In my exploration over the past several weeks, I have discovered numerous ways in which we as individuals can improve and maintain our wellness at work. Many of us have careers we love and I am grateful to be included in that group. In the various roles I have performed, I have spent the majority of my days seated, either in meetings, on calls, in front of my computer, or with domestic or international travel. Through primarily seated work, I developed some of the hallmark challenges that many of us face after hours spent working on a computer. I set out on a path to look for solutions. I love my job and the company I work for and will be able to excel at it for years to come if I am able to take care of my health and wellness at work and spend most of my work-days pain free. A summary of research presented by WebMD demonstrated correlations between extensive time seated and risks of heart disease, shortened lifespan, dementia, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, weight gain, anxiety, varicose veins, and even certain types of cancer. My hope is to share what I learn with others so that we can all leverage the information and knowledge available to enjoy long-lasting health and wellness at work.
Frequent Breaks from Sedentary Work
Some of the topics I have explored include the challenges and health risks associated with remaining seated for long periods of time. I have looked into research on alternatives to fully seated work including standing, sit-stand, treadmill, and bike workstations. If work does not lend itself to alternate workstations, there are numerous recommendations for how to reduce the risks associated with too much sitting. One of the most effective and least costly recommendations is to take frequent breaks. I explored this option in my own work and found that taking breaks is easier in theory than in practice both from the perspective of reminders to take breaks, as well as the change in schedule that may be needed to accommodate them. I set a timer to remind me to take breaks hourly and found that several times when the timer went off throughout the day, I was in the middle of a phone call, concentrating on a task where I did not want to lose focus, or in back to back meetings without time for breaks in between. I learned that structuring meetings for greater efficiency and effectiveness could allow a few minutes in between to take short breaks and move.
Taking a closer look at workstation ergonomics was a very helpful step and it takes into account nearly every aspect from desk chair and chair settings, to desk height, keyboard and monitor positions, lighting both from the room as well as the monitors, and body position and desk equipment and accessories. Ergonomic calculators are readily accessible online and you can input your height to receive recommendations for ergonomic desk setups calculated from your height. This should be adjusted for comfort as needed, and I learned that minor adjustments can make a great impact.
Seated and standing posture was a theme that kept recurring in my exploration and one that I have found has not been a simple fix. Many aspects of life and work environment can influence posture including your chair, workstation setup, activities and tasks performed, energy levels, and body awareness. Posture in turn can affect breathing, muscle pain and tension, and chronic poor posture can affect body position and structure, and overall wellness. There are numerous stretching exercises, as well as strengthening exercises that can help correct chronic poor posture. These in combination with massage therapy, increased body awareness, and a posture corrector or reminders to check in on posture throughout the day can make steady improvements in a challenging area to correct.
The Wellness Journey
Maintaining wellness at work is an ongoing process to consistently take care of physical, mental, and spiritual health inside and outside of the work environment. Since we spend so many hours of each day working, it is important to maintain wellness practices at work. This includes regular breaks incorporating movement, alternating between sitting and standing, or sitting and movement if a walking or biking workstation is an option. It encompasses an ergonomic workstation to reduce the impacts of repetitive motion and lengthy time in a single position. It also factors in mindfulness to ensure awareness of our postures and ensuring we can maintain energy and focus thorough appropriate breaks to recharge the mind and sufficient nutrition to maintain energy levels.