Is your office environment out to get you? Here are some common problems and top health hacks to help keep you well
You don’t go out at lunch
“Often there is a very strong temptation to skip a lunch break to catch up with work, however this can be counter-productive; regular breaks have many advantages both physically and mentally and can also have a positive impact on individual and team performance,” says Dr Dimitrios Paschos, consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health (recognitionhealth.com).
“There are many reasons why you should not skip natural breaks and especially lunch time ones. Mental performance drops if we don’t take breaks; decision making becomes slower, attention levels wane and thinking can become more rigid. You’re also more likely to eat unhealthy food when you stay at your desk, which can not only affect health in the long term but also impair your concentration later on in the afternoon.
“We also tend to eat faster when at our desks, which means that the stomach doesn’t have enough time to send signals of fullness to the brain, causing us to overeat. We unfortunately consume more calories when we eat quickly.
“Staying seated for long periods increases the chance of musculo skeletal problems like back pain – going for a walk at lunch time in the fresh air, away from the air conditioning, can have restorative effects.
“The socialising that happens during a lunch break with colleagues can have a positive impact on your enjoyment of the workplace, helping individuals develop relationships and encourage information sharing, which are beneficial to individuals as well as the workplace as a whole.
“There is even some evidence to suggest that working long hours could lead to long-term brain damage or even dementia,” he says. “However, the evidence is limited and we need to understand this relationship better before we abandon the old wisdom that hard work won’t kill you…”
Your boss is a nightmare
This one isn’t as easy to resolve as simply taking a walk in the fresh air, but it could be time to seriously consider a new job if you’re being unfairly treated. A study from Sweden found that the chronic stress of a bad boss was linked to a raised risk of heart disease. Other research has linked working for a nasty boss to depression, sleep issues, high blood pressure and being overweight.
You don’t wash your hands
And we don’t mean just after visiting the loo. Commonly touched surfaces, such as door handles, printer buttons and the photocopier are all teaming with bacteria. Think about it – how often do you reckon the office cleaner wipes any of these? To avoid catching colds and flu, or even nasty food poisoning bugs, wash your hands with soap and water after visiting communal areas.
You sit near the photocopier
It’s not always a choice you have, but if you can, avoid being close to the photocopier – if the filter isn’t changed regularly, deadly ozone can leak out. Laser printers can also release toner particles which can cause lung problems. Indoor air pollution can be very harmful and is blamed for thousands of deaths across Europe every year. Open windows wherever possible, and introduce some greenery – NASA recommends the following plants for removing air pollutants: English ivy, philodendron, bamboo palm, peace lily and mother-in-law’s tongue.
You don’t get up enough
We’re all aware that sitting is the new smoking, and it’s important to move around as much as you can while at work to avoid increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. We asked London yoga experts Yogi2Me (yogi2me.com) for the best moves to counteract the damage of a desk job.
“If you feel a bit low in energy in the afternoon, you may have sluggish digestion,” says Sarah Drai, the company’s co-founder. “You can help this by doing some fun twists!
If you enjoyed that, then move to the next variation of the pose:
To release tension in your neck and my shoulders you need to stretch!
“At work we’re often concentrating on computer screens meaning we naturally don’t blink as often as we should,” says optometrist Sarah Farrant. “This means our tears can evaporate too quickly and cause sore, gritty and dry eyes. We normally should be blinking eight times a minute but when we concentrate, we could be blinking as little as one or two times a minute. “The best thing we can do to protect our eyes when on a computer is to take a break!
The 20:20:20 rule is a great way to rest your eyes between emails – every 20 minutes; look away for 20 seconds, at something 20 feet away. This is a good one to do at your desk, but it’s even better if you can get up for a walk over to the window. If your eyes are feeling dry and sore relieve the problem using a good preservative free eye drop like Hycosan Dual (£14.99, Boots) to hydrate your eyes.”
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