Obvious fact alert: humans aren’t designed to sit in offices all day.
Sitting hunched at a desk, staring at a computer screen in an artificially lit, closed air system for 8 hours (or more) each day isn’t exactly the portrait of good health, is it?
It sounds pretty obvious when you put it that way. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget just how far our modern day lifestyles are from our evolutionary blueprint.
That said, many of us rely on an office job to pay the bills and sustain a family. It’s not ideal, but in 2016, it’s an inevitable reality for a huge chunk of the population.
And it’s for that reason that I’m not going to tell you to jump ship, quit your job and spend your days roaming around the countryside foraging for wild herbs and berries. As idyllic as that may sound, it’s just not going to happen.
Instead, I want to use this article to give you the tips you need to maximise your health in an office environment.
Staying healthy and vibrant in the office is hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. Follow these 8 easy tips, and you'll be well on your way to thriving in the office environment - whatever the day may throw at you.
#1 - Take a walk
Nothing makes me more frustrated than seeing people use their break to play angry birds or scroll twitter. If you’ve been slumped at a desk all morning, your breaks are an ideal opportunity to get moving and wherever possible, get outside.
Got 10 minutes spare? Take a brisk walk around the block. The sunshine will give you an instant energy boost, whilst the fresh air will help oxygenate your blood and brain to improve your focus and productivity. The movement will also give your body a sharp reminder that you are in fact a living, breathing human – not an inanimate desk robot.
Oh, and walking meetings are now officially a thing. If you’ve got a client coming over, use it as an excuse to escape the office and soak up some vitamin D goodness.
#2 - Move more
The most damaging thing about working in an office is the complete lack of movement that most of us face every day. Our bodies just aren’t designed to sit still for such long periods of time, so wherever you get the chance, you’ve got to MOVE!
The easiest way to do this is to take regular ‘movement breaks’ in between tasks, ideally every 30 minutes or so. Get up, have a quick walk around the office, stretch out your hip flexors, do a few air squats. Take the stairs every morning. It all adds up!
#3 - Stay hydrated
It’s always crucial to stay hydrated, but the drying nature of office air conditioning units makes office hydration even more important. It’s also crucial to our concentration and overall productivity – just a 2% drop in hydration levels is enough to impair optimal brain function!
A good way to ensure that you drink enough water in the working day is to fill a 2 litre bottle each morning, and bring it to your desk every time you check in at work. By the time the day ends, all the water should be gone – or you’re not going home!
#4 - Pack a lunch
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but lunches from the office canteen probably isn’t the most nutritious food you could be eating. Many of the major high street cafes and coffee shops are getting more health conscious, but it’s much more reliable (and cheaper!) to bring your own. Taking your own food to work doesn’t have to be extravagant or time consuming. A simple salad made with some protein, plenty of colourful veggies and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is always a winner. Alternatively, make extra portions of dinner the night before to bring to work the next day. Some of the easiest and healthiest lunches are little more than last night’s leftovers!
#5 - Take it outside
Weather permitting, taking your lunch outside is a great way to break up the working day and get away from the enclosed office environment. It’s a chance to soak up that much needed vitamin D, breathe some fresh air and escape the pressures of the office. If nothing else, everything tastes better when eaten Al Fresco.
No matter how busy you are, try not to eat lunch at the desk. You need a break, and you’ll come back much more productive having taken one.
#6 - Top up your snack drawer
If you’re faced with the classic ‘4PM slump’, it’s all too easy to grab something sweet and sugary to top up your flagging energy levels. This is why I recommend keeping a good selection of healthy snacks on hand for if and when you do need a pick me up.
Fresh fruit is the most obvious choice – it’s cheap, delicious, and great for an immediate energy boost. For something a little more filling, try a handful of nuts and seeds, kale chips or a raw snack bar.
#7 - Soften the commute
For some of us, the daily commute to work can be worse than the working day itself. Let’s face it – nothing gets your day off to a worse start than sitting in a queue of traffic for an hour, or finding your face squashed into a stranger’s armpit as you pile onto the train like sardines.
This daily commute leaves many of us stressed before we even set foot in the office. Then at the end of the day we leave, only to sit in more traffic or bury our face in more armpits, and the cycle starts again. We get to work stressed, we come home stressed, and do it all again the next day.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Instead, try to soften the daily commute by avoiding travelling in rush hour as much as possible. Rather than leaving at 8am after breakfast, try leaving at 7.30am and enjoy your breakfast in the office instead. Or, why not take out a gym membership at a gym near to your office and train after work whilst the traffic dies down?
Another option is speaking to your boss about your current working hours. If logistics allow, why not work 7am – 3pm or 11am – 7pm instead of the standard 9 – 5? Explain it will make you a happier, more focused, and more productive worker.
Even if you don’t let rush hour get you down (I salute you), there are still much better things you could be doing with your time. A slight tweak to your daily schedule to avoid a rush hour commute will mean less time sitting and stressing, and more time exercising, relaxing, or with friends and family.
#8 - Maximise your weekends
View your weekends as the chance to ‘top up the tank’ on anything you’ve neglected that week. Sleep an extra hour or two, get an extra workout in, and spend as much time outside as possible. The last thing you want is to be stuck inside flittering away the time watching TV or scrolling Facebook.
If I’ve had a long week in the office, I’ll try my best to make up for it at the weekend and schedule some time for my health. Taking my training outside allows me to get in some exercise and sunshine at the same time, so I’ll ditch the gym in favour of some hill sprints or an outdoor boot camp style workout. If that’s not your thing, go for a long walk or even just do some gardening! The important thing is to get outside and move.
By the time Monday rolls back around, you should feel refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead.
What are your top tips for staying healthy in the office?