You and I probably have many things in common, but one is likely the continual use of technology throughout our workdays.
The amount of jobs available these days that don’t involve ceaseless use of technology for long spans of the day are becoming fewer and fewer.
In an ideal world, I’m sure we’d all love a perfectly balanced career that allows us to move when we feel antsy and stay planted at our desk when we need the downtime. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.
We’ve adopted a few strategies here at Athena to help with a lengthy day at your desk, and while they’re far from perfect, we hope they help!
The first thing to examine is your workspace. This is a major influence on a healthy workspace and one that's often the hardest to change, as a lot of these choices are made by your employer and not by you.
Take natural light for instance - it would be ideal to have as much natural light as possible in your personal work space, but barring taking a sledgehammer to the drywall next to your desk, this can be tough to change. Many studies have been completed that reinforce the importance of natural light as it affects your mood, alertness and sleep cycle.
Many North Americans can spend up to 90 per cent of their adult lives indoors, and this can have long term effects on human health and biological functions.
If you don’t have access to natural light via a window, request that your office change your bulbs to be Full Spectrum. It may cost a few extra bucks, but tell your management you’ll make that back with less trips to the coffee machine.
On a similar note, you can also help by adding a few strategically placed plants at your desk. Obviously the size and type depends on how much sunlight your desk receives, but there are plant types to fit a wide spectrum, from Spider Plants to Golden Pothos.
So while it may seem cliché to have a small potted plant on your desk, studies have shown that plants can reduce anxiety, increase attentiveness and raise overall productivity in the long run, or even help alleviate seasonal depression.
Lastly, keeping space on your desk is equally as important as having the necessary material you need to do your work. It’s not something many people like to actively do, especially with a hefty workload, but it’s important to keep some clear space as there are studies linking cluttered workspaces to higher levels of stress.
This may be due to the fact that a busy space correlates to a very busy job, but keeping it clear will no doubt help keep your mind and work straight.
Liquids are key to our wellbeing. Depending on your gender, recommendations on daily litres of water consumed can vary but typically average between two to three liters per day.
Personally I know there’s very little chance I’ll drink that much water while sitting at my desk, partially because it’s a hassle to fill your bottle that often, and secondly due to the fact it slowly slips to the back of your mind while also doubling the number of trips you need to take to the restroom.
But it’s something worth striving for nonetheless. If you wait until you feel thirsty to refill your water bottle it’s somewhat too late.
Less obvious signs of thirst (that often get blamed on other elements) include dry lips, fatigue, irritability and increased heart rate. Instead of waiting until you’re thirsty, it’s best to keep the liquids flowing consistently throughout the day.
After a while water can get boring, so if you can, bring some lemons and keep them in the communal fridge. Or even better, convince your team to pitch in for a Soda Stream! Can’t go wrong with some extra fizz in your life.
This one doesn’t have to be about the typical mathematics that go into most ergonomic conversations where you need 90 degrees here and 1.5 feet there. We’ll leave those to your workplace health and safety committee.
This one is more about common sense. It doesn’t feel great to sit all day, and for anyone who has held a job at in retail, it doesn’t feel great to stand all day either.
It’s a simple little investment, but if you can convince your team to splurge, there are combination sitting / standing desks that automatically raise and lower with the push of a button. Grab an inexpensive stool for sitting while you’re there, and you’re all set my friend!
Just give it a Google and you’ll see differing opinions on the benefits of standing versus sitting all day, and vice versa. One thing most people will agree on is that the benefit comes from doing both.
Movement is really the key, and while I don’t think I’ll ever invest in a treadmill desk, having the option to sit or stand throughout the day is head and shoulders above staying sedentary from 9 to 5.
Lastly, just like your home, your workspace should feel comfortable. It should feel like you. So while it helps to keep the space fairly clear for work, it’s important to have the personal touches that make you feel at home. Here's to your improved workplace health!