We spend a third of our lives at work – that’s more time than at home, with loved ones, or on holiday – so it’s important we work somewhere that keeps us well. This may sound silly, but there are an incredible number of factors that can put pains to productivity – anything from the temperature of the room to unwanted noise, plus of course stress from situations that arise.
Thankfully, there are a few simple ideas that you, as an employee, can adopt to make sure that your work life doesn’t make you unhealthy.
Put plants on your desk
Research shows that plants increase wellbeing, creativity and productivity at work. As you know from basic biology lessons, they suck in the toxic carbon dioxide in the air and release healthy oxygen. Plus, you can gaze at them to reduce your stress levels, like a mini-forest bathing experience. Just remember to water them or take it in turns with colleague so they can cover for you when you are OOO.
Look after your eyes
Working at screens can be very tiring and drying for our poor eyes. Try the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look away from your screen at something 20 yards away for 20 seconds. You may need to set a (subtle) reminder or alarm. You’ll also need a regular eye test to prevent eye strain and headaches. Book a yearly appointment to ensure your eyes are in tip-top-shape – your company is legally obliged to pay for it, too.
Have a healthy lunch
And don’t eat at your desk! A proper lunch break allows you to digest your food properly. We love the healthy bento boxes at Sequoia Spa at The Grove – try them out for ideas. You can fill each compartment with something different – a salad, rice and vegetables with oily fish, and some fresh berries. Take them to a park bench or to a sofa area in your office.
Head out during your lunch break if you can, even if it’s to sit and eat your lunch in a green space or take a brisk walk around the block (if you work in a business park, listen to a wellness podcast as you stride). This is vital for your Vitamin D, the lack of which can cause low moods. If you have a stressed week stuck at your desk, head to Rudding Park for some sunlight minus the harmful UVs in their new Sunlight Therapy suite.
Various studies have found links between a sedentary job and heart disease, diabetes and early death. If you can’t get your hands on a standing desk, make sure you get up and move every 20 minutes. Walk to the water cooler, walk down and up the stairs, go chat to a colleague.
If you do have a sedentary job, head to a spa with lots of hydropools such as Pennyhill Park. Hop from pool to pool and let the massaging bubbles get your circulation back in working order.
Apparently, for an ideal work/life balance we should all be working a four-day week. But now we all have mobile phones, pesky office emails pinging up in the middle of Strictly mean we are more likely to work from home, or – worse – spend time we should be relaxing worrying about a work situation. Switch off the office emails as soon as you leave the office: make your OOO read ‘I work between these hours on these days and will respond to your email when next at my desk’. Try a Digital Detox for a taste of life without phones.
Treat stress with self-care
If you are having a difficult time at work due to excessive pressure, you will need to address this situation and find support with your colleagues. In the meantime, you will need to make extra sure you look after yourself. Instead of obsessing over the situation, try to switch off. Write down everything that worries or angers you in a journal, then put the journal away and do something you love doing that also involves self-care, ideally with people you love. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of what is important in life and focus on that. Read our features on stress for ideas.
They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make friends at work. In fact, please do. Whether it’s someone to go to lunch with, a shoulder to cry on after a bad meeting, or a quick drink or spa after work, getting along with your work colleagues will make your workspace far healthier.
Do desk yoga
If you feel brave enough, try some desk yoga poses. Get your whole office involved and do it together. Or do some discrete belly breathing exercises, spinal twists, seated cat and cow poses and shoulder openings. You can make it look like you’re just having a good stretch. Book into a yoga class or retreat at Ragdale Hall so you know what you’re doing.
Take time out every day to meditate, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Studies show that regular meditation can help regulate your emotions, so that you will find it easier to remain calm and clear-headed in stressful work situations. Join a meditation class, download mediation apps that you can listen to throughout the day, or try meditating at lunchtime – even if it’s just taking a mindful walk in a green space. Remember, meditation takes practice: your mind may rebel at first, but you’ll soon be able to short-cut to feeling calm.
Swap after-work drinks for twilight spa
It’s the perfect post work pick me up and will leave you feeling so much better the next morning. The joy of twilight spas is that they are generally less busy and cheaper – plus you get to ease away your work stress in a spa instead of a wine bar. Go with colleagues or on your own. Some Aqua Sana spas have Twilight Tasters from £98 for two people. Check the Good Spa Guide website for more twilight spa deals.
Drink plenty of water
Being hydrated is also good for our energy levels and productivity – being dehydrated can give you a headache and make you feel tired. Swap out your teas and coffees for mint or fruit teas: aim to drink your 500ml water bottle in the morning and afternoon.