Updated March 17, 2020
If you work in an office, at home or on the road, there are many factors you can control in order to build a healthier work environment that contributes positively to your overall wellness
Whether your work-week consists of 40, 50, 60 or even just a few hours at a desk, that’s enough time to put in a plan to have the healthiest workspace you can. And it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars for equipment or a complete change in your mindset to do so. A small amount of time and a small amount of effort can bring impressive results when it comes to the impact your work environment is having on your health.
Why should you think about turning your workspace into a healthier work environment?
Before we go further, let’s talk about why you would even want to think about your workspace and its impact on you. First, many of us spend more waking hours at our desks than anywhere else. That in and of itself should give a clear indication of the importance your workspace holds in your life.
But putting that aside, just think about your workspace and how it was pulled together. If you have a home office, you may be using a folding table from the garage, or a desk that was picked out of a catalog. You probably didn’t soundproof the room you are using. It’s even quite possible that you work from a different room every day. If you’re in an office, odds are good that your company didn’t take any measurements and adjust the desk and chair to your specifics before you started. And if you’re out on the road, working out of hotels and cars, finding any seat that allows you to comfortable use your laptop is always a challenge.
What we’re getting at here is that until now, many of us weren’t thinking about our workspace. We just wanted to find a place to get work done. But with all the time we spend working, if the workspace isn’t suited to your particular preferences and needs, your health can take a hit. From backaches and migraines to obesity and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, there are many issues that can arise when you don’t take care in building a workspace that works for you.
What are some of the first things you can do to build a healthier work environment?
If you work from home, make sure that your home does not become a distraction. Keep the TV off. Don’t answer your phone (unless it is for business). Be sure that you are working without interruptions. As you are able to focus more on your work, the results should follow, and you should start feeling more satisfied with your accomplishments.
Are there some odors (someone’s fish lunch? new carpet installed?) or noises that impact your ability to concentrate? You should be able to get away with a fan or a vase full of fragrant flowers, but it may also be beneficial to use an essential oil diffuser or fragrant room spray. For noises, try a white noise machine or app. If you can wear headphones, listen to your music group or podcast.
Always have a water bottle at your workspace. Being dehydrated is easily avoided, so why risk it. When your body lacks water, it can lead to headaches, inability to focus and other symptoms.
Keep healthy snacks in reach. When you work at home the ice cream is always one room away. In an office environment, people love to bring in baked goods to share. And on the road the next drive thru is home to your next meal. When eating unhealthy at work becomes a habit, it can lead to eating unhealthy outside of work. Then comes being overweight, obesity and all the issues that come along with that. Try keeping fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks on your desk or in your travel bag. Then, you will always have a satisfying option to munch on when hunger strikes.
Don’t forget to take breaks. There’s always an urgency to get your work done. But by staying seated for long periods of time, and not giving your brain a rest, you may be doing your work a disservice. Make a habit of taking a 5 minute break every hour. Stand up and walk around or go to the bathroom.
You may not have total control over some of your office equipment, but if you do, these are some of the top targets to build a healthier work environment. (and even if you don’t have control, try putting in a request and maybe some of these elements can be addressed)
Desk and chair. Make sure your chair is comfortable, and provides enough support to sit up straight. The top of your desk should be at a good height for accomplishing what you need, which, for most of us, is usually typing on a keyboard and viewing a computer monitor (or 2 or 3). The desk should also have enough space to hold what you need to do your job, from your monitor and phone to filing systems and writing pads.
Monitors. Make sure you position your computer monitors straight ahead of you, and that you don’t have to lift or lower your head to view. It should be a natural position that allows you to read what is on the screen in front of you. For a point of reference, try to position the screen so that the URL bar is horizontal from your eye level. If you have a traditional desktop setup, try using a Monitor Arm to position you monitors at eye level. Alternatively, if you work on a laptop or tablet, try using our Laptop and Tablet Stand to bring your screen up to the proper height.
Keyboard and mouse. The keyboard should be comfortable to type on and at the right height. The mouse should be easy to use (click and scroll) and be the correct size for your hand. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse combo is a good idea for many to ward off Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other 21st century workplace maladies. And for most, using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse becomes a better overall experience than a traditional set.
Even though not everything about your workspace may be in your control, there are many things you can do to make any space better for your overall health and wellness. And it can all start with any one of the above ideas.