Creating a Healthy Workspace (Part 1)
Updated: Oct 23, 2022
There’s no question that the last couple of years has impacted all aspects of our lives, and for many, it has changed where you work each day. Maybe you’ve transitioned from a private office to your home, and now maybe back to a redesigned community workspace. Regardless of where you currently spend your working hours, understanding how your surroundings impact your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health will help to set you up for success.
1. Environment: Our surroundings have a significant impact on how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Everything from the air quality in the room to the way your space looks and feels and smells will make a difference in your ability to be at your best. As you move through your days—not just at work but everywhere you go—take notice of what colors, scents, textures, sounds, and design styles seem to make you feel more comfortable, focused and grounded. You may want to keep notes or take photos of ideas you can make your own.
2. Posture and Mobility: For full-time employees, studies show that the average American spends between 40-47 hours per week at our job. Whether you have a more active career or you spend most of your day at a desk, proper posture and body mechanics as well as regular change of position and stretching are important. See if your employer offers ergonomic evaluations and training. If not, explore resources that are available online or look for a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor in your area that can help. Take notice of how your body feels before, during and after your workday. Be curious about what changes could be made that could help you to be safe and comfortable as well as possibly more efficient.
3. Technology: Technology can be invaluable to our work, yet it can also undermine our health and our productivity. Sitting at my desk now, I have a desktop, a laptop, a landline, a cell phone, and my smartwatch all next to me. There are constant pop-ups, messages, notifications, reminders and alerts. Our brains are not created to multi-task. All of these distractions decrease our ability to focus and ultimately to be more productive, as well as to potentially increase our feelings of stress and anxiety. How can you begin to create healthier boundaries with technology at work?
4. Relationships: We are created to be social beings. We are not meant to be alone. We have felt the impact of isolation over the last couple of years, yet now you may also be struggling with re-engaging with coworkers and practicing social skills again. Whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert, we all need healthy emotional contact with others. Be patient with yourself. Notice how you’re feeling during one-on-one interactions as well as in larger social settings, withholding self-judgment or criticism. From here, you can begin to discover more about yourself, your relationships with others, and what you may want to change.
5. Mindfulness: Mindfulness seems to be the word of the day, but don’t underestimate the incredible impact bringing mindfulness to your life can have. Mindfulness is really quite simple—being aware of what is happening around you and within you in this moment sounds easy, yet can be very difficult to practice. There are countless books, online resources and apps that share more about what mindfulness is and how to practice mindfulness. For now, simply set aside a few moments each day to take note of what’s happening around you (what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel) as well as what’s happening within you (thoughts, emotions, general healthy etc). Notice differences in how you may feel at work versus at home or out socially. How does being mindful feel different than being on auto-pilot? How does being present and aware shift your experience in your daily life?
Take a few minutes to think about how you feel in your current work environment. What are some things you like about your current space? What are some things you would ideally like to change? Now find a starting point—identify one small change you can make today to better support your health and wellness. Reassess in a few days to determine how the change is working for you. It’s ok to experiment to learn more about what you like or don’t like. Ultimately, your goal is to create a space that will support your health, creativity and efficiency.
Join me for part two as we explore more specific ideas within each of these five categories for improving your current work environment.
~Nicole Hutchison, PT, CSCS, Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach