Health & Habits
7 Ways to Optimize Our Health While Working 9-5
Posted March 29, 2021
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult to achieve in and of itself, so there’s no question that it can be even more challenging while working a full-time job. Professional environments and contemporary culture - particularly in fast-paced urban areas - encourage us to work harder, better, faster, and stronger. Whether we work from home or an office, this can often come at the cost of our wellbeing.
Both our mental and physical health play massive roles in our productivity, so as we spend a third of our lives working, learning to optimize both will set ourselves up for success. Here are 8 tips to help us keep both our mental and physical selves in top shape while working full-time:
1. Prioritize an ergonomic set-up
As we’re living amidst a digital revolution, our workplaces are constantly changing. We’re working longer hours, sitting more, and working from home or other non-traditional offices. Extended time at a desk with improper posture can wreak havoc on our bodies, so it’s imperative to set up our desks, chairs, monitors and keyboards in ergonomically correct positions. This interactive workspace planner helps determine how our desks should be best positioned for our individual heights. Given the relationship between ergonomic-friendly work stations play and employee health, many companies and organizations are now offering in-house ergonomic assessments and standing desks for their employees.
2. Move More!
One of the most damaging aspects of working a 9-5 is the lack of movement many of us face every day. Our bodies were not designed to sit still for such long periods of time, so whenever we get the chance, we have to move. Our health depends on it, as people who work sedentary jobs have twice the risk of cancer, particularly colon and rectal cancers.
The easiest way to implement more movement into our day is to take regular ‘movement breaks’ in between tasks, ideally every 30 minutes or so. Getting up, having a quick walk around the office (or house), stretching out and doing a few air squats are all easy solutions. ‘Walking meetings’ have also gained popularity, and can be an incredibly effective way to keep both ideas and blood flowing throughout the day.
3. Prepare lunch
Workplace lunchtime can be one of the biggest opportunities to bolster a healthy lifestyle. We can prepare a week’s-worth of healthy food at the onset of our week, or prep the night before. It allows for complete autonomy over what goes into the meal, and we’re more likely to get fresher, more nutrient-dense ingredients when creating it ourselves. This practice can save us money, time, and decision fatigue of where and what to eat each day. Knowing that a nutritious prepared lunch awaits us can bring peace of mind, especially during a particularly stressful day.
4. Eat lunch outside
Weather permitting, eating our lunch outside can be a great way to break up the working day and get away from an enclosed office environment. There are so many benefits, such as soaking up vitamin D, breathing in fresh air, escaping pressures of the office, and incorporating more movement into our day. We can clear our heads, reflect on the work accomplished in the morning, and strategize what needs to be done in the afternoon. No matter how busy we are, avoiding lunch at our desks will most certainly allow us to come back much more productive in the afternoon.
5. Create an intentional workspace
If we work from home, creating an intentional workspace can be incredibly beneficial for our productivity. We set ourselves up for success when our work environment supports positive conditions that help us stay inspired, focused and productive. Do we need a quiet space? Plenty of light? Do we need desk space to write on, or a place to easily access paper files or documents? Are we most focused when facing a wall, or most inspired if our desk looks out a window? Creating an area dedicated solely to work - instead of the couch or our bed - can significantly reduce workplace stress down the road.
6. Enhance the commute
For those of us who work in an office, the daily commute doesn’t have to be sunk, wasted time. Whether we use it productively or just indulge in a little solace, there are great ways to make use of the downtime. The popularity of podcasts and audiobooks has risen to great heights in recent decades, and we can now seek out and learn detailed information on a plethora of topics. If we use public transportation, we can also plug in to a guided meditation to heighten our awareness and ground ourselves. We’re all busy, and can often find ourselves yearning to make every waking second productive. If our commutes are our only quiet time throughout the day, sometimes it’s better to just cut everything off and do absolutely nothing for a little while.
7. Embrace the power of plants
Whether we work from home or an office, a great way to bolster productivity is by including some plants around our workspace. They naturally filter toxins from the rooms they grow in, help absorb background noise, and may reduce our stress levels. This study verified the stress-reducing effect of gazing intentionally at a plant for a few minutes in a real office setting when an employee felt fatigued. It found greenery and fresh oxygen from plants helped our mood and brain function while working. Plants that are easy to care for - such as Blue Barrel Cactus, Bamboo Palm, and Spider plants - can usually be found at our local greenhouses/nurseries or home improvement stores.
Staying healthy while working a 9-5 can sometimes feel like a chore, but it’s no secret that the better we maintain ourselves, the better we perform. We’re not only helping ourselves, but also the companies we’re working for. Arming ourselves with the right tools to promote mental and physical health will undoubtedly help us advance both personally and professionally.
Written by Brett Malaney
Toyoda M., Yokota Y., Barnes M., Kaneko M. Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers’ Stress. American Society for Horticultural Science. 55-63 (2019). https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04427-19
Boyle T., Fritschi L., Heyworth J., Bull F. Long-Term Sedentary Work and the Risk of Subsite-specific Colorectal Cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology.1183;1191 (2011) https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwq513.
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