About 5 years into my career, it’s safe to say I’m already feeling the effects of the office lifestyle.
There have been many good things to come from my office jobs (like exciting opportunities to work with interesting clients locally and around the world, an environment to challenge myself and to grow, many lasting friendships, and so on).
But the nature of my work also has some downsides. Working in internet marketing & communications means that – yep – I’m using the computer a lot. Actually, I’m physically at a computer for at least about 8 hrs/day, 5 days/week.
And you know how offices are – it’s always someone’s birthday (hello, birthday cake), or the team is getting together for happy hour after work, or someone has brought in treats, just because.
I love treats and happy hour and birthdays as much as the next person (OK – maybe even more), but at a certain point, the impact of sitting all day, everyday, paired with a seemingly constant flow of treats starts to wreak havoc on a person.
In the last year alone, I’ve experienced several (very common) adverse effects from the work I do. But the good news is: these problems are very treatable and, sometimes, avoidable.
Here is a bit of what I’ve learned:
(1) I have to protect my peepers!
The last year has been full of eye issues. After half a dozen trips to the optometrist, and a few appointments with an ophthalmologist, I’m finally geared up with some glasses to help with eyestrain when looking at a screen.
My eye doctors have harped on me about the 20-20-20 rule, and after my strain issues, I am a believer. I’ve installed a plugin for my Chrome browser called eyeCare – it’s essentially just a pop-up reminder every 20 minutes to look away for 20 seconds, at something at least 20 feet away. I usually use this time to take a gander out the window!
(2) I feel better when I sit less.
I know there’s been a lot of mixed “research” out there on the standing vs. sitting debate, but for me personally, I do better when I’m able to stand while I work throughout the day. I’ve got a VariDesk system set-up at work, giving me the option to sit or stand whenever I like.
I like standing because it allows for plenty of natural movement. When I’m standing to write, read emails, and so on, I can fidget a lot more than I can when I sit (switching weight from foot to foot, bending my knees, standing on my tippy-toes, etc.)
I find these types of movement actually help me concentrate, and my unavoidable fidgeting is far less distracting this way.
(3) I need to get out at lunch.
Roughly 4x a week I make a legit effort to get some exercise at lunch. This of course isn’t always possible – sometimes schedules change and unforeseen tasks or responsibilities creep up. But for the most part, I try hard to maintain a 45-ish minute window where I’m out of the office each day.
Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I head outside for a run, and on really busy days I may simply walk around the block a few times. Whatever it is, I feel better for it, and so it has come to be one of the best parts of my daily routine. And it’s not always time away from work per se – I often do some of my best brainstorming when I’m at the gym or on a run, and find I can come back to the office with additional solutions or ideas to client challenges I’d been pondering all morning.
(4) I have to remember to stretch.
Throughout 2015 I was doing regular-ish physio and acupuncture sessions to deal with pain and numbness in my wrists and hands (kinks in the median nerve due to keyboard/phone/mouse usage, apparently).
While these sessions were helpful, the most important thing was accumulating a roster of stretches I can do anywhere at any time to help joints and muscles combat strain. I need to make these more of a priority because unfortunately, as things start to feel better, it’s easy to stop doing what helped get me there!
(5) I try to keep treats in check!
There are so many great bakers in my office – a blessing and a curse. My main strategy for dealing with “oops I made extra” cookies, leftover holiday goodies, and the daily 3pm Starbucks run is this: if I’ve already planned on treating myself that day, I will. If I find myself wanting something just because it has appeared in the office, I’ll try to steer clear. It’s as simple as that!
(6) I aim to be flexible.
There isn’t a fix-all solution for health in the workplace, but a combination of things here and there certainly help make me feel better than I once had. I’ll always experiment with different things to see how they impact my health and productivity at work.
And also: yoga. Though I don’t practice as often as I should, there is no better feeling in the world the one post-yoga class. It’ll make every bone in my body feel great, and melt away the stress that keeps me tense and rigid.