Healthy Work Environment

Like it or not, we spend most of our lives working.

Here’s how to improve your work environment:

Take breaks

Sitting for hours each weekday is bad for your health.

Avoid keeping a glass with water on your desk. Instead, keep it empty. Get up and go to the kitchen every 30-45 minutes, pour just a few swallows, drink it, move around and get back to your desk.

If possible, take a longer break during the day (30-60 minutes) to walk outside, in nature or parks, avoiding thinking hard about specific work problems. When you get back to the office, you will probably see new solutions to the problem you were struggling with. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter.

Single-task

Our brains are not built for multi-tasking. Focus on one task as a time. Example tasks include not only meetings and project work, but also “process email”.

Prioritize your most important and difficult tasks early in the day.

Avoid interruptions

Avoid interruptions, by closing your office door while working on tasks. Working in open space? Establish rules with your colleagues, such as “Don’t interrupt while I’m wearing a headset. Send an email instead, and I’ll come to your desk in up to 1hr”. Listen to relaxing music or ambient sounds.

Turn off all notifications (email, apps…), except calendar and phone ringing. If there’s an emergency, somebody will call or shout in the office. Everything else can wait until you decide, not when notifications pop up. This will also increase your productivity.

Reduce stress

Excess stress can cause real physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, increased blood pressure, chest pain, and trouble sleeping.

To improve on something, you need to measure it first. Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Try to go down to the root cause of each stressor by repeatedly asking “Why…”. Root causes might include fear of not being able to provide for your family, or childhood pressure to be perfect,or punishments for mistakes. If you discover deeper causes, work on addressing those.

Discuss with your manager, and maybe colleagues, work and personal factors which significantly increase your stress. The purpose isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job. Clarify expectations and goals, and make sure they are achievale in reasonable timeframes.

Learn to say “No”. Be polite, but firm. Explain to others that you are overcommitted and that you must say No. If your boss asks for more, instead of saying No, discuss priorities. Acknowledge that everything being requested of you might not fit in the workday, and clarify which are top priorities.

Don’t sweat over things out of your control.

Form positive, genuine relationships.

If you tried various other solutions without success, consider talking to a good psychologist, or switching jobs. One of the top reasons for leaving a job is having a bad manager.

Most important, don’t take your work and stress home. Discuss it with your partner, but don’t be grumpy with your family because of your work. It’s so much easier to shout at a partner or child, than at your boss. Don’t.

Standing/Treadmill desk

Using a standing desk? (well done!)

  • take breaks to sit
  • take breaks to lay down on your back while pedalling with feet in the air, as on a bicycle (helps blood flow and warms joints)
  • use an anti-fatigue mat
  • prevent varricose veins by wearing thigh-high compression socks, even if you have no signs now
  • consider a treadmill desk, as movement is better for your feet than standing

Using a treadmill desk? (excellent!) Wear good running shoes, rather than office shoes. You’re walking a few kilometers / miles each day, so it’s important to protect your joints and back.

Look into the distance

Staring at a monitor most of the workday? Take breaks to look into the distance. In Singapore, 80% of young adults are now myopic. The cause isn’t computer screens per se, but too much continuous time spent with eyes focused at short distance (computers, books, indoors). That’s why outdoor time is extremly important for children.