For many of us, a typical weekday involves spending most of the daylight hours at the office.
While there are likely some things about your work spaces that you cannot change, there are a number of things within your control to either make your environment work against you, or work for you.
The following are six ideas to optimize your office toward both physical and mental health.
If you’re sitting, watch your positioning and your posture
Unfortunately, many jobs require sitting for a great majority of the day. The healthiest thing you can do in this situation is to get up, stretch and move as often as possible. Taking a walk – even a five minute walk – whenever you can helps to break up all that sitting, the excess of which has been linked to a number of health detriments, including a higher propensity towards chronic illness.
During the time that you are sitting, make sure that your chair is positioned properly. Position your feet so they are flat on the floor, and see to it that your thighs are not tilting up or down but are parallel to the ground. Sit up straight and avoid hunching your shoulders – you may have to adjust your arm rests if you use them.
If your office chair causes you discomfort or pain, even if you take frequent standing breaks, it may be worth it to invest in a quality chair that supports optimal posture.
Adjust your computer accordingly
When at your computer, make sure that your monitor is directly ahead of you, approximately one arms length away from your face. Make sure you are not tilting your chin up or down when looking at the screen, as this can lead to neck muscle strain over time. Place your mouse right next to your keyboard, so that you are not reaching at an awkward angle every time you click.
If you frequently answer calls while at your desk, place the phone as close to you as possible, so that you do not have to do an uncomfortable twist to answer it. However, if the calls are not constant, consider placing the phone at the other end of the office from where you are sitting, so that you have a reason to stand up and stretch your legs when it rings.
Consider a standing desk
With the dangers of prolonged sitting becoming increasingly well-known, many offices are switching over to standing desks. This does not have to be a fancy design; simply a sturdy table tall enough to position your computer and other workspace items at eye level is sufficient.
Standing while you work instead of sitting can greatly ease postural problems, which are responsible for nagging back, neck and leg cramps and strains, and may reduce the instances of headaches, as well.
Some desks on the market are adjustable, and can be placed in either a sitting or standing position. Other companies seeking to provide their employees an exercise opportunity while they work are supplying treadmill desks, where you can walk at a comfortable pace while doing your ‘desk work.’
It may be well-worth your time to talk to a manager or company owner about switching to standing, or, depending on where you work, mentioning treadmill desks as a way to boost the health of employees and management alike.
Add some plants for cleaner air
Poor indoor air quality can be a huge strain on your health, and chronic exposure can foster allergies, as well as respiratory issues and even heart trouble. Aside from opening a window (if possible) to let the fresh air flow through, consider adding some houseplants to your office. Plants not only produce oxygen and humidify the air, many have also been shown to purify the air.
Spider plants are a great, easy-to-care-for starter option. If you have a sunny space, consider a chrysanthemum or an aloe vera plant. Ivy has been found to be great with cleaning pollutants from the air, as have peace lilies and evergreens.
Illuminate your space in blue
Blue light, while not recommended in the evening as it can keep you awake, can increase alertness, boost reaction time and elevate your mood during the day. The best source of blue light, hands down, is natural sunlight. If you do not work in a sunlit space, however, LED lights are a great option for an indoor light source.
Aside from LED, full-spectrum fluorescent tubes can also be beneficial, as they are designed to mimic natural sunlight. Using these can reduce glare from your computer screen and help diminish eye fatigue throughout your day. If the lighting in your office is insufficient, consider switching it off and bringing in a few LED or full-spectrum lamps.
Try a little feng shui
Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of placement, which centers on creating harmony and optimal energy flow between you and your environment. Embracing its principles can help you feel more creative, energized and productive in your workspace.
One of the key principles of feng shui, whether in your home or office, is to get rid of clutter. Having clutter on your desk, on your chairs, or anywhere in your space can cause significant stress.
You may feel overwhelmed when you see huge piles of papers around, while keeping only what you need on your desk can clearly show you what you have to do, with an end to that day’s work in sight.
Clearing your space of clutter can help you to focus on the present, taking your mind off of old projects or past mistakes/stresses, and ease your anxiety level. Keeping walkways clear, and organizing your space so that it is easy to get around and do what you need to do is also important.
Once the clutter is gone, consider adding a few decorative items that are beautiful and meaningful to you, which make you feel positive and inspired when you look at them. Decorate your office with art pieces that invigorate you, in colors that are pleasant for you to look at. If you have the space, a small bubbling fountain can provide a great sense of tranquility.
Try making the above-listed changes, and see if you feel a bit better about heading to the office in the morning! And if you work at home, even better – since you probably have much more control of your environment.
-The Alternative Daily