Just kidding! (Sort of.)
So, there you are, commuting to work, your headphones in, scrolling through your news feed listening to Uptown Funk. Suddenly, you spot yet another article about some aspect of working in an office that is somehow making your life shorter, or your likelihood of illness higher. Tight deadlines, junk food, bad bosses, sitting too long, germs everywhere, “Sick Building Syndrome??” It’s enough to plummet you straight into a “Downtown Funk.” But don’t let the alarmist nature of these reports get you down. Sure, there are plenty of ways in which our office jobs drive us into unhealthy habits. But, like everything, a lot can change simply by altering our perspectives and our routines a bit. Have a laugh and make few of these easy habit adjustments and you’ll be escaping “death by cubicle” like a ninja. Don’t believe us? Just watch.
A list of harmful agents in a public area must, of course, begin with our good old “frienemy,” germs. The number of ways that germs can attack you in an office environment is seemingly endless. Apparently, keyboards can have more than 3 times more bacteria than a toilet seat! Your mouse too. And your phone (please don’t take it to the bathroom with you!). How about the handle on the microwave and coffeemaker? On the other hand, we don’t want to go overboard and keep everything germ-free at all times since that reduces our immunity and contributes to antibiotic-resistant super-bugs. So fun!
How to survive it:
- Wash your hands. A lot. But not with antibacterial soap. Regular soap will do, with at least 20 seconds of scrubbing. Also, closing the tap and opening the door to the bathroom with a tissue or protected by your clothes helps too.
- Don’t take your phone to the bathroom
- Don’t touch your face
- Do the elbow/vampire sneeze!
- Keep your work area clutter-free and clean
- Take a sick day!
The Death Desk Trap:
It has been widely reported that “sitting is the new smoking,” meaning that basically, regardless of whether or not you exercise, sitting at your desk for hours on end, then in your car, then at home in front of the TV, etc., increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an even *gasp* early death. Sheesh. But that’s not all, folks! If you slouch in your chair, you’re increasing your risk of a pinched nerve, pain, arthritis and bursitis, if your desk setup is not ergonomic, you’re risking repetitive strain injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Oh, and staring at your computer screen for hours at a time can give you computer vision syndrome, headaches and migraines. Is that all? Probably not, but that’s enough for one sitting. Breathe.
How to survive it:
- Change positions often
- Get up and move, walk and stretch every 30 minutes, go for a walk at lunch
- Make sure your desk is set up ergonomically, move the position of your mouse every so often
- Feeling brave? Venture at-work exercises! This guide even rates how ridiculous you’ll look doing each one.
- Sit up straight and/or get lumbar support
- Blink often, get anti-glare filters for your screen and/or computer glasses! Done.
The Last Meal
Looks like working in an office can also wreak havoc on our eating patterns, which, in turn, can be extremely detrimental to our health. Lots of us skip breakfast (putting us into a sustained, stressful state. Who needs more stress?) and/or lunch, or eat a sad desk lunch ( :( ) , or just go for the junk (which is usually quite plentiful, annoyingly!). Of course, all this can contribute to weight gain and consequently, increases your risk of developing heart disease and Type II diabetes. It’s a barrel of laughs!
How to survive it:
- Don’t skip breakfast, and make sure it has plenty of protein and some healthy fats and fiber to increase satisfaction and fullness (thus limiting the nibbles!)
- Pack a proper lunch (doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just make sure to include some protein, carbs and vegetables, as well as some snacks like nuts, yogurt or fruit and you’ll be good to go)
- Go ahead and take a break to eat that lunch. Multitasking is overrated If you can go outside to eat, even better, since that will give you a nice “desk-trap” break, a little fresh air for those lungs (and a break from the recirculated office air) and some vitamin D from the almighty sun (seriously, you need daylight). If you can fit in a little walk afterwards, well then, you’re golden.
- Hydrate! Even mild dehydration can make you feel weak and tired, so keep a water bottle at your desk or snack on fruits and veggies high in water content.
You got this.
Hidden dangers are lurking in every corner. Watch Out!
Your commute can be another thing that’s damaging your body. Hours sitting in traffic, with noise and air pollution and general road stress, apparently, can lead to higher blood sugar and increased cholesterol and increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and general misery. Things aren’t that much better on the bus or subway. Public transportation for more than 30 minutes can mean lower levels of life satisfaction. Woot!
How to survive it:
- If you’re lucky enough to be able to pick a job close to home, do it!
- Choose walking or biking to work. Bonus: it counts as great exercise!
- Mind over matter, friends. Change your mindset during your commute. Instead of looking at it as a nuisance and a chore, take it as an opportunity to do something you enjoy, like call an old friend just to chat, write something, read or listen to an e-book or podcast, meditate, practice mindfulness and gratitude, all of which have been shown to improve health and life satisfaction.
He looks like he’s in need of some funny cat LOLs
Of course, you already know that stress is bad for you too. Working more than 10 hours a day can increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and angina by 60%, and the stress of having a bad or unfair boss has been linked to elevated risk of heart disease, as well as sleep issues, depression, being overweight and high blood pressure. Stress from tight deadlines can affect your learning and memory. Ongoing stress can contribute to headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pains and problems sleeping. And finally, chronic stress can also do a number on your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections like the cold and flu! Oh, we’re feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Must be the anxiety.
How to survive it:
- Plan ahead. Whenever possible, make it a priority to plan projects with plenty of cushion before the deadline for unforeseeable circumstances and scope creep
- Take frequent breaks to clear your mind, do breathing exercises, meditate or stretch
- Procrastinate (within reason!)
- Identify your main stressors, be mindful of when they are affecting you, and create strategies to avoid them or adapt to them
- Identify your favorite healthy stress relievers (exercise, watching a movie, cooking, chatting with friends) and make sure to prioritize them in your life. For real!
- Actually disconnect (as in, turn the phone off) when you get home and do things in your free time that make you feel good
- Laugh! Here are some cats to help with that. And some hilarious late night clips. You’re welcome. 😀
Even the copier is out to get you?
So just because your office job may or may not be out to get you, doesn’t mean it will! You’ve got the power! Need a few more ideas? Check out this post, too!
What habits do you have to keep your work day healthy?