Do you find that your office is a sterile wasteland of mechanical zombie humans who mindlessly stare at their computer screens all day long?
I may have over-dramatized that metaphor, but you get my point!
Throughout this series of articles you will read various versions of the same idea. That idea being:
You spend most of your life at work – make it your nirvana! Enjoy your time with your peers, create lasting relationships, have fun, relax, eat well, exercise and live a happier life!
Want to do the maths?… Ignoring leap years, an individual who:
- Lives to 85
- Works 7 hours per day from the age of 18 through to 65
- Has 28 days holiday per year
- Has 104 days off for weekends per year
Spends 10.3% of his/her life working!
This percentage is a lot higher when you think about your “conscious life” (e.g. not asleep, not a baby, not in hospital or impotent, etc.).
By not making your workplace a healthier environment, you are wasting at least 10% of your life!
Implement these strategies and others mentioned in our work series to improve the 10% of your life that you are currently wasting!
1. Work in natural light
Studies have shown that natural light is beneficial for health, productivity and safety for people who work indoors. Now this isn’t just relevant for office workers. It includes students, school children, health care patients and also manual labourers.
So what benefits does natural light have you may ask… Well…
- Natural light is one of the few ways to boost vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that aids in calcium and phosphate absorption (minerals that are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles). No doubt that if you research vitamin D on your country’s national health website, it will recommend that you either get some sunlight or take supplements to ensure that you are absorbing an adequate amount of vitamin D.
- It has also been proven that natural light leads to the production of dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter if you’re scientific) that facilitates movement, memory, attention, pleasure and mood to name a few things .
- Studies suggest that natural light leads to enhanced productivity – sometimes as much as 40%.
- Natural light also increases the release of serotonin; the happy hormone that affects mood, appetite and sleep. Lower sunlight exposure may lead to lower serotonin levels, which has been linked to feelings of depression.
Natural light is, well, natural. If you operate in a more natural environment, your mind and body will respond in a more natural way. That is the aim! I want you to be healthy, natural humans not mechanical zombie humans!
And if you’re the boss, think of the energy saving!
2. Go green, literally
Ever heard of the NASA Clean Air Study? NASA’s scientists embarked on research to find how best to clean the air in space stations. They found that certain plants purified the air and helped fight off “sick building syndrome,” which can cause headaches, dizziness, sickness and irritations of eyes, ears and nose.
I know Wikipedia isn’t always the best source of information but for this study it provides a really useful table for your reference.
And if you don’t buy into the science behind this study at least plants will make your workplace look pretty!
3. Use non-toxic cleaning products
What you clean your surroundings with can have an immediate effect on how you feel. There are certain scents and chemicals, like bleach, that can make some people feel unwell and are often harmful.
There are many brands and DIY recipes available, you just have to know where to find them.
Why not have a cleaning hour where everyone helps to clean the office and their desk? This promotes teamwork, exercise, strong relationships and a clean/healthy environment; as well as saving money on cleaners and doing your bit for the planet! Trial it for a month… I challenge you!
4. Keep a water bottle at your desk
Dehydration is the silent assassin of productivity. In 2012, WebMD discussed the effects of mild dehydration and stated that while mental ability might not be affected, there is indeed an “increase in perception of task difficulty and lower concentration.”
Dehydration can also cause you to over-eat because thirst is often mistaken for hunger. So, try keeping a bottle of cool water at your desk and aim to consume your daily limit.
5. Caffeine control
Wading through the plethora of arguments about whether caffeine is good or bad for you is difficult. It’s challenging to determine whether the evidence in this field is based on genuine scientific studies, from independent scientists, or has been bankrolled by large coffee corporations.
If in doubt, I tend to default to national/governmental sources which often lead me on to independent studies.
So what did I find?
- Excess coffee intake can lead to unwanted symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia and a possible early grave! However, these results could well be skewed by other health factors (smoking, lifestyle, etc.)
- You shouldn’t drink more than 200mg of coffee per day if you are pregnant. High caffeine levels during pregnancy can affect babies’ growth and therefore birth weights due to its interference with blood flow in the placenta. This increases the risk of poor health in their future lives. Too much caffeine can also lead to a miscarriage.
- Coffee can be addictive. It can increase mental alertness and therefore performance by stimulating the central nervous system.
The hard truth is that because there are so many variables linked to health and there are so many studies backed by large corporate funding, it is difficult to distinguish whether caffeine has a positive or detrimental effect on your body. This means that you have to make the best decision you can, given what you know and listen to what your body tells you.
Are you happy to put something into your body that you don’t know the effects of? Are you happy to drink something that you will potentially get addicted to?
General advice for the average person is to consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day; however, the most sensible thing to do is to moderate your caffeine intake based on your bodies reaction to it. If your heart starts to race faster than Speedy Gonzalez wearing a jet pack, I think it is time to ease your caffeine intake a little.
Don’t succumb to the caffeine monster! There are other options out there. Why not try a green tea with mint for a healthy shot of antioxidants? And if you’re really impetuous why not add a squeeze of lemon juice?
6. Eat healthy balanced meals
Speaking of monsters, there is another gluttonous demon that you should be aware of – the simple carbohydrate monster! He’s the guy hiding in your cake, candy, syrup and other refined sugar products.
Simple carbs are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. This causes a spike in your blood sugar levels, which in turn leads to a blood sugar plummet. You know that groggy crashing feeling that you get when you sit back at your desk after lunch? Yes, that is your blood sugar levels plummeting!
Instead choose complex carbohydrates, protein and fats that are balanced, such as a lentil salad with avocado, or a sprouted grain sandwich filled with sweet potato, kale and cranberries.
7. Stop sitting – Move!
Sitting is getting a bad reputation nowadays and the science seems to be pointing to the fact that “sitting is killing you.”
According to this infographic, the average person sits around 9.3 hours a day but only gets 7.7 hours of sleep.
You can see from the stats that sitting is not brilliant for your health if you are doing it for long periods.
So what can we do?
Try some of our exercises explained in our ‘desk exercises’ article.
Get the boss to purchase ergonomic equipment, desks and chairs.
Take walks (see below).
Even fidgeting helps!
8. Walking meetings and phone calls
Walking meetings and taking phone calls whilst standing seem to be the fashion at the moment. People around the globe are taking to their feet in order to connect and make that next important business decision. You can now find dedicated communities promoting the benefits of walking meetings – offering guides and how to plan them.
I can certainly see how this works for some people as it takes you away from distractions in order to clear your mind and think. It also aids with circulation of nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Boost that brain power and boost your decision making ability.
A benefit of technology is that you can now walk and talk, walk and record, walk and video chat. Before we know it we will be having walking meetings with holograms! It may sound a bit sci-fi but it is coming!
If you have a potential client, an important customer or a trusted supplier coming to visit your office, show them around the building or to take them to places they may not have visited in the locality. It will certainly improve your relationship and they will remember you for being different.
Making your office a healthier place is simple… Sit by the window, add some plants, clean with natural products, drink water, control your caffeine, eat appropriately, move!
These little changes to your environment and your routines can make that 10% of your life much more pleasurable.
Progress is not achieved without action, so make a change today! Even if it is a small one!
Anything to add? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below!