Workplace wellness can often seem like a complicated and challenging issue, and as such is often put in the ‘too hard’ basket, but hopefully by the end of this article you will be able to identify some simple solutions to help you begin to manage the impact our often less than ideal workplace arrangements have on our bodies. We need to be mindful of our bodies and our own individual needs in the workplace and be personally accountable for our own wellness solutions. Don’t just leave it up to your employer to find these solutions for you. Especially now, with many of us working from home offices, or in our own businesses, our workplace wellness is our own responsibility, and it often doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated in order to be an effective solution.
The first step on this journey is to identify your own workplace wellness needs. Are you in an office situation, an outdoor job, or a job that involves heavy lifting or standing all day? What issues does this type of employment cause you? Make a list of your concerns. Some things you may see on this list could be eye strain or headaches from looking at a computer screen for hours on end, back pain from heavy lifting, back and neck pain from poor sitting posture, leg and foot fatigue from hours of standing. Your issues will be unique to you and your situation.
Then next to each point of concern try to identify a solution to that problem that can be easily integrated into your everyday work situation. Maybe its rubber matting under your feet for lessening the impact of foot and leg fatigue. Maybe the integration of a standing desk so you are not in a seated position for hours on end. Maybe it doesn’t need to even be that complicated and doesn’t require the purchase of any additional equipment or workplace aides. Quite often the most effective solutions lie within us and are as simple as changing behaviours in the workplace.
Reflect on your day-to-day activities within the workplace and how you can change your personal habits to help reduce the negative impact these activities and your own behaviours have on your body. For instance, most of us have poor posture on a good day, and when we become fatigued or invested in something that requires focus and concentration for long periods of time, unfortunately our posture becomes even worse. Have you checked your posture lately? Are you sitting here reading this and adjusting how you are sitting so you are in a better postural position? I bet you are. I know that I am, and I’m the one writing this article!
Posture is number one when it comes to continued acquired workplace injuries and lack of workplace wellness. Poor posture and body positioning will cause back strain when lifting, back, neck and shoulder pain from sitting for extended periods of time and pelvic, hip, knee, foot and lumbar pain when standing for hours on end. So how do we become more aware of our posture? The simple answer is just pay attention to yourself. Notice when you start to feel discomfort how you are standing or sitting or moving. Is your back straight? Are your shoulders back? Is your core engaged? Is your head in a forward position? Are you standing with a lean to one side, a sway back or are your knees locked? Once you have identified these patterns of poor posture, you are then able to look for solutions to break these bad habits and specifically work on improving your situation. Just remember, this will be a work in progress and not a quick, overnight fix. You will be trying to break patterned behaviours, so be patient with yourself. It will take time. Self-awareness is the key here. I encourage you to take the time to build body awareness and pay attention to how your body responds to different situations, different postures, and different activities. This is the first step on the journey to making lifelong changes that will positively impact not only your working life, but your quality of life in general and your overall physical health.
Part 2 of Wellness in the Workplace will identify easy ‘hacks’ for improving posture, and breaking poor habits so you can move forward into a less painful and more enjoyable working and personal life.