Sitting at a desk all day, staring at a computer screen, eyes strained and shoulders slumped —sound like you?
Health Impacts of the Office
The typical American spends nearly a quarter of their week at work. Most of us, however, don’t think about the toll that work takes on our health. Many people neglect their own well-being—sleeping less, eating unhealthy foods, neglecting relationships with friends and family—to get ahead at work.
Everything from how we sit to the indoor air quality in our office can impact how we feel, both physically and mentally. What’s more, prolonged stress and a sedentary job can result in weight gain, headaches, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack. Studies have also shown that people who work more than 11 hours a day have an increased risk of depression as compared to people who work seven or eight hours a day.
Simple Steps to Improving your Health at the Office
Luckily, there are four simple ways to improve your health at work:
- Take a break: Studies have shown that standing or walking for 5 minutes every hour during the work day can have positives impacts on our health, including increased focus and attention, reduced hunger and an improved mood. Consider hosting a standing meeting or taking a conference call from your cell phone while walking around the block.
- Climb the stairs: Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator is a great way to improve your fitness. Studies have shown that walking up stairs for just a few minutes every day can stop the average middle age weight gain and can half the heart attack risk over 10 years. If your office doesn’t have stairwell access, talk to building management about opening the stairs between floors.
- Eat healthy: Eating healthy foods can decrease the risk of heart disease, strokes, obesity and diabetes. Instead of grabbing a mid-afternoon bag of chips, go for something healthier like an apple or a granola bar.
- Sit up straight: Slouching all day can have a dramatic effect on your physical well-being. Sitting up straight, keeping your computer monitor 20-30 inches away from your eyes and typing with your arms parallel to the floor, can reduce your risk of back and shoulder pain and carpel tunnel injuries.
Wellness in the Workplace
Many employers and building owners/operators are seeing an increase in awareness about wellness in the workplace and are making health and well-being amenities a priority. It is becoming common to test indoor air quality, install standing desks, offer healthy snacks and provide employees with fitness memberships.
Many office spaces are also going after rigorous third-party wellness certifications, including WELL, Fitwel and RESET. WELL and Fitwel take holistic approaches to wellness in the workplace, focusing on prerequisites and optional credits ranging from noise reduction, access to fitness, healthy food guidelines and health and well-being education. RESET certification focuses on the quality of indoor air with requirements including continual indoor air quality tracking and monitoring and providing real-time results to building occupants. By achieving a wellness certification, building owners and operators are signaling to existing and prospective tenants that extra thought was put into the design and operation of their office space, with a focus on health and well-being.
Creating a healthier workplace doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and making simple changes can have dramatic results. Employers and building owners/operators have reported an increase in employee retention and productivity and employees have reported feeling healthier and more satisfied in their new office space, demonstrating the benefits of building and certifying healthy office spaces. It is important to take care of your physical and mental well-being at work — use this as your reminder to take a deep breath, stretch and stand up!