1. Declutter your desk
A clean, uncluttered working space is far more conducive to a productive day than a desk piled high with files, dirty mugs and scraps of paper. Depending on how bad the situation is, put aside five minutes to an hour (or even a whole day, if possible!) to clear up your desk, wipe your keyboard clean and organise your files and papers. You’ll feel a lot more clearheaded when you do so, and you won’t constantly be igniting stress levels by having to look for important things that have disappeared under the rubble.
Certain plants can help absorb the pollutants emitted by office carpets, MDF, paint and anti-stain treated fabrics — such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichorethylene. Spider plants, peace lilies, golden pothos and goosefoot plants are all effective varieties. Also, fresh-cut flowers brighten the office — and therefore brighten your mood! — and can help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.
Chiropractors recommend getting up to stretch and walk around at least every 40 minutes to prevent joint pain, muscular tension and eye strain. It’s also good for your productivity: breaking a long spell of concentration by changing position, taking a few deep breaths and focusing on something else for a moment can help to recharge you for the next bout of work.
Many of us don’t have the luxury of working next to an open window — especially as some companies prefer to keep the windows firmly sealed and pump the place with air conditioning! But if you do have the choice, work in a well-ventilated area with as much natural light as possible. If your options are limited, though, install a plug-in ioniser to help improve the air quality. Ionisers are available from department stores and larger chemists. Also, ensure you get out of the office for at least 20 minutes every day, regardless of your office set-up.
It’s not impossible to get healthy snacks and lunches in the deli or cafe, but the temptation to go for a mayonnaise-laden sandwich can be quite strong after a stressful morning! The cost of regular trips to the nearest coffee house or pastry shop can add up, too. So, try to take a packed lunch instead of buying your lunch. However, if a packed lunch doesn’t appeal (perhaps you like to eat out with colleagues or friends), you could still stock your desk drawer with healthy snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, apples and pears, rice cakes and crackers. You could also take your own non-caffeinated tea, coffee or herbal tea supply.
Don’t leave computers, faxes, phone chargers and photocopiers switched on all the time — all electrical equipment emits electro-magnetic fields, and there is some evidence that these are linked with sub-optimal health and conditions such as insomnia, headaches and anxiety. Also, you should make sure you switch things off anyway if you don’t need them for long periods, as it can save on the company’s electricity bill (or yours, if you work at home!).
According to the Chinese art of Feng Shui, it’s good to place something that reminds you of the non-work-related aspect of your life on the left-hand side of your desk — such as a beautiful print, or a holiday souvenir. Photos of loved ones should sit in the middle and top right-hand corners — but don’t overdo the family gallery, otherwise you’ll be too distracted.
An air-conditioned office is very drying — so ensure you stay well hydrated. This doesn’t mean guzzling down endless cups of canteen tea and coffee; it means drinking enough water! Each time you go to the water fountain, get yourself two cups instead of one. This way, you’ll definitely stay well hydrated throughout the day.
9. Sort out your workstation
50 per cent of computer workers who also use a telephone for at least two hours a day report neck pain, while 31 per cent report lower back pain. A poor workstation set-up is often the culprit. A chair that is too low or high, a screen that is too small or set too low, a desk too narrow to support your forearms … all of these contribute to aches and pains in the workplace. Both feet should be flat on the floor, your thighs supported by the chair and your spine straight. Your shoulders should be relaxed, with arms bent to a right angle and forearms supported on the desk. Keep your wrists relaxed while you are typing. Also, regular phone users should have a head set, rather than having to cradle the receiver between their ear and shoulder. If you are suffering from any pain or discomfort at work, ask your employers (or consider paying for it yourself, if you are self-employed) about having a workstation assessment.
If you work on a computer, you will be spending long periods of time focusing on something at a fixed distance straight in front of you. To relax your eyes, regularly focus on something much further away (ideally, out of a window) and at things to your left and right. Also, roll your eyes from side to side. Another soothing exercise is to cup your hands over your eyes so that no light whatsoever can get in for a few moments. Repeat these exercises throughout the day.
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