It’s National Porridge Day on 10th October AND we’re almost at the party season in December, so now’s a great time to take a step back and take a look at how you can improve your health habits in an office environment. You’ve still got time to fit into that tuxedo for your November awards ceremony, or the slinky Christmas party dress!
Staying healthy in an office can be so hard. People bring in bakes, cakes, biscuits, and chocolate all of the time. It feels like there’s a birthday every week! At this time of year, it’s even harder, as the Halloween candy comes out and the unseasonally-early great deals on huge tubs of chocolates hit the shelves.
What about when you work from home? It’s not hard to imagine that the longest commute is the four-step distance from office to kitchen. It’s so tempting to snack while you’re having a think about something, or to devour last night’s leftovers instead of taking up your at-desk position.
Stop! Whether you’re in an office with others, or you’re a work-from-home-alone type, there’s hope for a healthy diet yet.
It’s not just about improving your diet, either. Your mental wellbeing and physical health will also have an impact on how motivated and productive you can be at work. Let’s look at the steps you can take to improve your overall health and wellbeing in an office environment – whether that’s with other people or working from home alone.
- Bring Your Lunch (And Snacks)
A pack-up, packed lunch, brown bag, snap – whatever you want to call it – does two things: first, it saves you big money. Everyone likes that. Second, it means you get to eat what you want, AND make sure it’s healthy.
Check the ingredients of your packed lunch, however: hidden sugars in supposedly ‘healthy’ foods such as juices, smoothies, and muesli bars can all secretly pack on the pounds. Try using real fruit, snacking on vegetable slices (cucumbers and carrots are uh-may-zing dipped in a low-calorie tomato salsa), or even eliminating your snacks altogether to help reduce your daily calorie intake.
When you’re working from home, stick a note on your fridge that asks the question: “Are you actually hungry?” This will help you pause for a moment and consider why you’re in raid-mode. If it’s lunchtime, then go for it (ideally with the healthy vegetables and lean meats we all know we should be eating). But if it’s the middle of the afternoon and you’re losing your motivation: stop.
Make yourself a hot drink instead. Sometimes, all you need is a short break away from your work, accompanied by the ritual of making tea or coffee. Sit down away from your desk to enjoy it, then return to work. You’ll find that 90 per cent of the time you weren’t hungry, but simply at a junction in your motivation!
- Tell People You’re Being Healthy
By telling your co-workers that you’re trying to avoid the cake, you’re making a verbal commitment to do so. If they then see you stealing that slice of Victoria Sponge on the sly, someone is bound to make a comment and this is a sure-fire way to manage your accountability to improving your health. You may even find that your co-workers join you on your quest for better health and wellbeing, which will create a positive support network for those days when you just really, REALLY want some chocolate.
- Make Time For Exercise
You can’t outrun a bad diet, but exercise helps in so many ways to improve your health and wellbeing that it’s important you schedule regular time for it.
You don’t have to slog it out in the gym: a 20-minute morning stretching or yoga routine will help counteract the neck and back strain common in office workers. If you work from home, consider getting a dog! It’ll force you to go out on daily walks – and fresh air is fab for mental stimulation.
If you’re really stretched for time, such as working the 9-5 and then operating your side hustle on the 6pm-11pm, you can still fit in exercise. Try to make any meetings at work a walking meeting – or at least a stand-up meeting. Anything you can do to move a bit more during the day will improve your posture and circulation; relieve aches and pains; and help to motivate your mental wellbeing too.
- Allow Yourself To Indulge
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re forever avoiding your favourite food, you’ll become fixated on it. Allow yourself a small amount of your favourite junk food every now and then.
Rather than scoffing it, make eating it a relaxing ritual. Take time away from your computer, sit down at the kitchen table, use a knife and fork instead of your fingers – whatever it takes to make eating your favourite food a real treat. You’ll enjoy it much more, and taking the time out will also help give your mind a break from your busy work schedule so you’ll feel satisfied and refreshed when you return to work.
- Open A Window
A blast of fresh air will not only blow away the actual cobwebs that have been building up in your home office, but it will energise you too. Even on a really chilly day, crack the window open for ten minutes or so. Airing the room will freshen and revive you. If you work with other people who are in a constant air-conditioning war, try to do it when they’re not at their desk. Even a few minutes of fresh air will help boost the mood.
- Establish A Routine (Even If You Work From Home)
Your pyjamas are not your friend. Even if you’re working from home, make time in the morning to get showered and dressed. This will help you to establish a routine and help you maintain an ‘I’m at work’ mindset to improve your productivity.
When you’re working in an office, a routine is important to give you some stability to your day. Even if you’re in a busy day job where no two days are the same, use the morning to mentally prepare yourself by having a routine. Have a shower, get dressed, make your lunch, stick on a podcast – whatever it is that makes you ready for the day – and do this every day. A routine like this will also stop you from stressing out on your way to work: if you always make your lunch before you leave in the morning, it’s harder to forget it, just like if you always take a certain train to work, you can manage your time more efficiently.
- Assess Your Workstation – And Invest In A Decent Chair
Health isn’t all about your diet. When you’re sat at a desk all day, this can have really negative effects on your posture and overall health. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re sat at the most ergonomic work station possible. Yes, even if you are tucked away on a corner of your kitchen table, this applies to you, too!
The most important thing to invest in is a decent chair. Make sure you have adjustable arms, good lumbar support, and a high back. If you’re working in an office for The Man (or for your own business), it’s a legal requirement to ensure that your desk and workstation are comfortable in order to enable you to do your job. If you’re finding that the supplied chair isn’t giving you enough support, or your monitors need a riser, speak up! (this doesn’t mean you can order the most expensive and fancy chair out there – but you do have a right to have your workstation professionally assessed and adjustments made to be comfortable).
If you’re working from home, no matter how tempting it is to take your laptop to the sofa or your bed, don’t! Not only is this bad for your laptop (it can overheat if placed on a lap…which is somewhat ironic), but it’s absolutely dire for your posture. If you’re struggling with aches and pains from a poor working position, you won’t be as productive – so it’s worth investing in something that’ll make you sit comfortably every day.
- Minimise Mental Stress
Your mental wellbeing is as important as a good posture and healthy diet. Take steps to maximise your productivity while simultaneously reducing stress:
- Make a daily and weekly To Do list, so that you have goals to aim for;
- Cross anything off your To Do list that can be done next week;
- Delegate tasks where possible: get your partner to do the laundry, or encourage your children to tidy their rooms – all saving time and stress for yourself!
- Take five minutes after completing a task to breathe calmly and consider how to tackle the next project, instead of rushing headlong straight in;
- Walk away from work at the end of the day – even if you work from home. Switch off your computer and spend time doing something not work-related to unwind.
Having a positive approach to health in an office environment can be tricky when there is so much temptation. It’s also so easy to get absorbed in your work before a deadline, so that you don’t notice that you haven’t left your (now comfortable!) chair in hours. Set some reminders on your calendar to drink more water, move every half an hour, and take breaks. It’s small steps like this that’ll have a great positive impact on your overall wellbeing – and that in turn will help you to enjoy your job even more!