Human bodies and office jobs do not mesh well. If you’ve ever sat in an office for eight-plus hours a day, you know what I mean.
Your back aches in protest after hunching in your chair. Your eyes sting bloodshot from harsh screens. Your skin breaks out in oily blemishes from stagnant air. You insatiably snack on doughnuts, chips, chocolate — anything to keep your head focused and your mouth occupied.
All those symptoms are signs of your body’s unrest — and there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for each and every one. But you can’t quit your job, and as much as you wish you worked in an office with lunchtime yoga and a wellness room, that’s just not reality.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate the damage and make your desk feel so much healthier.
1. Invest in plants
Nature has a calming effect unparalleled by other influences. In one study, the addition of plants to a workplace improved health outcomes, reduced the number of sick days taken, and increased productivity for an entire office. They’re not only pretty to look at, but they also keep you thriving.
Invest in a few — even a small succulent can make a positive change in your day.
2. Get a standing desk
Seriously. Those things are life savers. Standing for a few hours each day can help to regulate all kinds of kinks in your neck and strains on your back. The body just wasn’t meant to sit for that long. We’re upright creatures — and your body gets really confused when it’s forced to be stationary.
I got a standing desk and was surprised to find that my focus improved, my muscle aches ceased, and my digestion felt more normal. Who knew being on your feet could matter so much?
3. Collage with colors
Office spaces tend to be gray and dismal. Spruce up your space with colors that enliven you. Emotional and mental health can be just as crucial as physical, and feeling happy and calm can actually improve your physical health in the long run. In fact, healers in ancient cultures utilized chromotherapy (the use of colors to affect health outcomes) to treat common ailments.
Certain colors have certain effects. If you flush your desk with red, you’ll feel intense, motivated, and passionate — though sometimes hungry. If you garnish with green, you’ll feel tranquil, focused, and optimistic — and improve reading ability.
4. Keep healthy snacks stored away
Snacking is an underrated tool for productivity and focus at a desk job. Gorging on trans fats and refined sugar probably won’t leave you feeling your best, but every once in a while a treat is totally necessary. For your everyday munching, it’s important to keep healthy options on hand to maintain a balanced blood sugar and a focused mind.
Anything with some natural sugars and healthy fats is probably a good call. Protein is also a plus, but you’re likely getting enough of it from your meals throughout the day.
Store your snacks somewhere you can’t see them. Having snacks out on your desk is priming you to crave them all day, simply because they’re in your line of vision. Out of sight, out of mind — until your body actually wants them, and your hunger will let you know it’s time to break out the snack bag.
5. Keep a large water bottle handy
Hydration is key. Sure, you’re not doing any exercise or bathing in sunlight, but you are a human — and you need water. Dehydration can result in fatigue, cravings, indigestion, and difficulty concentrating. Combined, these side effects set you up for an unproductive day of mindless snacking and coffee.
Before you reach for the chocolate, fill a glass with water. It could be all you really needed. Here’s how to tell if you’re really dehydrated, and how to hydrate fast.