If our natural habitat was a cubicle filled with fluorescent lights, computer screens and stale air, we would be set. Needless to say, it isn’t.
Human beings are not designed to sit down and stare at a computer screen all day long and yet that is what many of us do. The amount of time we spend at our desks and in the office makes up about a third of our lives, so it is well worth optimising your workspace and making sure you practice smart and healthy office habits.
Establishing a good work environment will greatly improve your overall health, well-being and productivity, and doing so will save you and your body a lot of grief down-the-track.
Some actionable tips for optimising your workspace:
- Practice healthy computer & desk habits
Be mindful about how much time you spend staring at your screen and make sure your brightness isn’t too high or low as this can cause eye strain. Try to relax your shoulders as much as possible and take regular breaks from the computer. This will improve both your health and your overall productivity.
A few tips for maintaining a healthy posture and position while working at your computer:
- Use a chair with good back support
- Firmly plant your feet on the floor or on a footrest to reduce pressure on your lower back
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your sides
- Maintain your wrists in a neutral or straight position when typing
For a more comprehensive look at how to work ergonomically at your computer, click here.
- Eat well and avoid snacking at your desk where possible
Making a habit of not eating at your desk can stop mindless eating and help give you a proper break from work during your lunch break. Counterintuitively, taking a break actually increases your overall productivity and will enhance your ability to concentrate.
As much as we would like to be, human beings are not great multi-taskers. We tend to overeat (and not taste what we are eating) when we are distracted. Use your lunch break to take a moment out of the workday to enjoy a meal and refresh yourself for the second half of the day. Eating a high protein lunch with lots of vegetables will help you avoid the usual afternoon sleepiness.
- If you do eat at your desk, some foods are better than others
Keeping healthy snacks near your desk can be a great way to satisfy food cravings if they arise. And they do tend to arise. Having carrots, nuts or some fruit nearby can give you a nutritious boost and tie you over until lunch. Additionally, preparing your lunch before work can be a good way to save money and ensure that you have a healthy and tasty meal ready to go. For a wide range of fresh and affordable meals, check out Aldi’s Specials for some great deals! When it comes to fruit, vegetables and other nutritious food, you can’t go past Aldi’s low prices and fresh produce. And no matter where you are, an Aldi supermarket is never too far away!
- Take regular breaks
Although stopping work might seem like an annoyance, taking just 5 minutes every hour to stretch and do a quick check in with your body can save you a lot of grief in the long run. Studies have also shown that exercise and movement increase the blood flow to the brain, giving you a boost in energy, alertness and overall concentration.
However, breaks can be difficult to remember and very easily neglected. Luckily, there are a range of handy time-tracking apps that can help with this. Free apps like Toggl or Boosted can help you to monitor how you are spending your time and can be set to provide friendly reminders for a break every 45 minutes or so.
Everyone is different and has to find what works for them. However, as a rough guide, take a one or two-minute break every 15 to 20 minutes, or a five-minute break every hour. Every few hours you should be getting up to do a different activity or a bit of exercise.
- Pay attention to your posture
Posture is one of the most important parts of a healthy body. And it’s one of the most easily forgotten about. Be aware of how you are positioned at your computer and make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched over. Your computer screen should be at eye level or a little lower and making adjustments can help to keep your neck and shoulders in too static of a position.
When you get up to do your hourly stretch, give your shoulders and neck a bit of a workout – this will ensure you aren’t doing anything wrong that could lead to more serious damage in the long-run.
- Try a standing desk
You’ve probably heard of these, and there’s a reason why. Every day, more and more studies are showing the health consequences of sitting down for extended periods of time. Sitting has even been referred to as the ‘smoking of our generation’. It might seem harmless, but there is a wealth of evidence to suggest the unfortunate opposite.
Standing at your desk while working is the simplest solution to this problem and standing desks are quickly becoming the new norm. There are many ways you can fashion a standing desk yourself, but there are also a wide range of adjustable standing desks available to purchase. Standing while working has been shown to decrease strain on your lower back and even reduce general tiredness.
- Air quality and ventilation
The quality of air within an office impacts your health and productivity. The World Green Building Council carried out a study that recorded an 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation. Open a window, stay on top of dust build-ups, introduce a few pot plants, and if you can, spend some of the day working outside. We could all use the extra vitamin-D.
Optimising your workspace for health and well-being is something that everyone should make a priority. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than your health, and the sooner you create habits and a workspace that works for you and your body, the better. You’ll thank yourself in the long-run.