Do you have a desk job that requires a lot of time spent sitting and looking at your screen? Both sitting too long and prolonged screen time are associated with various health problems and injuries, as well as trouble with vision and sleep. Plus, people with desk jobs are more likely to be overweight.
The good news? There are many easy ways to make your own workday healthier, happier and more productive—even in a desk job.
10 Tips for a Healthier Workday
Improve your productivity, stay healthy and maintain a peaceful mindset by incorporating wellness into your workday. Here are 10 little changes you can make today for a healthier and happier lifestyle at work.
1. Step up your parking spot game.
To be characterized as an “active adult” you should achieve roughly 10,000 steps, about five miles, per day. Feeling discouraged? Here’s an easy way to add more steps to your day: park farther away. Find the parking spot farthest away from your office door, park there and enjoy the walk. Better yet, if logistics allow, find a parking spot half a mile to a mile from your office to get in even more steps.
2. Take the stairs.
Your steps don’t have to stop once you enter your office building. Take the stairs to burn a few more calories and add more movement to your day. A 35-year-old man weighing 160 pounds can burn 19 to 20 calories with just two minutes of walking up stairs. So if you spend just five minutes climbing stairs each day you could potentially burn an extra 50 calories. Rack up those burned calories by adding even more stairs to your day. Opt for stairs instead of the elevator. And when nature calls, consider climbing the steps to the next floor’s restroom rather than the one on your floor.
3. Create an ergonomic work space.
Let’s face it, after you’ve walked from your car to the stairs and up the stairs to your desk, you’re likely going to sit for extended periods of time, so it’s important to make that time as healthy and harmless as possible. Common office injuries that result from inadequate ergonomics—meaning they’re just plain uncomfortable—include tendinitis, back and neck pain, headaches, and eye strain. Use the following recommendations to ensure your work space is ergonomic:
- Sit with you hips are as far back in your chair as possible.
- Adjust your seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees aren’t higher than your hips.
- If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support, use pillows to support your back.
- Adjust armrests to a height that allows your shoulders to relax.
- Position your keyboard to allow for straight hands and wrists and keep all devices nearby to avoid overreaching.
- To reduce eye strain, keep any screens at arm’s length, enlarging font size as necessary for readability.
4. Take a lunch break. Really.
While many of us try to accomplish more by working through lunch, taking a lunch break can actually increase our health, happiness and productivity while lowering stress levels. It boosts your creativity, too.
Use your lunch break to refresh and re-energize, whatever that means for you. Re-charge for the afternoon by taking a power nap, ease your mind by running errands you’re worried about fitting in after work, or take a walk in the fresh air. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to eat at your desk, which can result in overeating. Instead, enjoying a leisurely meal away from your desk.
5. Enjoy the view.
People exposed to natural light are more productive in the workplace, in part due to better sleep. Research has shown that people with windows in their offices enjoy 46 more minutes of sleep per night than those who work in windowless offices. In addition, exposure to natural light increased people’s physical activity and overall quality of life. If you’re fortunate enough to work in an office with a window, situate your desk where you can easily glance up and out. If you work in a space with few or no windows, try taking a few short breaks throughout the day to step outside or spend a minute or two in front of a window elsewhere in your building.
6. Try “deskercising.”
Deskercising refers to the use of your desk and other office trappings to exercise while at work. Try this: Set an alert to go off every 60 minutes as your deskercise reminder. Each time the timer goes off, choose one to three deskercises to strengthen and tone muscles or to get your blood pumping again. Tricep dips are a good option: Situate your chair behind you, and place your hands, palms down, on the seat of the chair. Slowly lower yourself down and push yourself back up again. You can also use two water bottles as light free weights to do bicep curls and overhead presses.
7. Work short breaks into your day.
Another way to combat the temptation to simply sit at your desk all day long is to punctuate your workday with short bursts of activity. A simple one- to two-minute stretch break for every 20 to 30 minutes of sitting can benefit your body and your mind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking five-minute breaks for each hour of sitting. Instead of e-mailing that co-worker to ask if she got your memo, take a walk to her desk. Pace in the stairwell or break room while taking phone calls. Take a short walk to the water fountain. The important thing is that at least once each hour, you get out of your chair and move.
8. Stash healthy snacks.
Only snack because you’re hungry—not because you’re bored. If boredom is your motivation to eat, break the monotony by trying some deskercises, taking a stretch break or looking out the window. If you are hungry, resist the pull of the office vending machine and opt for a healthier snack that packs only 100 to 200 calories. A bonus: keeping the calorie count low for each snack means that snacking up to three times a day is okay. Some low-calorie options you can keep in a desk drawer include trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, whole grain crackers and high-fiber cereal.
9. Fight the afternoon slump—hydrate.
Whether you snack or not, staying hydrated throughout the day is crucial to maintaining your energy and productivity. If you often feel a lull of energy in the afternoon, it’s likely a result of dehydration. So drink at least three 16-ounce bottles of water during your work day. Beyond avoiding the afternoon slump, experts say staying hydrated is important to maintaining a proper body temperature as well as to preventing kidney stones and supporting digestive health.
10. Keep it clean.
Let’s end with this little tidbit: The average office desk is dirtier than a toilet seat, hosting hundreds of times the bacteria. Wash your hands often, sanitize your workstation at the start or finish of each day, and keep hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes handy to decrease your chance of falling ill on the job.
Although desk jobs do present health risks ranging from obesity to injury, there are simple steps you can take to keep yours from interfering with living a healthy lifestyle. Be mindful to make small, smart choices each day that will increase your productivity and support your well-being at work.