How well is your workplace?
We spend so much time at the office these days that if the environment is stressful on the body, mind and emotions then it will impact on life outside of work and most importantly our health and wellbeing.
A few weeks ago we took a look at sitting and standing all day. This week I wanted to delve into some other facets that make up a healthy work environment.
The cost to the workplace
If a workplace has no wellness programs in place then the likelihood of things like muscle aches and pains, stress, poor diet and nutrition as well as team communication becoming a problem will be much greater.
Effective workplace health and wellbeing programs can:
Increase productivity at work by 29%.
Improve overall worker health by 24%.
Reduce absence due to sickness.
Result in healthier and safer workers.
Create a positive work environment and workplace culture.
Sitting or standing?
At the moment there is a real buzz around how bad sitting all day is for us. While this is true it is also true of standing all day.
Sitting has been linked to all kinds of illness and injury including:
muscle aches and pains affecting areas such as the neck, back, shoulder, arm and wrist.
The benefits of sitting include:
less pressure through the hips, knee and ankles.
the ability to work for longer without breaks
less likelihood of developing varicose veins compared to standing
So standing all day is the solution then?? I hear you ask. Well not necessarily. Standing all day can cause these issues:
Increased foot, ankle, knee and hip pain. Increase risk of varicose veins in the lower leg.
Some links to increased heart disease (though this is also linked to sitting and inactivity).
Lower back pain
Heel pain, bone spurs and plantar fasciitis.
Bunions or corns. Though bunions aren't caused by standing, standing all day on a bunion will certainly make it worse.
The benfits of standing all day include:
improved cardiovascular health
more alertness and less tiredness
reduced neck and shoulder pain
Basically if you do anything all day whether it be sitting, standing, lying down, standing on one leg, balancing on your head or anything else you can think of, it will cause you pain. The research and more importantly common sense says to move often. Get away from the desk. Go for a walk around the office. Get outside at lunch. Go to the gym or go for a walk.
I feel that this is the real heart of the issue. If we are inactive for long periods at a time then our body becomes slow and lazy. This also impact our mental state which in turn affects our emotional state. If we can exercise regularly and move often then the likelihood of serious health issues is reduced.
What can you do?
The biggest thing you can do to stop the aches and pains is looking after your posture. Sitting up straight at your desk. Having your monitor/s set up so your eye level is at the top of the monitor. Have the keyboard set up so you elbows can be at 90 degrees and your wrists are in a neutral position, neither extended or flexed too much as this can strain your wrists and elbows.
Take breaks!! If you do a physical activity over and over again without rest at some point the body will break down. At this breaking point you will then begin to feel pain. Once the pain has set in the body is telling you there is a problem. If you keep working on top of this pain then the problem will continue to get worse until you can't actually work.
Generally we see this in clinic with people who work in offices at the computer. If you are typing all day or using a mouse then it is no stretch to think that you could get wrist, elbow or shoulder pain.
This also goes with posture. If you are sitting slumped at the desk or slumped to one side standing up all day then this is a repetitive load on the body as well. If your head is forward then this increases the weight relative to your neck so your neck needs to work much harder to hold this already large weight up (not saying you have a big head, but all humans do have a large head relative to our neck).
You can also counter this by alternating using the mouse with the other hand. Using a trackpad or trackball instead of a mouse or just generally mixing things up.
These changes are ridiculously simple to make yet we find them so hard to implement.
In our busy lives it is not always easy to eat nutritious food. If you are busy and especially if you have children it can be hard to have time to prepare food. It is easy to eat toast and sugary cereal for breakfast as well as drinking too much coffee. Then grab takeaway for lunch or dinner. With so much choice around these days it is even harder to take the time to cook food at home or take lunch to work.
A poor diet can make you more likely to be sick which will then impact your health and your work.
Ok so unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years you would know that stress is one of the major factors in a lot of illnesses. You are probably stressed about the fact that you are stressed. Never fear there are simple things you can do to break the stress circuit and not only extend your life but decrease the risk of serious health issues down the track.
You can think of stress as repetitive strain for the heart, brain and cells.
Meditation/Mindfulness or deep relaxation can be a simple addition to your daily life. You don't have to don robes and go and live in a cave in India to meditate. I like to think of mediation as cleaning your brain or exercise for the mind.
Basically meditation is a focus exercise. It takes the busy, stressed mind and attempts to focus it on one thing. If you can slow down your busy mind for a few minutes a day then this will also induce a state of relaxation. It can decrease your sympathetic nervous system (stress) and increase your parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation).
There are many apps you can get on your phone or cds and downloads available so there has never been a better time to access meditation or relaxation.
Emotional stress is really at the heart of issues in the workplace. If you are stressed then it will be hard to manage your emotions.
Emotional stress can manifest in many ways:
being rude to fellow workers
unwillingness to work in a team
Individually working with a professionial who can help you with your personal issues or team problems will be key here. There are many amazing coaches who can get the work and team environment working like a finely tuned machine, rather than plodding along with the same old problems.
In the work environment we have to work closely with other people. Our actions can play a big part in the wellbeing of our fellow workmates as well as ourselves. If we can make an effort to look after our physical, mental and emotional health within the workplace and outside of it then having a workplace you want to go to everyday will be a reality.
At Muscle Therapy Australia we are committed to helping workplaces improve their health and wellbeing. We are excited to be offering offices and companies the opportunity to have us come into the workplace and run a hands on fun presentation that will get you and your work mates thinking about your health and encouraging each other to be accountable.
Issues such as posture, repetitive strain injuries and stress management will be covered. As well as giving every employee the opportunity to come into clinic and have a complimentary discovery session to see what the individuals needs are.
We are also running in office massage services and meditation/deep relaxation. The massage/active release techniques help to improve posture and prevent injuries.
Please contact us for more information on these services.
Anne Rongen, et al., Workplace Health Promotion: A Meta- Analysis of Effectiveness. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2013. 44(4): p. 406-415.
Conn, V.S., et al., Meta-analysis of workplace physical activity interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2009. 37(4): p. 330-339.