How to stay fit and healthy at work
It’s estimated that on an average day, office workers spend up to seven hours sitting down.
That equates to almost 80,000 seated hours throughout your working life, according to a VicHealth study.
While this may be necessary to get the work done, it’s not what nature intended. The Australian Health Survey says most people should take about 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, but many would be lucky to do half of that.
Inactivity and poor diet are two of the most common issues – a combination that limits productivity and harms employee engagement.
Luckily, a few small tweaks can make a big difference to employee wellbeing. Here are my top tips for being happier and fitter at work.
Firstly, it’s not just physical health you need to think about. Employees should also be conscious of their mental health if they want to stay well.
Advancing technology means we’re all better connected; unfortunately that can also make it hard to switch off.
Mental resilience – including learning to deal with an unrelenting workload, often caused by an inability to switch off – is a vital skill to learn. Mental resilience can also help you deal with failure and accept constructive feedback. Not being able to do so can take its toll on mental health.
We’ve recently launched a companywide resilience program called Thrive, which will help people build awareness about their own health and reduce the negative impacts of stress and pressure. Check whether your company has a mental health program that can give you the resources and help you need to cope with the demands of daily life.
Let’s Get Physical
How active are you in an average workday? Don’t be alarmed if your answer is “not much” - you’re not alone. But you can make simple adjustments to pump up your daily activity and overall health.
Start by getting off at an earlier train or tram stop, organising a walking meeting or two, or standing up at your desk at regular intervals.
Ergonomics – how well your workspace is designed - is another aspect to consider when trying to stay healthy at work. The way you sit and what you’re sitting on can have a lasting impact on your health.
Employers often provide an ergonomic check as part of workplace health and safety programs - this is well worth considering if you find yourself with a stiff back or neck after a day’s work.
Out of Office
External factors may also be having a negative effect on your health, including financial and nutritional issues. Check whether your company has an employee assistance program to connect you with experts who can help you. For example, Telstra staff can get in touch with a nutritionist for dietary advice. They can also access financial advisers, as sometimes money worries can harm mental health.
Putting It All Together
Your wellbeing is directly influenced by the environment you live and work in, so consider the physical, mental and external factors that contribute to your health.
Think about how you can make it to 10,000 steps a day. You could get up and move around every hour, whether that’s taking a call, filling a water bottle, or moving to a different work area.
Because we’re always online, it can be hard to switch off – so set a time that you will stop checking your phone, and stick to it. Remember most things can wait until tomorrow; your health should come first.
If you feel your working environment needs improving, get in touch with your health and safety team. They will likely have systems in place to help.
Making small changes can go a long way to keeping you healthier at work - and in turn make you happier.
If you do have any concerns about your health and wellbeing, contact your GP.
Cameron Smith is a Telstra workplace health and safety advisor.