Wellbeing

Four Ways To Be Healthier At Work Today

When you’re busy kick starting your career, the last thing you want is to be stalled by illness or injury. Even if you’ve got a great exercise routine and diet, how you spend your time at work will have a big impact on your overall health. Here are four tips to keep you on top.

#1 Understand ergonomics

Whether you’re working a desk job or on your feet, understanding how to have good posture and a well set up workspace can help prevent potentially debilitating injuries that require you to take time off work to recover. Which, ouch.

Painful things like repetitive strain injuries (RSI), carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain can all result from a poor workplace set up. If you work at a desk, it’s actually pretty easy to arrange your workspace to allow you to sit and work comfortably, making sure the height of your chair, keyboard and monitor are all suited to your body.

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Make sure you take breaks from sitting down and stretch out your body. Standing up requires work from the muscles in your legs, back and abs, and burns up to 21 per cent more kilojoules than sitting down. If you’ve struck it lucky in the employment stakes, your work might be willing to provide you with a sit to stand workstation that will allow you to stand up for some of your work day, using excess kilojoules and helping to prevent you from gaining weight and being at increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Those whose work requires them to stand will tell you that no matter how cushiony your footwear, being on your feet all day can put a strain on your body. Safe Work Australia encourages employers to provide workers with anti-fatigue matting, while recommending that workers change posture often and take frequent breaks from standing.

#2 Get moving

This one’s a bit of a bummer: even if you’ve got the best of intentions and you exercise outside of work, studies show that being predominantly sedentary at work can contribute to health problems including musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.

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Here’s a way to combat it: if you spend your workday sitting at a desk, driving or operating machinery, take control of how much time you spend sedentary by scheduling regular movement breaks. Take a few minutes to stop work, stand up and move around.

Be creative and make these breaks useful. Use your break from sitting to walk over and talk to a colleague you might otherwise have emailed or called, or offer to collect everyone’s printing or pick up supplies. Every time you stand up, go grab a drink of water (because you probably need to drink more than you think), or take an ‘eye break’ by doing some eye gymnastics. Just don’t accidentally make weird eye contact with your boss.

#3 Lunchbreaks, leave and leaving on time

Research by The Australia Institute shows that millions of working Australians routinely skip their lunch break, while nearly half of those who do have lunch eat it while they work. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’re guilty of it too.

Taking a break for lunch – and that means a real break, not a spill-food-on-your-keyboard-while-you-tackle-emails break – can reduce physical and mental fatigue, and help you deal better with stress when you’re back on the job.

If you let yourself go hungry over lunchtime, you’re more likely to make unhealthy food choices later in the day (like a visit to the vending machine) when you’re desperate for a quick fix to make you feel full. Make lunch a priority instead, and pack a healthy lunch or learn how to buy healthy options.

Australians might have a reputation for slacking off and taking ‘sickies’, but it turns out we’re actually not great at taking leave. When you’re snowed under by emails or your to-do list seems never ending, it can seem like taking leave is an impossible dream. But taking your annual leave can actually make you a more efficient employee when you’re back in the office.

Taking leave is an integral part of creating a healthy work/life balance. Like a long lunchbreak, taking a day, week or month off can help you manage workplace stress and reset physically and mentally.

On the subject of life outside the workplace: it’s time to start going home on time. The number of Australian workers staying on after their scheduled workday ends is so large, there’s now a day set aside as Go Home On Time Day.

But one day out of a year of late nights and early mornings won’t make much difference to your health. Endeavour to leave work when your shift or scheduled hours end as often as possible, and seek help from your manager or boss if your workload is unmanageable.

If you run a business or are self-employed, it can be even harder to switch off your ‘work brain’. Make sure work-related stress isn’t creeping up to unhealthy levels by setting work hours, scheduling breaks and days off, and by trying techniques like mindfulness to help yourself stay calm.

#4 Communicate about your health

Thriving, efficient workplaces require healthy, happy employees. But some workers worry that taking a sick day will make them look slack, or that they’ll miss too much work, and come to work sick instead.

Next time you’re wondering whether you should go to work sick or not, remember that there’s nothing worse than being the person who goes to work sick, coughs all over the place and infects everyone else. Taking a sick day when you’re unwell might help you recover more quickly and keep the whole team from going down with a bug.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and can impact your ability to do your job well. You can contribute to creating a mentally healthy environment at your workplace by communicating honestly about your health and encouraging others to do the same.

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If your job is impacting your mental health, which could mean it is contributing to stress, anxiety, depression or you’re experiencing the effects of witnessing a traumatic event, it’s important to treat your symptoms seriously. Talk to your GP about how you’re feeling and find out how to talk to your employer about your health.

Tips with thanks to Queensland Health.