Whether you are running the United States or a small business from home, you want your office environment to work for you, not against you. You could well be sitting in a poorly lit room right now with multiple computer screens glaring at you, phone lines ringing every five minutes and distractions of other kinds affecting your work. The environments that we spend our days in can have a dramatic influence on our health over the long-term and our productivity in the short-term.
It is usually the events with obvious consequences that spur us to make changes. For example, get a bout of food poisoning in a canteen and you will quickly think twice before eating at that location again. Our bodies, however, are subject to many other types of toxins and environmental triggers that build up over time. Many of them silently chip away at our bodies without us even being fully aware of them.
What follows are some simple steps you can take to ensure that you personally are doing the best you can to optimize your working environment. In the short-term, you will find that you are functioning better in your day-to-day living and enhancing productivity in the work place. In the long term, you will find that you suffer from fewer of the common office worker issues.
5. Control The Food Available To You
Many offices today are still home to vending machines stocked up with endless supplies of sugar and saturated fats. You may be the healthiest individual at home, but if you are unprepared and find yourself needing some food during a busy day, you may dig in to some of those artery-cloggers. Thankfully, vending machines are usually at least a 30 second walk from most desks. You can counter the temptation by keeping your own desk stocked with healthy, non-perishable food items.
Fruits, nuts, even power bars, will make for far better choices than what most vending machines are stocked with. They release their energy sources slowly and give your brain food for extended periods of time. Sugars give you the rush, then the crash, which is no good in the days when you have important meetings or sales calls to make.
If there is a fridge close by, try to bring in a healthy lunch every day. Your body will thank you when you do what you can to prevent the long-term side effects of sugar, caffeine, and high fatty content foods. Of course, eating those in moderation are fine – it is when they make up every meal that it becomes more of a concern. Healthy foods will keep your energy levels consistent throughout the toughest days of business.
Your office is probably humming with the sounds of electronic gadgets and gizmos. As business relies on these to function, it is difficult to avoid them and exciting to have them, but there are concerns that are worth your attention. The studies of the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) are varied in their conclusions, but more and more authorities are recommending caution with the amount of exposure to them.
Radiation from cell phones has not conclusively been linked to cancer over the long term, but it might be beneficial to reduce exposure to it when possible. Research out of an Israeli University has shown that cell phone use at least has a negative effect on memory and cognitive functioning. If you are a sharp businessman, you want your memory recall in tip top condition when thinking on the spot.
There are steps you can take to at least reduce your exposure to such EMR around the office. You can switch off cell phones and use landlines more often. Try to keep a good distance between your desk and any wireless router. When you are not using the internet, try switching off your WiFi connection, this is especially important if you are working from home.
Yes, the studies are still being conducted about the long-term effects of EMR, but you only have to step outside for a breath of fresh air every so often to realize how much better you feel after even a short break from the computer.
3. De-Clutter And Reorganize
Take a look at the desk you are sitting at. Does it relax you? Or does it stress and agitate you? Clutter is something we can try and ignore but will taunt us with its gradual buildup. The type of clutter that is most visible can have even more of an influence about how you feel about it.
Keeping unpaid bills or legal notices lying around will more than likely agitate you, and you don’t want to take that agitation with you to your next sales meeting. If you are not going to pay it, or cannot deal with, at least have it filed away somewhere so that you can be as focused as possible while sitting at your desk. Pictures of loved ones or the family pet are more likely to make you smile and remind you of why you are making the calls you are making.
The art of Feng Shui is gaining greater popularity in the west and is all about setting up rooms so that you can experience greater harmony within them. There are enough other business activities disrupting harmony, don’t make your office one of them. You could go all out, bring in a feng shui expert (a waste of money, as there is no consistency to feng shui experts), or you could simply rearrange your office and de-clutter it a little to see how you feel. Peace isn’t something we get much of in a busy day; you may be thankful for its subtle presence.
2. Begin With The Rear End In Mind
Where you sit and what you sit on can determine your musculoskeletal health over extended periods of time. Even at low levels, back pain can be a real annoyance to have to deal with, and distracts you from performing at optimum levels. When we are seated for a long duration we make little use of our buttock muscles, which can cause them to weaken over time.
Many back ailments have been linked to this, with conditions of the spine ranging from temporary to chronic. You personally need to be aware of things such as slumping at a desk and how often you get up to move around, but the chairs you choose to sit on play a big part in this scenario.
Back expert Dr Stuart McGill says that the traditional view of sitting on a chair with legs and hips at 90 degrees only works for periods of 10 minutes or less. According to his extensive research, the best thing to do is to continuously vary the position in which you sit. This reduces the stress that accumulates on the body throughout a day and is helpful in preventing long-term issues with your tissues. Ergonomic chairs that can be adjusted with ease are amongst the better choices you can make. If you don’t have a choice of what chair you sit on, be sure to get up, move around, and exercise from time to time.
1. Light Up Your World
It may be an old wives tale that you will go blind if you try and read in poor lighting, but there are also many issues that have come to the attention of researchers observing the affect of artificial lighting. If you have a window in your office, how often have you sat at work in a daydream staring out of it? It could be instinctual on your part, fulfilling your need to soak up natural light. If you have access to natural light sources from the world around you, keep the curtains open while you work.
Artificial lighting in offices is typically made up of only a portion of the normal frequency spectrum of light, and poorly lit environments have been shown to have a negative effect on motivation. Researchers agree that full spectrum light sources can have a positive effect on motivation and thus increase productivity and retail sales.
Artificial lighting can also affect our sleeping patterns. Poor sleep has a negative impact upon productivity and performance throughout the days and weeks. Over time we build up sleep debt from all those nights without sleep. Some research has shown that those who work long hours at the office could benefit from full spectrum light sources if windows are few and far between. Let a little light in to your world today and see how you feel a week from now.