12 Ways to Make Your Office Better for Your Health

Enjoying a team lunch!

 

While people are quick to recognize the physical stress that goes into jobs like construction, they’re less quick to recognize how the stress from other types of jobs affect health.  Workers in office jobs continually deal with stress, sedentary behavior, and unhealthy habits, which can take quite a toll both physically and mentally.

The following are ways to keep yourself healthy in an office setting:

  1. Sit less – Sitting at a desk all day without getting up and moving around can lead to health risks. Studies even show that walking away from your desk for a few minutes can increase productivity and focus once you come back.  There are a multitude of programs and apps to help you remember to stand up and take breaks throughout the day so that you don’t get stuck at your desk.
  2. Clear the air – Office environments can trigger occupational allergies, such as sensitivity to chemicals in carpet, office furniture or paint, which can lead to headaches and rashes. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, stuffy air in your workplace could be hampering your brainpower.  If it’s nice outside, try opening your windows to get some fresh air; if that’s not an option try an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
  3. Try a standing desk – If you’re able to, try out having a standing desk that will help you sit less and move around more during the day. However, make sure you are able to sit down when needed so that you don’t get aches and pains from standing all day.
  4. Paint your walls green – Shades of green have been linked to creative thinking, and can help you think outside the box. If you are able to paint your walls, make sure to pick a hue that’s quiet and calming, like sage or sea-foam green.  If you can’t paint, try wallpapering your space with a green backdrop, or adding green elements to your desk.  Whatever you do, avoid red.  It’s been shown to negatively affect performance.
  5. Add a plant – Plants are a good way to add a relaxing and creative atmosphere to your workspace. Leafy plants can inspire a feeling of wellness, and some types may even improve the air quality in your office.
  6. Display a few personal items – Decorating your space can help you feel more comfortable in it; pick a few items such as a family photo, or an award you’re proud of. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and make yourself feel cluttered and even more stressed; the more stuff you add to your space, the more mentally exhausted you’ll be.
  7. Use aromatherapy – Smells can lift your spirits, and the smell of citrus can actually improve your thinking and memory. While it’s tempting to go buy candles or air fresheners, keep in mind that they may contain artificial scents and potentially irritating chemicals.  Essential oil diffusers can be a better way to have a subtle, natural aroma.  If you or someone in your workspace is allergic to scents, try sucking on citrus candies while you work instead.
  8. Stop eating at your desk – Make sure when you take your lunch break, that you’re actually taking a break somewhere that isn’t your desk. Try to go eat with other people, even if it’s just in a different room so that your brain can reset for being productive in the afternoon.  This has the added bonus of keeping your workspace clean, and helping you to not just mindlessly overeat while at your computer.
  9. Pay attention to your posture – While sitting down all day isn’t ideal for your body, slouching all day can be even worse. Correct posture can help with both your physical health and your workplace performance.  Sitting up straight can help give you a sense of productivity and accomplishment, whereas slouching can make you feel tired and lazy.  Think about replacing your chair with one that supports you better, or a gadget that will help remind you to not slouch.
  10. Do mini workouts – While you might not be able to do a full workout during the day, you can do some simple stretches or strength moves in your office. If you keep any small workout props in your eyesight during the day, it will help encourage you to take breaks during the day.  If you don’t have any equipment, you can still do chair yoga, or standing pushups using your office furniture.
  11. Take your pet to work – If your workplace allows it, bringing your pet to work can help reduce stress and boost your satisfaction with your workplace. The owners won’t be the only ones to benefit; coworkers who come into contact with your pet will be less stressed as well.  Make sure to only try this if you pet is clean and well-behaved; also make sure no one in your workplace is allergic to your pet!
  12. Adjust your lighting – Try to sit near a window and get a good amount of natural light throughout the workday. Studies have shown that people with windows in their offices get better sleep and are more physically active.  Daylight helps keep your stress levels down and your sleep cycle on track.  Think about whether you have cooler, blue lights or warmer lights in your workspace; blue lights are good for analytical thinking, while warmer lights are better for socializing.

This story is submitted by William Cash, Safety, Health and Environmental Specialist at the PCS Phosphate Company, Inc. in Joplin, MO. 64801.