We spoke last week about the start of September signaling a kind of “second New Year” for the year and bringing with ait a feeling of resetting and newness.
Staying on that theme, why not take this time of year to refresh your workspace and create a healthier work environment for yourself! We spend a big portion of our time at work, so and making a few tweaks to your office set up can have a huge impact on your health and happiness!
In this week’s post, we’re sharing tips on how to create a healthy office environment.
Ergonomics is the study of reducing strain and injury by practicing proper alignment and workspace design. It has been around for many years now, but most people still don’t take it as seriously as they should. Over time, improper alignment can lead to a whole host of short term and long-term issues- the little misalignment done repetitively every day for years on end can really add up.
Many offices offer ergonomic consultations to their employees, but if this isn’t an option for you, there is a lot you can do on your own. The basic guideline to keep in mind is that you want the angels of your body at more or less 90-degree angles: sitting upright, arms at 90 degrees, legs at 90 degrees from the body. This image from the University of Michigan offers a great visual.
There are tons of articles online that can help you fine tune your office ergonomics, but the following tips are a great place to start.
Proper ergonomic alignment will help to greatly reduce eye strain, but there are some other things you can do to further reduce the strain caused by staring at monitor or smartphone screen for hours on end.
First, take frequent breaks. Our eyes are meant to move regularly between close and far distances, and when we stare at a computer monitor, our eyes are held in one position. This causes muscle fatigue of the muscles responsible for close vision, and muscle atrophy of muscles responsible for distance vision.
To counteract this, it’s recommended that you follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes (set a timer so you don’t forget!) look 20 feet ahead of you for 20 seconds. This will engage the muscles required for long distance vision and relax the ones used for close up vision.
Other tips for reducing eye strain:
Many offices are very drying, thanks to AC, poor air circulation, and just generally being indoors all day. Make sure you stay hydrated by regularly drinking water. You can also keep hand cream and lip balm on hand if you find the air particularly drying.
Depending on your office building and city you live in, the taps/water quality may not be ideal. Rather than relying on bottled water, you can filter your water at your desk. Check your local health food stores for charcoal sticks, which you can add right into a jug of water to filter out any chemicals. It’s a super easy and affordable way to purify your water.
Are you the type that spends their lunch break eating in front of the computer? Nix the habit STAT! Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your mood and health.
Taking a physical and mental break from the office will help you to recharge and refresh, and bonus points if you take a walk on your lunch break! Another major benefit is that exposure to midday sun plays a huge role in regulating your circadian rhythm. Our bodies’ sleep cycles are regulated in large part by daylight, and being inside with artificial lighting all day can really mess with this cycle. Getting some direct sun exposure signals to your body that it is daytime, and your body will release the chemicals you need to be alert and energized. This midday exposure will also help your body to create the chemicals you need to sleep later in the day.
Some offices allow for shorter breaks throughout the day as well- take advantage of these if you have them and pop outside for a little fresh air and sunshine.
In addition to your lunch and coffee breaks, make sure to take frequent mini breaks throughout the day. As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to take a short break every 20 minutes or so to prevent eye strain, but you can also take these quick breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around. Our bodies thrive on movement, and we’re not meant to stay in one position for long periods of time.
Being somewhat sedentary is an unavoidable factor of most office jobs, but you can greatly reduce the effects of a sedentary job with these short micro breaks.
Empty offices spaces or cubicles can be, well, kind of depressing. Personalizing your office can go a long way in making it a space that makes you happy and comfortable to be in. Depending on your office, you may have varying degrees of control over what you can do, but the following are some easy additions that most offices should allow for.
By making a few tweaks to your office space and habits, you can greatly improve your workday wellness!
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