I think that probably the vast majority of us work in some sort of office space, whether it’s in your home or an office building. This leads to a lot of sitting down all day and letting our health slide. Luckily it’s not hard to stay healthy at a desk job – you just have to put a little mindfulness into it!
When you read some of these tips, you might find that you think, “well duh. That’s pretty obvious.” But then ask yourself how many of them you do consistently. I know that unless I remind myself to do these things, I will sometimes forget. So, consider this my reminder to you. I know that you probably know all of this, but I want to make sure we all remember to actually follow through so that we can be our healthiest selves even when we’re on the job.
In full disclosure, when I first sit down at my desk a few minutes before 10 am, there is no water in sight. At that point I am firmly clutching my cup of coffee. I don’t drink coffee at home before leaving for work because by the time I get the kids to school and commute on the bus to work, my bladder would be in full complaint mode. However, as soon as I arrive downtown, I buy myself a medium dark roast (one milk, one sugar), and bring it into the office with me.
That being said, once I’ve finished that coffee – usually by 10:30 at the latest – I will take my water bottle to the cooler and fill it up. I try to do that twice per shift to make sure I’m staying hydrated. I talk on the phone all day long so sometimes it’s a challenge to fit in the sips I need but at the same time, all that chit chat makes my mouth and throat dry so I’m pretty encouraged to try.
Keeping hydrated will help you to avoid fatigue, headaches, even nausea. Any time I feel a little bit “off” I reach for my water first to see if that’s what the underlying problem is.
Stand up and stretch regularly.
First of all, if you’re following the water advice, eventually you’ll need to take a stroll to the bathroom, so at the very least that will help the cause. Seriously though, it’s really easy to sit in that chair all day long without ever moving because it’s also really easy to get lazy. At the end of your shift though, you’ll be wondering why everything aches so much. Too much sitting. That’s why. Or at least part of the reason why.
Not every job allows you to walk all around the place. I have read advice that says, “instead of emailing your co-worker, walk to their desk and talk to them instead.” That would be great, but it’s not always feasible. I can’t just roam during my shift; many jobs require you to stay at your desk as much as possible, whether you’re working a reception desk, doing customer service, or any number of other similar jobs. If you can’t walk around, at least get up out of your seat. Stand up, wiggle your toes and your fingers, maybe do a few discreet stretches (this is not necessarily the time for a downward facing dog, but some gentle neck and shoulder stretches would be great).
Don’t stay at your desk on breaks.
Similarly, resist the temptation to stay at your desk when you CAN walk around. Break time is absolutely the time to really stretch those legs by moving. Take a lap or two around your office, walk over to chat with a friend, even just going into the break room and standing by the window while you have a little snack is great.
I have to heed my own advice. I do usually leave my desk for my breaks, but too often I walk to the break room (which is really close to where I sit) and then I lounge in one of the chairs in there. It’s not a great habit when you consider I sit on a bus to commute both ways and sit all day while I’m working. Do I really need to sit on my break too? No. No, I do not.
I have also started to develop a bad habit of eating my lunch at my desk. It’s not because I’m working through lunch (and if you are doing that, stop doing that right now. You need to take a break from working! Unless you’re doing it once in awhile so that you can leave early, stop working through lunch!). However, I have been heating up my lunch in the microwave, and then bringing it back to my desk so I can scroll through Facebook or read blogs while I eat. It’s been saving me on using up my phone’s battery charge but it’s not a great habit.
Get out of the office if you can.
Is it a nice day? If you have the chance, I suggest heading outside for at least one of your breaks. It can be hard to come back in when it’s beautiful and sunny, but it really will lift your mood and re-energize you, especially if it’s an afternoon break when you might otherwise be slumping a bit.
If it’s raining but I’m just itching to get out of the office, I’m lucky enough to have some pedways that I can walk through. I almost get the illusion of being outside, but I stay dry. If your office is in a mall, you could walk around that for a little bit, or if it’s a large building you can hit the stairs for a few flights. Either way, you get moving and get away from the buzz of your office space.
Do you work from home? Get out and walk around your block!
Make sure your monitor is at eye level.
We’re always reminded to try to maintain good posture, but do you know how hard it is to do that when you are either looking up at your monitor, or worse, looking down at it? It can easily lead to slouching in your seat and it puts an incredible amount of pressure on your neck. When you’re finished work for the day, do you find that your neck and shoulders are super stiff? Check your monitor height. It should be placed so that you can look straight on at it.
It’s an easy fix if your monitor is not currently at eye level. If it’s too high, lower the stand it’s on or raise your chair and keyboard tray accordingly. If it’s too low and you can’t raise it any higher, try stacking it on something – an actual monitor stand, a box, a pile of books, whatever you need to get it to the height you require.
Look around to rest your eyes.
Speaking of your monitor, that headache you sometimes experience may have nothing to do with dehydration if you’re drinking water regularly. It could be because of eye strain though. If you’re staring at a screen all the livelong day like I do, one of the best things you can do for yourself is look at something else every so often. Turn away and let your vision focus gently on something 10 to 20 feet away. Then look at something really far away. Look out the window, look at a co-worker, let your vision soften completely, or even close your eyes.
The break will do you so much good.
What are you eating?
If you work outside the home there can be a huge temptation to eat out every day. My office is directly over a food court. It would be SO EASY to go buy myself lunch every day. On the other hand, most of the choices aren’t overly healthy, and the ones that are cost a small fortune. I’d either be overspending or eating food that will not serve me well in any way.
The majority of the time I bring my lunch from home. I know that some people do amazing food prep. Just go on Instagram and search for #foodprep and you’ll be super inspired. I don’t do this though. I think it’s amazing but I just have no desire to spend any of my Sunday cooking up a week’s worth of lunches. However, we always have leftovers from supper, so I take some of that in a container to heat up at work. Our meals are healthy more often than not, save for our Friday night pizzas and the occasional busy-night-chicken-strips, so that means my lunch is also healthy.
I do go down to the food court once in awhile to get something as a treat or when we just don’t have any leftovers. Sometimes that means Indian or Korean takeout, sometimes it means a greasy burger and salty fries from Mickey D’s, but since it’s not my everyday experience, it doesn’t blow up my budget or my digestive system.
Those are my tips for staying healthy at a desk job.
Now it’s your turn! What are YOUR tips?
PS – Are we connected over on Bloglovin? Because we really should be!