12 Ways to Make Your Office Better for Your Health
But whether you work from a home office or sit in a corporate cubicle, there are things you can do to make your workplace better for your health and wellbeing. Here's how to give your office space a health makeover, according to the experts.
Remind yourself to sit less
Computer programs like Move for iOS or Big Stretch Reminder for Windows can remind you to take breaks at regular intervals; some even provide suggestions for stretches and exercises you can do at your workspace. Can't install software on your work machine? Download an app to your smartphone, or use the free website RegularBreaks.com.
Clear the air
You may not be able to change furnishings or ventilation system at your job, but perhaps you can let in some fresh air by keeping windows open while you work. If that's not an option, consider getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your desk.
Try a standing desk
You can even make a DIY standing desk if you don't have the space or resources for a real one; just be sure to keep your computer monitor at eye level, and your arms bent at 90 degrees to reach the keyboard, to avoid neck and arm pain.
Paint your walls green
Can't paint your space? Wallpapering your cube with a green backdrop or adding green elements to your desk may also be helpful, Augustin says. And whatever you do, she adds, avoid red; it's been shown to negatively affect analytical performance.
Add a plant
Opt for green, leafy plants, rather than cactiwhose spikes can create the opposite of a relaxed feelingor flowers with a strong scent, which can be distracting or irritating. Some plants, like the sansevieria, may even improve air quality in your office.
Display (a few) personal items
"Pick out three or four things that are significant to youlike a family photo or an award you're particularly proud ofand make sure those are in your view," she says. "But remember that the more stuff you add to your desk, the more your brain has to constantly scan and keep track of. Working in a crowded space can be mentally exhausting, even if you don't realize it."
Skip candles and air fresheners that use artificial scents (and release potentially irritating chemicals), and opt for an essential oil diffuser that delivers a subtle, natural aroma. Keep in mind, though, that any scent may cause irritation or allergic reactions. If breathing in a scent all day bothers you, try sucking on lemon candies while you work, instead.
Stop eating at your desk
Sitting down to lunch away from your desk won't just keep crumbs out of your keyboard; it can also help reset your brain for an afternoon of productivity. Plus, it can stop you from eating mindlessly while you work or surf the Internet. "We are not great at multi-tasking," says Dr. Graham. "If you're eating while distracted, you are much more likely to overeat."
Pay attention to posture
Sitting all day isn't the healthiest thing for you, but slouching all day is even worse. "Posture is very important, both to health and to workplace performance," says Dr. Graham. "Sitting up tall gives you a sense of accomplishment, while slouching and slumping make you feel tired and lazy." On top of that, hunching over a computer is a leading cause of back pain.
Invest in (or ask your boss to provide you with) an ergonomic desk chair that supports correct posture. You can also try a gadget like the Lumo Lift, a tiny sensor that pins to your shirt and vibrates when it senses you slouching forward.
Squeeze in mini workouts
Even if you can't fit in a full workout over your lunch break, you can still do some simple stretches and strength moves right in your office. Keeping small workout props, like hand weights or resistance bands, within eyesight can encourage you to take exercise breaks throughout the day. "And even if you don't have equipment, you can do things like chair yoga or standing push-ups, using nothing but your office furniture," says Dr. Graham.
Sitting on an exercise ball can also help engage your core muscles while you work, but make sure you don't slouch forward while you're using it. To keep this trick from backfiring, swap out your desk chair for just 10 to 20 minutes at a time and pay close attention to your form.
Take your pet to work
"Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace," the study authors said in a university news release; it's also important to take into consideration coworkers who may be allergic to pets.
Adjust your lighting
If windows aren't an option, consider the temperature of your office lighting. "Cooler, bluish light is generally good for analytical thinking, while warmer bulbs are better for socializing and interaction with other people," says Augustin. Having a desk lamp you can turn on and off, rather than just one overhead light, can also help reduce eyestrain.