Working in an office has never been considered to be a hazardous occupation. Certainly there are more dangerous careers you could do for a living such as becoming a builder, a miner or a farmer for example. However the impact of our sedentary lives means that office work is moving its way up the unhealthy occupation ladder. Anything from stress, poor food choices and lack of activity through to poor posture at our desks can lead to ill health and increased absences from work. Employers understand the bearing this can have on their businesses and realise that making a few minor adjustments to office life can have a positive impact on the health of their workforce, productivity and ultimately the bottom line.
We all realise the necessity of drinking water with eight glasses a day or two litres a day being long standing advice but in the office environment it’s easy for staff to forget how much or little they have had. Tea and coffee are drunk by the litre and as diuretics, have a dehydrating effect on the body so always ensure there are fresh water options available by adding office water coolers. Whether in the office kitchen or in meetings ensuring your staff have the opportunity to remain well hydrated throughout the day by replenishing their minds and bodies will keep them alert and functioning to optimum levels.
Healthy Vending Machines
Vending machines are notorious for their unhealthy content. Limiting the alternatives open to your workforce will tempt them in to making bad dietary choices. Offering nutritionally poor snacks also doesn’t reflect well on your company’s ethos and culture. Clean up your vending machine by offering healthier options such as fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds. If you want to continue in the same vein then a ban on soft drinks is also the way ahead replacing them with bottles of mineral water.
Take a lunch break
Taking a lunch break is becoming an extinct activity. It is however, essential to have regular breaks away from the screen and a lunch break provides the perfect opportunity to eat, relax, clear your head and get some fresh air. Research shows that not taking a break can have a detrimental effect on productivity. Karen James founder and director of Lilac James says “Employers should not be fooled into thinking that a workforce skipping lunch is good for the bottom line. Eating lunch is not only essential to ensure the mind and body work to their optimum but guarantees good energy levels throughout the afternoon. A break will also allow for a walk away from the desk and the screen, in the fresh air which will help aid creativity and efficiency”.
There have been varied recommendations regarding the amount of exercise we need, from 20 minutes, three days a week to the current recommendation, 30 minutes, five days a week. Recently there has been more of a focus on general inactivity such as sitting at a desk for long periods of time and using the car more than you have to. Get Britain Standing are campaigning to encourage office workers to get out of their seats and move around. Even fitness fanatics who consider themselves to be fit can be affected by the negative results of sedentary working such as heart disease, cancers, mental health issues and type 2 diabetes. Sitting for long periods at a time can slow the metabolism, sugar levels, blood pressure and the breakdown of fat.
The solution is simple, you have to fit standing and movement into your working day. You can encourage your teams to achieve this by having walk and talk meetings and by creating a fun challenge to stand up whilst on the phone! Making simple changes such as using the stairs instead of the lift and walking to talk to a colleague instead of calling or emailing them can have a marked effect.
War on Office Germs
One way to keep your teams healthy and free from illness is to reduce the amount of germs floating around the work environment. When we talk of germs we normally think of the obvious hotspots such as the loos and floors but we need to widen our consideration. It’s an extraordinary statistic to quote that the toilet seat is cleaner than the kitchen sink and telephone! Other germ infested areas that need constant attention are keyboards, door handles and panels. Sickness levels can cost your organisation greatly.
The loss of productivity and the need for sick pay will have a detrimental effect on the bottom line. When at least 60% of sickness time off is associated with having a dirty office, it’s certainly in any organisation’s best interests to maintain high levels of hygiene to keep their team healthy and well.
Despite its safe implications, as with any occupation, being office bound has its risks to both the individual as well as the success of the organisation. Minor adjustments to the office environment and individuals’ behaviour however, can have a massive positive effect to the health of employees and as a result, productivity. As increased productivity will ultimately make everyone happy, there’s no excuse not to jump on to the healthy office bandwagon!