Most of us spend more time at work and with coworkers than we do at home and with loved ones. Which means there is ample opportunity to encounter things in the workplace that make us sick, including stress, germs, unhealthy food, and toxins. Here are six simple habits to adopt that can help you stay well at work so you can be more productive there – and feel great when you are able to be with loved ones.
In his book Open Focus, Les Fehmi suggests that the anxiety and other ills associated with stress (most of the pain we experience in life) occur because our focus is too narrow, possibly as a result of left-brain dominance. He offers a solution of opening our focus to the surrounding world to diffuse concerns, defocus left-brained activity, and synchronize right- and left-brain function. So what does this mean for a 40-hour a week employee? It’s important to take periodic breaks throughout the day to exercise your right brain with a creative activity. Every few hours consider stepping away from your desk to take a 10-minute break. Engage your right brain by completing a word or number puzzle, drawing a picture, daydreaming, or listening to music.
2. Choose foods carefully
If your workplace is anything like the average, there is a constant stream of cakes, cookies, and pastries coming through the break area. The snack machines are full of honey buns, candy bars, soft drinks, and assorted other processed food items that rob your body of vital energy (and, in fact, can actually be the cause of sluggishness and decreased productivity). These goodies are hard to resist. But, trying to avoid snacks completely is probably not a good idea. Snacks provide an energy boost and a moment of relaxation, both of which are helpful in getting you through the day. Instead, make a habit of always bringing something healthy to work or having something on hand. Or, nudge a leader at work swap out healthy snacks in the vending machines or common areas for their unhealthy counterparts. It’s likely that leadership will respond positively to you for being proactive with this suggestion.
3. Support your immune system
During cold & flu season, an enclosed office building provides a perfect breeding ground for the spread of germs and microbes. A sneeze or a cough is all it takes to send a cold or flu virus toward its ultimate goal of infecting another victim. Contagious viruses and bacteria are spread by riding microscopic droplets of water carried through the air. The droplets can be inhaled directly or spread by contact after landing on countertops and food or sprayed into a telephone receiver. Hand washing or use of an antimicrobial gel is essential, especially for those in the healthcare and food industries. Most important of all, however, is maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin D is not only important for strong bones, but is vital for many functions within the body, including a properly functioning immune system. Wintertime colds and flu may be as much related to decreased production of vitamin D from lack of exposure to sunshine as to indoor confinement with other people.
4. Take an exercise break
Exercising before 5pm can be extremely beneficial for productivity during the workday. That feeling of lethargy, loss of “pep,” and lack of enthusiasm are signs of a decreased energy level. Sometimes low energy is a result of not eating properly during the day, not drinking enough liquids, or not sleeping well during the previous night. But often it is a result of everyday stress, monotony, and standing or sitting in the same position all day. Bringing your energy level up is actually easy to do. A couple of trips around the parking lot at a brisk pace can raise energy levels. Even ten minutes of stretching can help. The right kind of music can definitely have a positive effect. During the lunch break of a long hard day, a 15- to 20-minute session of deep relaxation followed by 30 to 40 minutes of vigorous exercise can change your entire outlook on the remainder of the day.
5. Avoid “Sick Building Syndrome”
Office buildings often have poorer air quality than homes. Especially in the south, mold in buildings is almost a given. Mold and mildew are especially common in large buildings as most air filtering systems in large buildings are not satisfactory. Consider purchasing a high quality room air filter and possibly a negative ion generator to protect your own workspace. If you work in an industrial setting, be proactive about ensuring that ventilation systems and protective clothing meet the mark.
6. Adopt a “No Gossip” policy
Is it possible to seemingly do everything right from a health point of view yet still be unhealthy? If you routinely contribute to gossip and idle talk, you risk jeopardizing your own emotional wellness in addition to that of those around you. Set an example; gossip often results in eroded trust, hurt feelings and reputations, and wasted time. Make an effort to avoid gossiping and set an example for others to do the same. Adopt a “No Gossip” policy at work, home, and among your group of friends.