5 ways your office is hurting your health
From the communal candy bowl to the long periods of sitting, offices can hamper your healthy lifestyle. Here’s how to tackle five common unhealthy aspects of the office
People who put in long hours and are stressed because of work often hit a breaking point and burnout is the result. The symptoms of burnout, including disinterest in work, fatigue and cynicism, can be similar to depression. What’s distinctive about burnout, however, is that you feel much better when you’ve had a break from work and you can trace your frustration to a lack of control or support in the workplace.
It’s a common scourge. According to a 2011 survey of Canadian executives, 54 percent of managers cited burnout and morale as a top concern.
How can you deal with burnout? The Mayo Clinic recommends figuring out exactly what’s been stressing you at work, and then having a conversation with your manager. The tone of the conversation should be honest, calm and constructive. Focus on solutions: Do you need a mentor? Would having more input into decisions help? Perhaps there’s a way to better distribute the workload?
2. Poor posture
Bad posture can put extra stress on the back and shoulders, and also lead to a more stooped posture in old age. The Mayo Clinic recommends putting your chair at a height where you can rest both feet flat on the floor and keep your knees at the same level as your hip. You should also sit back in your chair and keep the top of your head stretched to the ceiling.
If you need a reminder, why not stick a Post-it note in a spot you’ll see it? Or try the Lumoback; it’s a device worn around the hips that vibrates when you slouch, reminding you to sit tall.
3. Unhealthy office eats
It’s easy to make an afternoon sugary treat a part of your routine. But having just one extra 150-calorie soda or muffin “adds 10 lbs to the average person’s final weight each year,” says Joshua Duvauchelle, a personal trainer in Vancouver, B.C. Bring healthier snacks – like carrots and hummus or cheese and crackers – so you don’t fulfill your 3:00 p.m. craving at the local café’s pastry section.
Be especially aware of the office candy bowl. One study showed that having a candy dish in close proximity, and visible in a clear container (rather than an opaque container) caused secretaries to eat more candies than they normally would. So don’t be afraid to ask that a candy stash be kept in a spot you don’t see throughout the day.
4. Too much sitting
In recent years, scientists have begun to understand more precisely why long periods of sitting is bad for your health.
For example, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2010 followed more than 120,000 people and found that those who sat for more than six hours a day had a greater risk of fatal diseases associated with obesity, in comparison to those who sat for three hours or less a day. According to the authors, one explanation is that the enzymes associated with metabolizing food become less active during long periods of sitting.
According to endocrinologist Dr. James Levine, you can engage your muscles – and keep your metabolism active – through “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” or N.E.A.T. That basically means getting up and stretching every 15 minutes, touching your toes, rotating your spine, etc. There are also plenty of free apps that send reminders or alerts to take stretching breaks.
5. A disrupted circadian clock
Joanna Runciman, author of the Radiant Woman’s Handbook, says we need some sunlight so that our body clocks can tell the time. Circadian rhythms regulate everything from metabolism to sleep. If you’re in a windowless office, get outside for your lunch hour and, ideally, your morning and afternoon break. You’ll feel more energized from the brisk walk, and sleep better, too.