Healthy Office Habits

Healthy Office Habits

Prolonged Sitting: Healthy Office Habits Number One Enemy

It is well documented that prolonged periods of sitting is responsible for an increased risk in a range of diseases. More simply put, prolonged sitting is documented to be bad for your health. So even the most ergonomically perfect office set up is not ideal if you are still sitting for 8-10 hours a day, everyday. Which is why developing healthy office habits is key to maintaining both good physical and mental health.
The simple solution is move, and move often. Creating a dynamic office environment with upright work station options, standing or walking meetings and an environment where you actually get up and physically go talk to your colleagues across the room when you need their input, rather than staying put, sitting on your butt and simply emailing, or calling them from your chair. Such changes will have a positive impact on your health. During the recent Covid-19 enforced work from home mandates for many employees, for our practices at least, led to an increase in patients attending (our Sydney and Randwick physio practices) for non specific, non traumatic spinal discomfort. And so much of this I felt was traced back to the altered situation where these individuals where now in general moving a lot less during their day. All their meetings were now on zoom and accessed at the press of a button, rather than getting up and going to a meeting room, or leaving the office to attend a client site… This increased their sitting load almost over night whilst subsequently reducing their daily movement volume.

Don’t Have A Standing Desk Option

If you are a white collar office worker and you do have to sit all day because you don’t have the option of using a variable sit to stand desk at work, then consider trying some of the the following ideas to increase your daily postural variations and movement volume:

  • Vary your sitting position, consider mixing it up and try sitting on the edge of your seat. Sitting this way can encourage some different muscles to work to help obtain an erect/neutral lumbar spine curve and can change your hip angles.
  • Try using an ergonomic kneeling seat rather than a standard chair, this can again change up muscle activations and add a different challenge to the body’s support systems.
  • Take breaks regularly, use these mini breaks as an opportunity to stand and move, even if it is simply just the act of walking around your chair before plonking yourself back down, it is still movement. Consider when suitable, that every time you are on a phone call that it be a cue to stand and move.
  • Look to regularly altering your sitting position to allow different muscles to work and others to rest. Attempt to roll your back from erect to slouched postures regularly throughout the day, taking your spine through its natural motions consistently whilst sitting.
  • Consider sitting on a Fit ball at work which again can be a tool to encourage more motion whilst sitting. The use of variable seats and purposefully mixing between a standard chair, kneeling stool, fit ball, or similar can all be ways to assist in avoiding being stagnant and non-varying in your positioning throughout your day.

With any of these suggested ideas, introduce them slowly into your work routine. As basic as they may seem, you may need to condition your spine to the changes which can take some individuals days/weeks for your spine to get used to and appreciate the change.

Be Active Whilst Doing The Mundane: Making New Healthy Office Habits

Forging new healthy office habits at work, or forming new habits in general is difficult, it is potentially easiest to initiate such change through turning what are simple activities into new opportunities to be active. Doing it this way is an approach to improve your “office health” with out actually eating into your busy schedule.

  • Take using the photocopier, or printer as an example. Commit to yourself that every time you go to the copier machine, or are waiting for something to print, you do a few movements with your arms, legs or spine, or bust out a set of body weight squats, lunges, calf raises…. whilst you’re waiting for it to finish.

Obviously it doesn’t have to be only associated with printing, or copying something, other examples could include every time you go grab a coffee, or cup of tea, when nature calls and you use the bathroom… see it as an opportunity to stretch, move or some quick mini bite of exercise.
Perhaps you say you would feel silly doing anything like this in front of your colleagues??? Well, you most likely wouldn’t if everyone does the same thing. A fun idea could be suggesting at an upcoming meeting that you all come up with ideas to create pseudo exercise stations around the office…. this way the photocopier is the stretching your spine station, the water cooler is 10 X body weight squats, the coffee machine is star jumps… Clearly it doesn’t’ need to be these exact exercises, as anything will be better than nothing and if “said” exercises are pinned up in clear view of everyone using the “equipment” then it may quickly become the norm around the office and then everyone wins. With Covid and the work from home environment this is even easier to set up as none of you colleagues need see you doing your star jumps every time you make a coffee, as you’re in the safety of your home home, away from judgy eyes.

Healthy Office Habits, Creating A Balanced Workstation

Ergonomics should mean more than just considering your chair and monitor height. Something frequently neglected is symmetry around the work station. It is important to consider a balance of right and left handed activities and the distributing of load across the limbs, as well as how your head and spine is positioned with regard to repetitive or sustained unilateral positions of rotation.
Ask yourself, are you always favoring turning to the right, or the left, or are you reaching and leaning at the desk towards the right or the left?

  • Positioning things in your work space so it encourages you to operate in a more balanced fashion around the work station may assist in stopping you from over loading one side more than the other. Doing this could assist in helping fight imbalances in your body. Whilst encouraging movement in all directions, not just the same repetitive ones over and over again.

Drink Plenty Of Water

The final healthy office habits tips here is staying hydrated. Hydration is crucial to life and the function of the musculoskeletal system is no different to the rest of the body in respect to this. Dehydrated spinal discs, dehydrated muscles and joints are potentially at greater risk of being pain sources. Increasing your hydration may actually assist in reducing repetitive strain associated pains. Taking regular water breaks throughout the day, breaks where you consume small quantities of water regularly is a great way to keep your tissues hydrated and healthy. And at the very least it will have you getting up and down more from your chair as you fill up your cup and take more frequent trips to the bathroom, so worst case you are moving more, which is the ultimate goal here.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding Healthy Office Habits should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or suitably skilled practitioner.