Humans did not evolve to spend so much time indoors, seated in front of a glowing square. Mother Nature designed us to pick poisonous fruits and fend off hungry saber-tooth tigers, saber-tooth squirrels, and other saber-toothed animals.
Alas, here we are, thousands of years later, clocking a nine to five desk job, just trying to get by. But don’t fall into the merciless grip of despair just yet because there are many ways to make your office healthier for you and your co-workers. Let’s start with the one you have heard a thousand times!
#1. Move more
When it comes to health tips for office employees, this is probably the most important one. Here is a rule of thumb you can follow: if it is a workday, then you should do at least two hours of standing and walking to reduce the risks related to prolonged sitting. Of course, a jogging and hitting the gym count as well. And remember that this will not only improve your fitness but it will also make you more productive and focused while you work.
Another rule of thumb you can incorporate into your workday is to get up from your desk every 30 or 40 minutes if you can. Go to the bathroom or the water cooler, make yourself a mug of coffee or tea, step outside for some fresh air.
#2. Give those standing desks a try
Speaking of standing and moving more, why don’t you try a standing desk? While it may seem weird at first and you might need some time to adjust, working while standing actually comes with many benefits. For starters, it’s much better for your cardiovascular health and it has the potential to make that pain in your lower back go away.
Also, if you often get sleepy while working, the standing desk will keep you more mentally alert and you will be able to minimize your caffeine intake. And to have less coffee is probably one of those tips for staying healthy in the workplace that is being overlooked.
And don’t worry about it, there is no need to throw away your old desk and replace with some weirdly modified monstrosity. These days you can find cheap standing desks that you simply place atop your regular one. And the best part is you can just push it aside and sit for a while after an hour or two of standing.
#3. Improve your sitting posture
In case your situation doesn’t allow you to make the transition to a standing desk, then make sure to pay attention to your posture while you sit. Sitting for prolonged periods of time every day can be detrimental to your health in all sorts of ways and one of them concerns your back. You don’t want to slump (which will also make you feel lazy and tired) and certainly don’t want to hunch. Just make sure to sit straight.
On the other hand, the culprit here might be your chair. Does it support your back well? If it doesn’t, then politely ask your management what can be done about this.
#4. Let some fresh air in
If you are crammed into a room with lots of co-workers on a daily basis, then there might not be enough oxygen in the room even though the ventilation system is working. If possible, open a window or two from time to time to air out the room. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but good ventilation and reduced air pollutants improve the performance of office workers significantly. And speaking of air pollutants…
#5. Get rid of the automatic air freshener
First of all, you have absolutely no idea what chemicals are in it. Sure, they have been tested on a few unfortunate rats or rabbits in some dark basement, who knows where. The point here is, you can’t really trust a bottle of mysterious science juice. And if you are the kind of person who doesn’t question the contents of products, then consider this another one of the tips for staying healthy at work. And second, most people at your workplace are probably not keen on the idea of working all day long in a cloud of irritating fake strawberry fumes that have never even been in a room with an actual strawberry.
And if you absolutely have to aromatize the office with something but you want to preserve the healthy office environment, then consider some DIY recipes with simple natural ingredients. You’ll find at least a million with a single Google search.
#6. Reduce eye strain
If your eyes feel like they have been pickled in Tabasco sauce at the end of the workday, then you are experiencing the protest of your own human biology once again. Our eyes did not evolve to stare into glowing screens for lengthy periods of time. Luckily, there are some things you can do to amend the situation. For starters, find out how to negate the blue light coming from your screen. There are quite a few programs and apps for this nowadays.
However, this is not an option for photographers, designers and UX specialists who need to see the actual colors of the graphics they are working with. If you fall into this category, then you can resort to glasses with anti-reflective coating which reduce eye strain significantly.
#7. Minimize artificial light
It’s not just the screen that is straining your eyes. The light coming from the ceiling is another culprit. So take a look at it and see how many lights can be turned off. If it is a sunny day and enough natural light is coming from the windows anyway, make sure to turn the lamps off.
And no, it’s not just about energy saving. There is a phenomenon known as over-illumination and it is a very well-recognized medical condition. So much so that there is a Wikipedia article about it and it leads to all kinds of negative health effects.
#8. Avoid snacking on your desk
You should have a dedicated time for eating a wholesome, satiating meal. Office employees call this time “lunch break”. Basically, you take a break from work to have lunch. Or, you know, an afternoon lunch. Depending on when exactly you are getting.
Look, it’s not just about that. Eating on your desk can be a distraction. And some people do it out of sheer boredom. And if it is something mindless like candy or chips… this is a disaster. Don’t do this to yourself. And don’t do this to your colleagues! How is Jane from accounting supposed to concentrate when she can hear you noisily munching on Tostitos?
And if you absolutely need to eat something real quick, then take a look at this post I made to find out about healthy and convenient snacks that you can have while at work.
#9. Add more green
The green color has been linked to boosting creativity by many environmental psychologists. This means that more of it is better for everyone at the office, right? Great, what are the options then? Painting the walls green? Sure, make a mental note about this and mention it when it’s time to renovate the place a little bit. Maybe adding a few low-maintenance leafy indoor plants here and there is also a good idea. What else is there? Green posters on the walls, a greener desktop, it’s up to you.