In this article we share some practical tips that are rooted in science for improving workplace wellbeing, whether you work from home, in an office, or both.
Invest in Some Plants
As humans, we are instinctively drawn to nature and other living things. Having a few plants around your workspace is an easy way to brighten up your desk or office and has proven health benefits. An Exeter University study found that incorporating plants improved employees’ happiness and productivity levels. “What was important was that everybody could see a plant from their desk,” lead researcher Dr Chris Knight told The Guardian. “If you are working in an environment where there’s something to get you psychologically engaged you are happier and you work better.”
Indoor plants also make the air in our environment cleaner and easier for us to breathe. In a landmark study, a team of NASA scientists found that plants remove pollutants from the air, including formaldehyde and benzene. This is on top of their well-known ability to convert carbon dioxide into more human-friendly oxygen.
Take Short Walking Breaks
A recent American study found that as little as a five-minute walk each hour offsets the negative effects of sitting for three hours or more. We should all be taking regular breaks from sitting throughout the day, and combining some of these with a short walk can make a big difference to how we feel the rest of the time. One simple way to walk more at work would be to take your phone calls while you’re on your feet. For more ideas, read our recent article on moving more at work.
Make Your Workspace More Ergonomic
A study conducted at a software company in 2014 found that implementing more ergonomic workstations at their office not only reduced musculoskeletal and vision problems, but also improved employees’ job satisfaction and happiness scores. Read our dedicated article for more suggestions on how to make your work set-up kinder to your body.
Stretch at Your Desk
A recent study found that daily neck and shoulder stretches were more effective at easing pain than over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory medicine, or even seeing a chiropractor. Desk stretches don’t need to be complicated. In fact, many of the exercises you might encounter in a yoga class can be easily adapted to be performed seated in regular office attire. Check out our article on moving more at your desk, or give our Get Moving at Your Desk workshop a go for more ideas.
Go Outside at Lunchtime
It’s intuitive that spending time outdoors is beneficial for our mental and physical health, and there’s growing scientific evidence to support this. Studies have shown that our brains produce more of the mood-stabilising chemical serotonin with sunlight exposure. Other research has indicated that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays triggers the release of endorphins, another feel-good brain chemical. We also know that Vitamin D, which our skin produces when exposed to sunlight, plays an important role in strengthening our immune system, regulating mood, and decreasing the risk of depression. Especially now as the days are getting shorter, we should think twice before scheduling a meeting at lunchtime and use the time to get some fresh air instead.
Tidy Desk, Tidy Mind
A study conducted at Princeton University found that a cluttered environment impairs our ability to focus. The researchers reasoned that it’s because we process the clutter in our environment subconsciously, which uses up some of our brain’s attention. To follow the proverbial wisdom of having ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place’, we should store items we don’t use regularly, to keep them out of sight (and out of mind!).
Check in with a Friend
Connection is a fundamental human need, and checking in with others (even if it’s just a text message) means more than we might realise. A recent study demonstrated that this is indeed the case; that we underestimate how much our friends and family appreciate us letting them know we’re thinking of them.
Bonding with colleagues can also boost our health in both expected and unexpected ways: reducing levels of stress, increasing our energy levels, and even making us live longer, according to a widely cited study. For example, doing a crossword puzzle together, discovering a new lunch spot, or organising a group outdoor activity (perhaps a picnic, or a game of frisbee) or team social event.
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