I‘ve had many a job along my career journey – from waitress, to sales assistant, call centre chick, to tea girl in a publishing house (stereotypical I know). Most of them were standing jobs that had me on my feet a lot, running from customer to customer – I didn’t even think about subscribing to a gym, because I got more than my fair share of cardio at work. But that was then. Today, our digital infrastructure, though exciting and innovative, tends to involve a lot more sitting and screen time. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing – there are loads of ways to combat the effects of sitting. It’s all about the ergonomics, listening to your body, and giving yourself the healthiest experience you can in your daily work routine. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly doable, and here are a few things to watch out for.
All that sitting
So you’re sitting at your desk for nine hours a day – that’s never going to be healthy in the long run, so be mindful about how you sit and how long you sit for.
1. Your screen should be raised to eye level, so you’re not looking up, down, or at an angle consistently – as this will likely result in eye strain, or neck strain. It’s also important to have your feet planted on the floor, with a 90 degree angle at the hip – no crossing the legs, or sitting awkwardly on the chair (guilty as charged) because this puts unnecessary strain on the muscles, and over time, will impact your posture and the overall functioning of those muscles.
2. Your office chair should have different options for support, and adjustments to suit your body and posture. Play around with different variations until you find the right fit.
3. Try a stability ball; you will need to put more effort into sitting up straight, as well as balancing on the ball, which comes from your core stability and engaging the abdominal muscles. Don’t sit on the ball all day, as this will be tiring for the body – but intermittent bursts, and changing things up will hugely benefit your posture.
It’s so simple to make a standing desk – I just checked out Pinterest DIY options and designed a ‘bar style’ workspace, comprising of a large plank of wood and some legs – voila, you have yourself a standing desk area! Just find yourself a power point and plug yourself in. Standing work stations make great ‘floating desks’ as well as spaces for quick group huddles when you don’t require a lengthy meeting.
Take regular breaks
You should be getting up and taking a little walk around every 30-60 minutes – even if you’re just going to the water cooler to refill your bottle, or taking a quick bathroom break. If you can get outside for a short stroll around, even better – or take your meetings outside (where possible). Many companies have started to move away from the traditional construct of sitting at a desk all day, and it has shown to help with overall productivity too!
Stretch it out
Stretching is totally underrated and so important in everything that we do. You wake up, you stretch, you work out, you stretch, you sit on your ass for nine hours a day – you should be stretching. Your muscles will become stiff and tense when placed in a static position for hours on end, and stretching will help to wake the muscles up, and give them a little boost of energy.
Stretch your legs, arms and back on a regular basis. And don’t forget the less obvious ones: your fingers and your eyes too, seeing as you are constantly typing and looking at the screen. The muscles aiding eye movement and finger dexterity need a break too, so give them a little rest and take time to stretch and recalibrate. It’s really common to get cramps in the fingers and hands – not to mention repetitive strain injury. Eye strain can lead to headaches – a very common symptom of excessive screen time, so make sure to readjust your gaze by looking at different things around the room, at different distances, to take your focus out of its singular gaze.
Work can be stressful, particularly around deadline week, which is why taking breaks is so important. It’s also important to take a step back from time to time, to assess the situation and it’s gravity. More often that not, the situation is not life or death, and is unlikely to mark the end of the world.
Meditation is an effective way to deal with stressful situations, and it can be done anywhere – you don’t have to be sat in a yoga ashram on top of a mountain (though this may be favourable) – you just need to be mindful, aware and take the time to breathe. Find an empty meeting room to take a breather in, or go and sit in your car for 10 minutes – and don’t forget to crack a window.
Organisation of space
This one seems pretty simple, and it is. The way you organise your space can impact your productivity. I am one of those ‘organised mess’ types – and it tends to work for me, but it’s not one I highly recommend for work.
1. Focus on minimalism: Less is definitely more when it comes to your work station.
2. Keep things organised: File away your documents (not that anybody uses paper anymore), organise your desktop, and keep everything backed up!
3. Positive reinforcement: Whether it’s a photo of your family, or a motivational mantra that puts a smile on your face – have it at your desk as a little reminder on those days that test your patience.
4. Set the mood: Make sure that the lighting works in your favour, and have enough light around you to avoid eye strain when looking at the screen.
5. Air conditioning: Avoid sitting directly under an AC vent, well, because a constant draft just isn’t very good for you.
Move Move Move
You’ve got to keep moving throughout the day; whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking further away from the office so you get some steps in before you get to work, or leaving your car at home and taking public transport part of the way, so you move around more. Going from bed, to car, to desk is not a healthy combination; even if you do an hour of fitness a day, you still need to be fairly active during those working hours to really feel the benefits.
These are all super simple steps to keeping a healthy work environment, but they only make a difference if you make them a daily habit. Try changing one or two things at a time to see if they make a difference – you might be pleasantly surprised. It’s a new year after all.