7 ways to make your workplace healthier

As compiled from Fitness Magazine, unlock your inner health guru without making your boss cringe

Umnia Shahid January 27, 2016

Does exhaustion and grouchiness take over the second you leave the office? If it feels like your work week just keeps getting lengthier, you’re probably right. According to survey reports, we work more than our forefathers ever did! While we might not be able to alleviate your office workload, there are ways to make sure your mind and body stay fit and vigorous during your 9-to-5 shift. As compiled from Fitness Magazine, unlock your inner health guru without making your boss cringe!

Bring the outdoors inside

Ultimate shocker! Your office furniture (big desks and those bulky black chairs) can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the chemicals used during manufacturing and these pollute the air you breathe. But, worry not! We have a solution to this global issue. In fact, adding a plant to your office or cubicle can reduce indoor air pollution, says Bill Wolverton, a retired NASA scientist, researcher and the author of Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them. VOCs are destroyed by the plant’s leaves and broken down by tiny organisms living on and around the root system. “Plants also give off negative ions, which provide us with a euphoric feeling of well-being,” says Wolverton. Talk about natural healing at work — sounds epic, doesn’t it?

Look the other way

Gawking at a computer screen all day long can easily cause your eyes to feel strained, fatigued, and extra dry. Experts suggest that the culprit could be more than just all those spreadsheets and word files you have been working on. “It’s called computer vision syndrome and it’s exactly what it sounds like: the discomfort your eyes experience when you stare at a screen for too long,” says Mark Rosenfield of SUNY College of Optometry. This problem is by no means a rare occurrence. In fact, a study co-authored by Rosenfield found that 40% of computer users complained of tired eyes at least half the time. You can alleviate CVS symptoms by practicing what Rosenfield calls the 20:20:20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for a period of 20 seconds.

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Be a premeditated printer

A lot of us are unaware that printers, scanners and photocopiers release particles that cause upper airway inflammation and other problems. This is especially concerning for those with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. Work with digital files when possible, and be strategic about what and how often you print. When it comes time to print 10 copies of your monthly report, aim for the print-and-wait approach, advises Peter Gaines, a professor at UMass Lowell’s Biological Science, Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology programme. “If a worker allows the project to finish and waits approximately one hour to gather the prints, the particle concentrations should have sufficiently dropped.” Seem unrealistic? Gaines says even half an hour is better than nothing.

Clean that cloudy keyboard

Have specks of dust transformed your black keyboard into a grey and grubby breeding ground for germy microbes? Take some time every week to give your keyboard a good wipe-down and don’t take this lightly. A University of Arizona and Kimberly-Clark research found a global dilemma: keyboards are one of the filthiest surfaces in the office, third only to sink faucets and microwave door handles. That’s another reason to head out for lunch or grab biryani at the office cafeteria instead of crumbing up your keyboard even more.

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Marry your co-worker

Okay, not literally! You don’t have to actually tie the knot with your cubicle neighbour but finding a designated work spouse or ‘office bestie’ who acts as your amigo, confidante, personal and professional partner can have numerous benefits. According to research conducted by the Gallup social research lab, employees who have best friends at work show increased levels of well-being and surprisingly, are less likely to get injured or depressed at work and at home. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time to start making new pals at work.

Display personal photos

We don’t need to eyewitness embarrassing Eid pictures with your entire family looming over the desk but why not place a frame of a person you deeply care about there? A Stanford University study found that subjects in deep relationships experienced reduced levels of pain when shown photographs of their partners. A framed photo of your significant other or of close friends or a family member (think mum!) could be just the pick-me-up you need when you feel fully bogged down with work on a Friday afternoons.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2016.

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