Just like one’s personal health, creating a healthier and “well” work environment should entail a holistic approach. Spending a third or more of our day in the workspace means our overall well-being can be greatly impacted there. Some simple shifts can help create a more mindful, energizing and health-supporting environment.
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. Getting more movement in is a vital piece of improving physical wellness, mental health, productivity, alertness and creativity.
Simply put, we are meant to move and move often. Finding as many ways to move during your workday is a powerful step toward making your workspace a more well space. Here are some simple ways to make sure that you’re getting enough movement in throughout your day.
Have Walking Meetings
Ditch the conference table and turn your seated meeting into a moving meeting. Ideally, these meetings should be outside in nature, with less distractions in a more nourishing environment, which may result in more alertness, creativity and productivity for all parties.
Maximize Your Lunchtime Breaks
If you aren’t moving and walking during breaks, get started. And if you are already taking walks, get more out of them by changing the movements you do.
Try adding in some walking lunges, a little burst of skipping, do side steps, carefully walk backwards or do backward lunges, exaggerate your arm swing and torso rotation or walk in a zig-zag pattern. Changing things up and moving differently requires more muscle recruitment. This can help burn more calories while getting you more fit and nimble.
If you can’t seem to get away, take a break and add in some push-ups using the desk to push off of instead of the floor. Or try 10 to 15 chair squats—with a wider stance, squat down to be just hovering above the chair and then press back up to standing. You can add arms to the movement with a cross punch or by pressing your arms overhead. These only take a minute or two, but doing them throughout the day will compound the benefits.
Check the Snacks at the Door
The stress of work can often lead to emotional eating or poor food choices, especially when you realize you have worked straight through your break and are now famished. The first, quickest thing you see might be what ends up in your mouth. Set yourself up for success by removing the sugary, starchy, processed snack temptations lying around the workspace. Ideally this should be a joint commitment by everyone in the space. If the workplace is a snack disaster and there is strong resistance, try committing to it gradually.
Compromise by committing to the goal that at least 50 percent of the snacks are nutritious options and increase the ratio from there. Setting up a smoothie station may be easier than one thinks. All you need is a strong blender, a few bags of frozen fruit, protein powder, greens and a milk alternative.
If going it alone, make sure you support yourself with fruits, veggies, nuts and healthy options readily available to keep you out of the junk food drawer.
Take Brain Breaks
Multitasking has a proven negative effect on brain health and productivity. Workplace wellness should encompass mindful work, staying focused on one task at a time whenever possible and consciously avoiding the temptation of frequent shifts to check your phone or the latest Instagram memes.
Remember that after 90 minutes of continuous work, your brain has reached its maximum efficiency. Setting up a water break every 90 minutes to get up and move will not only keep you properly hydrated but also give your brain a break and a chance to recharge.
Focus on Your Breathing
Another powerful tool to recharge the brain and reduce stress levels is deep diaphragmatic breathing. This is accessible at any time in your day and can have an immediate effect on your overall body chemistry, blood pressure and anxiety levels. It can also give you a chance to reset your posture in the process.
When sitting, bring your back away from the chair so you are sitting tall. Give a little chin tuck as you think of lifting the back base of your skull towards the sky to help lengthen the spine. To combat the rounded shoulders, bring your
shoulders up to your ears and then roll them back and down to open up the chest. Breathe in and out slowly through the nose, with your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth. Expand through the abdomen first, rather than raising your chest and shoulders, and continue to work on a longer, slower exhale.
Curate a Healthy Environment
Your physical environment can have a dramatic effect on your overall well-being. Adding fresh plants into the space has a multitude of benefits—not only can they improve mood and lower stress, but plants also directly impact and improve air quality. Local businesses like Mission Plant Company specialize in creating and maintaining healthy plantscapes, making it easy to incorporate and bring living greens into the workspace. In addition, air purifiers and salt lamps can be a smart addition to improve the air quality.
A healthy environment also includes the footprint you are making on the environment. Shifting to a more eco-conscious work environment has an impact locally and globally. Small steps can include changing from plastic water bottles or plastic water bottle tanks to a water filtration system. Using eco-friendly cleaning agents and soaps can help lower the toxic load on the body as well as the earth. Using an essential oil diffuser rather than artificial air fresheners can improve air quality and uplift your mood. Make sure to bring your own travel mug to your favorite coffee place and forgo single-use cups and straws. This simple act helps you reduce landfill waste and begins the shift toward a lower carbon footprint. Encouraging your workplace to do the same helps multiply that effect.
Making simple shifts in a holistic approach at your workspace can have a dramatic and cumulative effect on your overall health. Don’t save your healthy living for outside the office, bring it into the space and continue to flourish.