Creating a Healthy Workplace

May 02, 2017

Creating a Healthy Workplace

The average person spends about a third of their time at work. Does your workplace  encourage you to be happy and healthy? If you don't find this to be true, it's important to create a healthy, inspiring workplace for yourself.

This goes for anyone. It doesn't matter if you're working in an office 9-5, or you're freelancing from home and Internet cafes. There are simple ways to make health an easy choice for that 33% of your day.

 

Is your workplace making you sick or fat?

First, you need to assess where your workplace health is at. Every place is different, after all. So have a look around you, and take some notes.

  • Does your workplace have unhealthy snacks and treats available for consumption? Are they located nearby, so you always grab some on your way past?
  • Is the coffee maker the place to be? Does everything take place over a cup of coffee? Do they supply fresh filtered water, or is it out of the grimy tap in the distant kitchen?
  • Is the lighting harsh and artificial? Are the walls dull colors? Do you forget what sunshine and greenery looks like after a long stint at work?
  • Is the office climate controlled? Do you often find the air-conditioner or heating irritates you, makes you cough, or causes dry mouth and eyes?
  • Is everything conducted via email and technology? Do you move around as little as possible?
  • What is the social situation like? Do you get to spend time with your colleagues in a positive manner, or do you feel isolated?
  • Does work make you feel constantly stressed? Do you feel under pressure or stressed just being in the building?

Obviously you can't fix everything about your workplace, unless you work from home. But it's important to know what might be contributing to your well-being, and what could cause problems.


Tips to make it healthier

Once you know where you stand, you can make positive changes. All of these are very simple, and able to be implemented in most workplaces. So how can you make your workplace a healthier place?

Snacks

For most people, the problem about eating well at work isn't about lunch. After all, any of us can pack a lunch. The real problem lies with snacks.

Many workplaces will provide snacks like candy, cookies and mints. This is done as a cheap way to keep staff happy. But long-term, it's sabotaging your health.

Instead, it's time to take responsibility for your own snacks. Set up your own snack box, drawer or container somewhere in your work space. Then, stock up!

Great options for snacks include:

  • Homemade trail mix
  • Raw nuts
  • Raw seeds
  • Fresh fruit (restock once or twice a week)
  • Dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa content)
  • Homemade bliss balls
  • Kale chips
  • Whole-food snack bars
  • Nut butters (great spread on apple or banana slices)

If you're really passionate, you can always discuss the snack situation with your manager. You might be able to negotiate for healthier options. After all, healthy staff are productive staff!

Hydration

Keeping hydrated is so essential in a workplace, especially if it’s climate controlled. But many people are keen on the coffee, and not so much the hydrating drinks we need.

But let’s just try out a few simple tweaks to keep you hydrated all day long:

  • Stock up on the high-water foods like watermelon over summer. It’s like drinking water, only tasty!
  • Get yourself a reminder app for your phone. It will remind you to drink at intervals, so you don’t need to remember by yourself.
  • Invest in a cute water bottle. It can have a nice pattern, or it can have times on the side to encourage you to drink enough water throughout the day. Water tastes better out of a good looking bottle, anyway! (this may not be scientifically proven yet)

If you love fresh filtered water, you can always put in a request for a water cooler. Hydration is great for keeping the body productive as well as healthy, so your boss can’t argue.

Nature

Did you know that we actually need nature to be at our healthiest? We were designed to be outdoors, but now we're spending so much time inside that it's starting to make us sicker and sadder.

You might not be able to move your desk outside. But you can bring nature in to you in a few different ways:

  • If possible, get the shades up and the windows open. Fresh air and sunshine are therapeutic for everyone.
  • Bring in a small desk-friendly pot plant. Succulents are a great option – they need minimal care. This will bring a bit of fresh air into the workplace for you.
  • Get outside when you can. You might be chained to a desk with no natural light, but you do get a lunch break. Instead of eating at your desk, take ten minutes to go outside and breathe clear air.

Movement

Inactivity is one of the biggest killers in the modern world. We live sedentary lives because technology does the hard work for us. The workplace is a perfect example of this. We drive instead of walking, take lifts instead of stairs, and send emails instead of talking to a colleague.

Let's be realistic. You're not going to turn your workplace into a gym, unless it already is one! But you can incorporate more movement into your day.

  • If an internal email has information that needs to be kept for records, send it. But if it's unofficial, try to get off your backside and talk to the person about it instead. As a bonus, social contact is great for mental health.
  • Sneak in some hourly stretches to keep your muscles from cramping. Set an app on your phone to remind you if you need. Just a simple neck stretch, chest stretch and shoulder stretch can get the blood flowing.
  • Consider walking meetings on nice days. They can encourage better ideas, thanks to the boost to blood flow. It refreshes your brain and can aid in creative thoughts.
  • Add in the simple tips we've all heard before. Take stairs when you can. Go for a walk on your lunch break. Do some calf raises while you wait for the lift if you can't take the stairs. Find whatever ways you can to move your body more!

Again, if you find movement really helps to boost your work, talk to your boss. See if you can encourage them to trial a weekly yoga class as part of a productivity strategy!

Stress management

It's been shown time and time again. Stress can kill. And work is one of the leading places where stress occurs. But we all experience some form of stress. So what's the difference between those who get sick and those who don't?

The key is having stress management techniques in place. We know that stress can be incredibly bad for us. But a few simple steps can help make it more bearable:

  • Get yourself a stress ball! This is a great option for people who feel a physical build-up of stress. Take your frustration out on the ball – it'll bounce right back.
  • Take a moment to get some perspective. When something happens, we react instantly. But our reactions might not take everything into consideration. Maybe your boss gives you an extra workload. Your reaction is that they're punishing you. But the truth is they think you can handle extra work better than your colleagues.
  • Take a few deep breaths. When we get stressed, our nervous system encourages us to breathe quickly. By taking long, deep belly breaths for a few minutes, it calms the nervous system. As a bonus, it can also boost your brainpower.
  • Go home and write it out. Get a notebook, and write down everything that sucked at work. By getting it out into the world, you're a lot less likely to burst out into anger or tears at work!

There are plenty of steps you can take to make your life healthier - even at work! These are just a starting point for you to create a healthy workplace. Which ones will you implement today? Share with us below.


References

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-90-481-9806-1_5

https://academic.oup.com/aepp/article-abstract/36/1/6/8152/Using-Behavioral-Economics-to-Design-More?redirectedFrom=fulltext

http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/apnm-2014-0157#.WPXXhvmGPIU

https://www.cdc.gov/PCD/issues/2015/14_0410.htm

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/41/9/558.short

http://content.iospress.com/articles/work/wor0922

http://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2005/03000/Exercise_and_well_being_a_review_of_mental_and.13.aspx






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