Keeping your nose to the grindstone can seem like a good idea when you see your paycheck. However, if you're not careful, a fast-paced work environment can interfere with your physical and mental health. Here are three tips for improving your health at work:
1. Avoid Eating at Your Desk
If this is a surprise to you, you're not alone. Sixty-two percent of employees currently eat at their desks--scarfing down bagels and the like, while haphazardly typing emails. This is most likely due to the idea that multi-tasking will increase productivity, or that taking lunch breaks signifies laziness.
However, grabbing something fast and eating at your desk usually means that you haven't given much thought to what you're eating. Oftentimes, workers snack on what's in the company fridge: leftover catered lunches and quick snacks--food that may give you a thirty-minute boost, but definitely won't help you during that 3 p.m. crash.
According to the New York Times article "Failure to Lunch," you consume more calories than you realize while sitting at your desk. Many employees even keep a stash of food with them: "In a study of 122 employees, people on average cached 476 calories' worth of food in their desks." The article also explained that 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. is "the peak period for workplace snacking" throughout the day--most of office eating is snacking to satisfy cravings.
Instead of eating at your desk, consider giving yourself a break from the computer screen and fluorescent lights. If you absolutely have to eat at your desk, put in a conscious effort to make wise eating choices.
2. Make Healthy Choices
Eating healthily at work doesn't have to be boring. You don't have to sadly turn to your wilted salad while your coworkers go out to lunch. These days, it's easier to make healthy choices at restaurants. If you don't want to eat out, you can pack some healthy snacks like carrots and hummus or fresh fruit so that your mid-afternoon craving doesn't ruin the rest of your day.
But before you add new items to your diet, make sure you understand what you're doing. For example, eating three-times the recommended amount of vegetables to cancel out the three cans of Coke you consume daily will not get you very far. However, there are certain foods that can give you an added brain boost, improving your productivity and processing abilities.
Abbott Nutrition, a global leader in health science, has produced new research that indicates lutein, a nutrient known for supporting eye health, can enhance cognitive skills. "Baseline data and additional follow-up research suggest that lutein and zeaxanthin ... supplementation improves processing speed and efficiency, along with memory in young and older adults."
Lutein is found in several vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, zucchini, corn, oranges, grapefruit, melons, tomatoes, and countless others. So next time you're trying to decide what to eat (hopefully away from your desk), make heathy choices. Choose a snack that will boost your productivity without sapping your energy. Your boss and your body will thank you.
3. Take a Break
Eating healthy foods away from your desk will help you mentally recharge. But what if you've done all that and still feel brain-fried? Studies show that short breaks from tasks can help workers focus, improving productivity and creativity. Skipping breaks and trying to stay focused on one task for a long amount of time can lead to stress and exhaustion.
In a New York Times article John P. Trougakos, professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotnam School of Management, said that the brain is a muscle. "It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover," he said.
Even if you don't have the time or desire to take a lunch break, there are other things you can do. "Employees generally need to detach from their work and their work space to recharge their internal resources," Trougakos said. "Options include walking [or] reading a book in another room." Whatever you choose to do, it's important to take a mental and physical break from your work to decrease anxiety and fatigue.
Of course, there are always exceptions. If you feel that working without breaks helps your productivity, go for it. But if you find yourself racking your brains for ideas and forcing productivity, you might want to step away for a few minutes.
Although the three suggestions in this article will not solve all your workplace woes and turn you into a high-functioning robot, they are a starting point. Getting rid of bad habits is difficult and lifestyle adjustments take effort. If you keep at it, you'll eventually see beneficial results, not only in the workplace, but in life in general.