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Tips for Maintaining Physical Health at Work

Published by: LifeWorks,

Whether your work is physical or sedentary, creating a safe and healthy work environment can help you prevent injury and illness. Neglecting your physical health at work not only impacts your quality of life but can also affect how efficiently and productively you work. Here are some suggestions to help you stay healthy at work.

Your workspace needs to fit YOU.

Most people spend every day in front of a computer, talking on the phone, or using machinery and these repetitive motions can take a strenuous toll on your body. Ergonomics ensure that the design and arrangement of your work station allows for safe use. Setting up your workspace properly will limit headaches, eyestrain, back and neck pain and can prevent chronic conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome—a painful nerve disorder of the wrist and hand.

If you mostly work at a desk you should:

  • Use an adjustable chair to customise the height, back and armrests to your body. Your feet should rest comfortably on the ground and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Items that you frequently use must be within arm’s reach to prevent bending and twisting.
  • Your keyboard and mouse should be just below elbow level and close to the body. Keyboard trays can help and will keep your wrists straight.
  • Ensure your computer monitor is at least one arm’s length away from you. The top of the screen should be at eye level, and the monitor should sit directly in front of you.

If you spend most of your workday standing or on the move, consider the following:

Ergonomics are important to all work-related tasks. Consider how you access regularly used tools or machinery and be sure to eliminate movement from the waist. Vary your postures, alternate repetitive tasks, and practise safe lifting procedures—don’t lift a weight you can’t handle, make sure that you bend your knees to put the weight on your legs rather than your back.

Stretching and moving as a regular part of your work routine

Muscular tension and pain caused by repetitive work activities is very common. Try these simple exercises at your workstation to relax your muscles and energise your mood. Do these stretches often throughout the day to prevent injury, not only when you are tired and stiff.

  • Head tilt. Place your right hand on your left shoulder and slowly bring your ear toward your right shoulder without turning your head. Hold this for five seconds and then switch sides.
  • Neck rolls. Slowly roll your head to the right, down to the centre, and over to the left. Repeat in the opposite direction.
  • Shoulder circles. Sit up straight and slowly roll your shoulders forward ten times and back ten times.
  • Side stretch. Reach your arms out to the side and then clasp your hands above your head. Lean your upper body to the right side. Hold for five seconds and then switch sides.
  • Back curl. First on the right side. Lift your knee up and hold your shin. Then bend forward reaching your nose to your knee. Repeat on the other side. This exercise will also stretch your legs.

Start moving. Sitting at a desk or completing repetitive tasks can be mentally and physically draining. Take brief rest breaks throughout the day, alternate tasks, move around and make sure that you change positions at least every 30 minutes if possible. Get away from the workplace—take a lunchtime walk, choose to take the stairs, and if driving pull over and take in a view. Just by getting up and moving around, you will feel less tired and more focused.

More ways for everyone to work safely and healthily

Keep your work area clean. Although it’s your own space, germs and bacteria live all over your work area. Regularly disinfect your workstation to reduce your chances of becoming ill.

Make healthy eating choices. Often unhealthy food is easily accessible in the workplace and when you’re hungry it’s hard to avoid them. Combat the mid-work slump with healthy snacks including yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Never miss breakfast—it fuels your mind and your metabolism.

Wash your hands regularly. Good hand hygiene, when done properly, is your best defence against illness. Wash your hands throughout the day and keep a bottle of hand sanitiser with you if you can’t get to a sink. Try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

Get a good night’s sleep. Adequate sleep not only boosts your immune system but also improves your memory, concentration, and reaction time. Limit your caffeine consumption while at work to improve the quality of your sleep.

Most people spend one-third of their day or half their waking hours at work, so it’s vital to make healthy lifestyle choices at home and at work. Small changes to your routine and a little proactive planning will not only help you to stay healthy, they will also help you to function better personally and professionally.

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