Working Well in 2020
It’s a sad fact that many of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our loved ones. The average British employee will rack up nearly 85,000 hours of work over their lifetime – that’s over 3,500 days in total.
Add to this the fact that the workplace can be a highly stressful environment, and it’s no surprise that our experiences at work can have a profound impact upon our wellbeing. Yet for many of us, the concept of self-care or wellness is largely restricted to our leisure time – we might plan a weekend pampering session, or take some time in the evening to sit and meditate. But while face masks and scented candles may not mix with 9am meetings and conference calls, it’s actually surprisingly easy to adjust your working habits to boost your mood.
9 to 5
To get things started, think about your working day. Flexible working hours can be a great means of ensuring a positive work/life balance, but for those of us who don’t have that option, there are still things you can do to safeguard your wellbeing.
First things first – the daily commute. It can be a source of great stress and may not be avoidable, but it can certainly be improved. Stuck on a packed tube train? Why not get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way? If you drive to work, perhaps consider downloading some relaxing podcasts to help make the journey more serene, or if it’s not too far, why not try cycling instead?
Once you reach the office, the key thing to remember is activity. It’s all too easy to remain chained to your desk, but the evidence shows that remaining seated and inactive for long periods of time can be seriously harmful to our health. Research published by The Lancet linked a lack of activity to 5.3 million deaths a year globally, putting it on similar footing with smoking. So take breaks whenever you can – whether it’s getting up to go and speak to a colleague rather than emailing them, or doing a tea round for your team. For more extreme commitment, you could even try a standing or treadmill desk!
Another habit that we could all do with getting into is taking a full lunch break. It may seem an overwhelming prospect sometimes, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of eating ‘al-desko’. But in fact, once you establish a routine of taking a break, you’ll find that actually things don’t fall apart in your absence, and the respite from the office leaves you feeling energised and more efficient. Trust us!
There are some things about our workplaces that we are powerless to change. For example, many of us work in large, open-plan offices. These are designed to encourage easy communication and a friendly environment, but in fact, research has shown that they can be stifling, as workers feel conscious that their conversations and phone calls can be overheard by their colleagues. Introverts can find these surroundings particularly stressful and may find themselves easily distracted and unable to focus. However, you can still make the situation work for you. For example, start bringing in headphones and plugging in when you want to get your head down for a couple of hours. Your colleagues will soon learn not to disturb you!
There are plenty of other tricks to help turn your work environment from a place of stress to one of calm and productivity. For example, you can make your desk your own personal sanctuary. Keep things neat and orderly, so you don’t waste time and energy rummaging for essential items. Treat yourself to some stylish stationery and you might find that even basic tasks such as writing memos become a more satisfactory experience.
If you tend to struggle with the mid-afternoon slump, why not put together a treat drawer? Fill it with healthy, high-energy snacks such as nuts and dried fruit, a luxurious hand cream and your favourite essential oils, which you can apply to your temples and wrists to alleviate stress. It will make your desk feel like a refuge and will give you a little dose of spa each day! You can further enhance the calming mood by introducing some houseplants to your work area – they help to purify the air and reduce stress.
Top tips to bear in mind
• Aim to take a five-minute break every thirty minutes
• Try to prepare lunch the night before if you can
• Bring a little bit of the spa to your desk with your favourite hand cream
• Seek out some new podcasts or fun playlists for your commute
All about attitude
Alongside these wellbeing ‘hacks’, there are some deeper adjustments you can make that will really pay off in the long term.
The first of these is relationships. Many of us maintain a clear distinction between our work and private lives, and of course, that’s a healthy separation to make. But given just how much time we spend with our colleagues, it makes sense to make those relationships positive ones. Having a network of people around you to support you in times of stress can be an incredible boost, and will leave you feeling able to tackle anything. So why not reach out and invite the new recruit for a coffee? At the very least you’ll be creating a friendlier office environment, and who knows – you might meet your new best friend!
Being kinder to others can only be a good thing, but it’s vital to be kind to yourself as well. If you’ve found yourself slipping into a pattern of overtime, dragging yourself into the office even when you’re feeling ill, it’s time to take stock. Take baby steps towards cutting back the extra hours, and give yourself permission to take a day off to fully recover from that heavy cold. You’ll return to work feeling refreshed, and you’ll spare your colleagues your sneezing as well!