Don’t just sit there
Whether you are a gym bunny or a couch potato in your spare time, a job that has you glued to your seat most of the day is bad news for health. A 14-year-long prospective study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the number of hours spent sitting was independently associated with mortality. Those who sat more than six hours a day were at least 18 percent more likely to die during the study period than those who sat fewer than three hours a day, regardless of physical activity levels. Aim to stand up and move or stretch every 20-30 minutes – even if it’s just for a minute or two. And should you need any further persuasion to step away from your desk at regular intervals, here it is: astudy published in the Journal of Biomechanics found that the mechanical pressure prolonged sitting places on the hips and bottom appears to increase fat storage in these areas by 50 per cent – adding an expanding rear view to the unappealing consequences of sedentarism (a word that has only been invented through necessity).
Declutter your desk
A clean, uncluttered working space is far more conducive to a productive day than a desk piled high with files, dirty mugs and scraps of paper. Depending on how bad the situation is, put aside half an hour (or half a day, in my case!) to clear your desk, wipe your keyboard and screen clean and organise your files and papers. You’ll feel a lot more clearheaded when you do so, and you won’t waste time and energy having to look for important things that have disappeared under the rubble.
Work out your workstation
If much of your working life involves sitting at a desk (or anywhere in which you are confined for long periods), make sure you are sitting comfortably. Chairs and worktops that are too high or low, lights that flicker, screens set too close or too far back, insufficient desk space, a twisted torso… all these occupational hazards can leave you feeling stiff, sore and fatigued by the end of the working day. It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that your workstation is set up in an ergonomically correct fashion – even if that means investing in a special type of keyboard, a lumbar support or phone headset for you. If the responsibility lies with you, then invest in a workstation assessment to help you (and your staff, if you have any) are in the correct set-up. Once you’ve got it right, sit properly, with your feet flat on the floor, your thighs supported but not compressed by the chair seat and your back straight. Regularly ‘scan’ your body throughout the day, keeping an eye out for hunched, tight shoulders, a clenched jaw, a hanging-out tummy, a jutting-forward head or crossed legs.
Don’t leave computers, faxes, phone chargers and photocopiers switched on all the time – apart from the fact that it wastes energy, all electrical equipment emits electro-magnetic fields, and there is some evidence that these are linked with sub-optimal health and conditions such as insomnia, headaches and anxiety. This is even more important if you work at home. Certain plants can help absorb the pollutants emitted by office carpets, MDF, paint and anti-stain treated fabrics – such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichorethylene. Spider plants, peace lilies, Golden pothos and Goosefoot plant are all effective varieties.