Much has been written these days about the dangers of spending too long sitting down. You may even have heard it said that “sitting is the new smoking”.
Sitting for too long is said to cause the following:-
*increased blood pressure
*high blood sugar
*excess body fat around the waist
*abnormal cholesterol levels
You get the general picture. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of state-of-the-art standing desks where you literally stand in front of your desktop to work, or even desks where you can walk and exercise at the same time.
But how many businesses can afford to supply these to their staff? And what can you do when your job involves sitting down all day at a computer? Perhaps you work in a call centre or have an office role.
Not only does sitting for too long come with all the long-term risks mentioned above, sitting in a chair which does not properly support your back can give you problems and then there’s the general fatigue and lack of mental alertness which a lack of fresh air brings.
Add in tired, gritty eyes and possible dehydration if there’s no fresh water to hand or you don’t get time for a cuppa and it’s a recipe for poor health.
So what can you do to not only curb the effects of sitting all day, but stay healthy when you work in an office?
Here are some simple tips to try.
Have a healthy breakfast
Start the day with a healthy breakfast with some slow release carbs (e.g. porridge) or some protein (poached egg on toast). Sugary cereal will do nothing to keep you feeling full for very long.
Try to avoid the usual sugary sweets, biscuits and cakes. On the other hand, don’t be a total misery and always refuse the doughnuts and cupcakes the birthday boys and girls might offer. You don’t have to eat all of it (no, I’ve never managed that either) and don’t forget to return the favour. You don’t have to buy one for yourself (once again, I’ve never managed that either).
You could bring some fruit, cubed cheese or some almonds to snack on which should keep you going till lunch.
Drink plenty of water
I appreciate this is incredibly basic advice but how many of us actually do it? Mainlining on constant caffeine will leave you twitchy, hungry and dehydrated.
Take a break from the screen
Protect your eyes by taking regular screen breaks roughly every 20 minutes of so. This can be something simple like gazing out of the window for a few minutes. If you’re questioned you can say you’re just refining your mastery strategy for business domination.
Get up and walk around
My physio says that sitting in one position for longer than 45 minutes is asking for trouble – and he should know because he’s a football referee as well.
Do back exercises at home
You don’t need a fully equipped gym – just a well padded exercise mat and about 15 minutes. You can find some very simple, but effective back exercises on the NHS’s website. Bear in mind that you need to do these consistently, even (and this is key) if your back feels OK.
Invest in some back support
You can get back support cushions, wrist and foot rests. If you have problems talk to your HR department to see if there is anything they can supply.
Clean Your Desk
Yes I know. It’s not your job but since your keyboard, mouse and phone harbor germs, viruses and bacteria, frankly, I was quite happy to give my desk a weekly once-over with disinfecting wipes – particularly the phone!
There’s something immensely satisfying about it too because you can go through your filing trays and sort out that ‘wodge’ of post you’ve been avoiding at the same time.
Wash Your Hands
It never fails to astound me how many people seem to have no clue what a toilet flush does. I’m assuming these people just have a hole in the ground at home or a bucket. Washing your hands is vital – and slathering your hands in hand-sanitizer is a good idea too.
Wash your own cup
I’ve worked in offices where mugs were just dumped in bowl of lukewarm soapy water and left to ‘soak’ overnight. Your first morning cuppa would have the unmistakeable ‘tang’ of industrial washing up liquid and probably a colleague’s lipstick. Washing your own cup (even taking it home!) is a good idea.
And let’s not even think about the microwave. The same people who are toilet flush-averse seem to struggle with the idea that covering food means no baked bean or pasta sauce explosion. Yeuch.
Ask about Health & Safety Training
Lots of businesses these days train staff in-house to take on vital roles such as first-aiders and fire wardens. There is also a growing need for workplace health & safety experts, ideally located in-house as part of the management team, so that the working conditions of the staff can be consistently monitored and adapted as the business grows.
Whilst workplace health and safety is often outsourced, it is possible to study for a NEBOSH Health & Safety Qualification online. (NEBOSH = National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) and you may find that your company is willing to help you take your career down this route. You could suggest a provider such as Sheilds NEBOSH Training UK
It is up to your employer to ensure that you work in as safe an environment as possible. Your employer has a duty of care towards you. An employment contract is a two-way agreement.
But sometimes, life being what it is, it is just sensible to make sure that we are looking after ourselves properly and speaking up when we see things that aren’t right or are likely to endanger our colleagues.
You spend most of your waking hours at work. Make sure this time isn’t negatively affecting your health.