5 Easy Ways to be Healthier at Work

I typically write about worksite wellness from the employers/HR Director’s viewpoint because I consult employers on their wellness programs. Then I realized, hey, I’m an employee too…how do I stay healthy?

Regardless if your employer offers a formal wellness program, here are things every employee can do to be healthier at work (or before you even get there):

Sleep – Your quality and quantity of sleep affects how productive you are at your job, how nice you are to your co-workers and customers and causes increased health risks. If you don’t get enough sleep:

–  It’s harder to concentrate for a sustained amount of time and most of us need to focus on something at work.

– Lack of sleep also makes you irritable which makes it easier to snap at co-workers or handle an upset customer.

– Finally, there is a link between lack of sleep and an increase in obesity and diabetes risk.

I know when I don’t sleep enough, I crave junk food, have less patience and everything feels like it requires more effort. There are a ton of sleep tips on the web but the key is making the decision to prioritize sleep and acting on it.  Tip: Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier.  

Stand up – You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking” because there is enough published research to tell you that our desk jobs are causing us to be less healthy. I’ve been asked about sit to stand desks, treadmill desks, etc. which all can help you get off your rear end for a good portion of the day.  But what if you have a regular desk like I do?

– Stand up at least once an hour. Even if you have restrictions on what you do for work, such as customer service, chances are that you can stand up.

– You know those dreaded meetings that last multiple hours? Just stand up and go to the back of the room. Chances are someone will follow right behind you and do the same.

– Get a reminder: put a sign in your cube, make your wearable device buzz or add a calendar reminder.  Sadly, it’s easy to get sucked into work and forget to stand up.

Tip: Stand up every hour for at least a minute and take a short walk every 90 minutes.

Lunch – To save calories and money, bring your own healthy lunch.  They’re two parts to a healthy lunch – packing one and getting away from your desk.  It’s best to do both but let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen.

I just talked to a CFO that worked out in the morning, got her kids to school and didn’t get into work until 8:30. She wanted to work through lunch because she had stuff to get done. For those people, I would suggest just a quick 10 minute walk before starting their lunchtime work.  It will make you more focused and effective.

Here’s a few tips to make it easier to bring your own lunch:

  • – Try making extra for dinner and packing your lunch the night before. It will truly take 10 minutes and will be way easier than doing it in the morning.
  • – Just go with a healthy frozen meal and add some extra fruit and veggies to counteract the wallop of sodium you’ll be eating.
  • – Bring some staples to work, like peanut butter and jelly or turkey with whole wheat bread, and make your sandwich at lunch.
  • – Make a large salad on Sunday and just package up lunch servings each night.

Tip: Start by taking 5 minutes to truly focus on what you are eating for lunch.

Unanticipated snacks – this is the scenario when co-workers bringing in the dreaded unhealthy snacks.

This happened to me recently. I just finished lunch and brought my fruit to my next meeting. One of my very nice team members brought us cupcakes and guess who ditched her fruit for a cupcake?  Me! I didn’t want to offend the person bringing the cupcakes but after I ate it, I felt the sugar crash.

My suggestions for handling this are to take a small portion (I could have had half a cupcake) or say thanks but no thanks, I’m doing my best to eat a little healthier.

Tip: Abide by the 3 bite rule – if you are going to have a junky snack, eat 3 bites, then throw it away.  The first 3 bites are truly the most tasty.  After that, the food just doesn’t taste as good.

Afternoon crashes – we all have an energy slump around 2:30 or 3:00 and although it’s trendy, most of us can’t take a nap at work. When we feel that slump, we tend to turn to more coffee or sugary snacks to get through the slump.

One common reason for an afternoon slump is overeating at lunch. If you can’t seem to pack a lunch, just try to eat a little less when you are out to eat.  Easier said than done, I know, but check out this link for tips on ways to cut portions without feeling hungry.

A little deep breathing can help.  There are plenty of websites that will take you through deep breathing exercises and You Tube videos that can guide you.  One-Moment Meditation is a company created to encourage meditation in just one minute.

Take a short walk to the furthest copier, bathroom, breakroom or walk up some steps that will really help.

Switch tasks if possible. If you are working on something that is draining your energy see if you can do something that will liven up your thinking.

Tip: Monitor your afternoon fatigue for a week and see how often you reach for caffeine or sugar to get you through. 

Corporate America may be making us unhealthy but as employees, we have control over our habits and behaviors during the day.