have taken the initiative to find an ergonomic office chair that is perfectly fitted to your body, it is near impossible to sit all day with perfect posture which inevitably leads to back, neck, and shoulder pain. So what exactly makes sitting for extended periods of time unhealthy? After all, sitting tends to be more comfortable than standing all day but just like anything else in life, too much of a good thing can actually become harmful.
As aforementioned, sitting in an ergonomically correct chair is essential and will help aid in keeping you comfortable throughout your work day, however sitting with bad posture at some point during the day is bound to happen. For most of us, the majority of our time is spent sitting behind a computer because of our job demands. As time progresses throughout the day, we slowly start to lose our good posture and let our bodies get lazy, letting gravity take over control. Our shoulders begin to roll forward towards the screen, our eyes become fatigued from staring at the computer, and in order to see better we move our head closer to the screen to re-focus. We may also find ourselves beginning to slouch as the day continues and consistently fidgeting to find a comfortable seated position. All of this leads to the shortening and tightening of some major muscles and the stretching and weakening others, which is why so many people begin to experience back pain while they work.
The human body requires a balanced diet and a balanced level of activity in order to function properly and fight off diseases. Unfortunately most jobs prevent us from getting the level of activity necessary to maintain a healthy life style, and if you couple this with sitting in a poor chair for hours on end staring at a computer screen only makes matters worse. You may find yourself not paying attention to being locked in the same position for long periods of time while focusing on completing an important task or project, making you also unaware of the tension that is being built up in your body. Eventually, your body will come to the rescue and give you a dose of pain to remind you that is necessary to get up and take a break. While work is always a top priority, your body and its needs should always be put first and if you begin to feel pain and fatigue it is important to take necessary stretch breaks in order to regain focus and ultimately, become more productive.
Sitting all day also reduces your calorie expenditure and is one of the leading causes of obesity today. When you move less throughout the day and do not reduce the amount of calories you consume, you naturally gain body fat. By lessening your physical activity, you are also slowing down your metabolism which is another assured way to gain weight.
Our bodies were never designed to remain static in one fixed position for long periods of time. From the beginning of man-kind, we were taught to be hunters and gatherers, always on the move to provide our families with food. Even as the decades have passed, humans have continued to move as they went about different tasks needing to be done in their lives until recently when automation has begun taking over. After sitting all day at work and then continuing to relax by sitting down all evening we are consequently putting strain on our muscles, causing them to tighten and lead to aches and pains.
And so the question is presented, how does one improve their health while working?
Get a new ergonomic office chair if yours is not ergonomically correct. Of course getting a new chair is only part of the solution, but a chair that is properly adjusted to your body and provides you with good support, you will slowly start to experience less work related pain that can be felt from sitting in a bad chair.
- Park farther away. Make a plan to arrive to work a few minutes earlier than you usually do and park in the farthest parking space or even a few minutes away from your building, forcing you to have to walk farther than normal.
- Take breaks once an hour if your job requires you to sit for long periods of time. Set a timer on your computer to remind yourself to take your much needed breaks to get up, stretch, or even just walk around. It is easy to forget to do this when you become preoccupied with what you are working on, which is why setting a timer can be helpful.
- Find ways throughout the day to get up and move. Is your printer located next to your desk? Try switching the location of your printer to a different floor to force yourself to get up out of your chair and walk around.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If your suite or office is located at the top of your building, get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way there. Stairs are a quick way to burn calories and tone your muscles.
- If it is an option at your workplace, choose to go with a sit stand desk rather than a desk where you will be forced to sit all day. With the ability to transfer from a seated to a standing position with little effort, you will find yourself experiencing less pain and increasing your productivity while remaining more active.
- Take a run on your lunch break. Most of us try to find things to fill up our time during our hour break anyways. Consider packing a lunch instead of eating out and bring some running clothes with you to take a quick jog.