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For this week’s five, we turned to workplace strategy expert and researcher Leigh Stringer, author of the new book, “The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.”
Over the years, says Stringer, we’ve all developed work styles that are not always good for our physical, mental or emotional health. “It’s not that we’re bad people, or that we aren’t working hard. The problem is we are so focused on work, that we’ve changed the way we eat, move and sleep in a way that is actually counter-productive.”
Here are five ways to be healthier at work, add a little more zen, and get more done while you’re at it.
Studies show people who feel more “in control” of their work and work environment are less likely to suffer from stress and illness and to see increases in productivity. Stringer suggests these options:
Humans have a strong desire to be in and among nature, says Stringer. This preference, often referred to as biophilia, was introduced by E.O. Wilson, who suggests there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Nurturing that bond at work can decrease stress:
To reduce noise distractions office-wide, separate energetic spaces from quiet areas, says Stringer. It’s important to put in a “buffer” between conference spaces or kitchenettes (where people are likely to mill around and talk) and individual workspaces. Also, define policies for space use (i.e., only use speaker phones in enclosed rooms or designate some rooms as “quiet” spaces). As for your personal space:
It’s true, pets in the office can have health benefits, improve morale, and even increase collaboration. Pet owners may even work longer hours if they don’t feel they have to rush home to care for their pets. Can’t convince your colleagues to allow pets every day? Stringer has some alternatives:
One of the most influential tools to encourage healthy behavior at work is you. Stringer says injecting healthy changes into your own life will give you the knowledge you need to convince others to change. For example, you can:
By working changes like these into your own life, says Stringer, you will have more energy and you will understand the changes required to behave and work differently. That means you are more likely to be listened to by the people you are trying to convince. (After all, it’s really hard to take advice from someone who isn’t actually drinking the Kombucha.)
Finally, if you are relocating, consider moving near a park or public transportation. The proximity of your home or office to parks and other recreational facilities is consistently associated with higher levels of physical activity and healthier weight status, says Stringer. The same goes for proximity to public transit. In one study, train commuters walked an average of 30 percent more steps per day and were four times more likely to walk 10,000 steps per day than car commuters. Even if you can’t control the location of your home or office, keep this in mind when planning your commute. Less time in the car translates to more time on your feet.
Leigh Stringer, LEED AP, works for EYP, an architecture, engineering and building technology firm. She is currently collaborating with Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the Center for Active Design in New York, the International Facility Management Association and the AIA DC Chapter on Health and Well-being to create new tools to connect like minds and to blur the boundaries across industries in order to advance and improve our well-being at work. She is a regular contributor to Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution Blog and Work Design Magazine. In addition to “The Healthy Workplace,” she is the author of “The Green Workplace: Sustainable Strategies that Benefit Employees, the Environment and the Bottom Line.” Find her on Twitter @.
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