The average person will spend upwards of 90,000 hours at work throughout their lifetime. That amounts to one-third of the typical lifespan. Not only does that mean that where you choose to work will have a large impact on your daily happiness, but it also means that the habits you form around work and the lifestyle your workplace allows will have a significant impact on your overall physical health.
Most offices aren’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Computer-bound jobs require us to spend 8-10 hours at our desk everyday. Catered lunches tend to be rich, heavy, and lacking in healthy options. After-work commitments get in the way of going to to the gym. The list goes on.
That puts the burden on you, the employee, to create routines and structure within the norms of the workplace that allow you to be to be as healthy as you can be. That means making time for healthy habits, making the effort to choose the healthy option even when a less healthy alternative is more convenient, and not giving in to the pressure to conform and behave like the rest of your colleagues – even when making different decisions makes you stand out.
Here are 5 ways you can start to create healthier habits at work:
- Stand Up and Move
Sitting at our desks all day long is bad for our bodies – it causes back pain, muscle deterioration, slows our metabolism, and increases our risk for cancer. Use a height-adjustable sit-stand desk and an anti-fatigue mat to make getting up and moving during the workday convenient and natural. You’ll experience improved posture and increased energy.
- Hold Walking Meetings
The majority of meetings last for too long, involve too many people, and accomplish too little. Start holding “walking meetings” instead of the usual conference room gatherings. Walking meetings kill multiple birds with one stone: Fewer people attend, the meetings tend to be shorter, and the increased blood flow to your brain stimulates ideas, making the meetings more productive as well.
- Stock Nutritious Snacks
How many meetings have you attended that had a tray of pastries, bagels, cookies, or bags of chips in the center of the conference table? If you’re like most American office workers, the number is probably too many to count. To decrease the likelihood of succumbing to the afternoon munchies and reaching for a sugar-laden pastry (or two), stock your desk drawer with plenty of nutritious snacks. Keeping your brain fed with nutritious foods will increase your productivity and make you less susceptible to the lures of the unhealthy snacks in meetings.
- Reach for Water
The typical American workplace is fueled by a steady stream of caffeine. Whether it’s a meeting over coffee, casual chat near the coffee machine, or pouring your third cup before sitting down to a difficult report, it’s normal for employees to nurse a continuously refilled cup of coffee all day long at work. While that coffee might make you feel productive and focused in the short-term, in the long-term it can lead to energy crashes and dehydration.
To encourage yourself to drink more water during the day, keep a reusable water bottle at your desk. You could even keep a stash of fresh fruit or herbs to flavor the water and make it more exciting to drink. Drinking water is also a double-win – refilling your bottle also gets you up out of your seat for a couple minutes of movement.
- Find Outlets for Stress
With more and more Americans exceeding the normal 40-hour work week, it’s no surprise that stress levels are mounting. To keep the stress from getting to you, find outlets for stress throughout your workday. Maybe that means taking a brisk walk over your lunch hour, taking your laptop outside to work on a nice sunny day, or eating your lunch with a coworker rather that at your desk. Whatever relaxes you, make sure that you’re making time for it during the day.
There’s no getting around the fact that we spend a lot of time at work. Let’s make that time count.