In my previous life as a sales manager, I worked out of a small cubicle in a windowless warehouse office. Sterling Cooper, it was not. We worked straight from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and just like my personal hero Dolly Parton sang, it really was all taking and no giving. We didn’t even have a break room, which was totally fine because we didn’t get a lunch break anyway. Even if we did, most of us worked through lunch—as 62 percent of American office workers do, my coworkers would snarf down midday meals between meetings and phone calls. But I drew the line at sad desk lunch, so I just wouldn’t eat at all. I’m pretty sure my crash office diet resulted in what I can only assume was acute pancreatitis or a stomach ulcer (I can’t be sure because my job didn’t offer insurance, so I never saw a doctor. For the record, I don’t recommend self-diagnosing.). Take it from me, ladies: Your health is more important than your work inbox. My own wake-up call came when I read an article that said sitting is the new smoking. Gross, right? The minute I saw that, I decided to make a change in my work life and my health life. I set reminders to drink water and move around every hour. And yes, I even started eating lunch at my desk for the sake of my health. Now I work from home, but it’s just as easy to forgo your health in a home office. I recently noticed I was slacking in the workday health department, so I talked to Dianna Leyton, a marketing manager in Richmond, Virginia, who has also decided to make her work health a priority (all while slaying at her 9-5 job). Here are her favorite tips for staying healthy and strong when you work in an office:
Get better sleep at night.
“If you stay up all night before a workday, you’re going to be exhausted all day long,” says Leyton. “Get a good night’s sleep, and you’ll start your day feeling fresh and energized for the day ahead.” Leyton admits she has a hard time winding down before bedtime; to tire herself out, she makes sure to log a good workout in the evening, so she’s ready when bedtime rolls around. But if you like working out in the morning, you can still get a good night’s rest. Try to stay away from all your devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime (do-not-disturb mode can still let important and emergency calls through) and ready your mind and body for sleep with a calming bedtime yoga flow.
“Self-care during the workday is important. Sometimes I eat lunch at my desk so I can go get a mani-pedi during my lunch break or take a walk in the park,” says Leyton. “When I do something for myself during the workday, I feel better all day long.” See? Leyton turned sad desk lunch into a rewarding experience by using her lunch break to treat herself to something fun. Think about some of your favorite relaxing activities, and figure out how to incorporate them into your workday. Simple acts of self-care can have a positive impact on the choices you make throughout the day and can even result in greater productivity at work and at home.
Get a work spouse.
“I started doing the Whole30 program with a co-worker so that we hold each other accountable over our eating habits,” says Leyton. “It makes it easier when you have someone else passing on the free Friday donuts!” It’s true, having an accountability buddy at work can help you stay on track with diet and exercise in the office, but having a work bestie is also great for your overall work performance and mental health, according to a recent Gallup poll. Not sure how to turn Susan in payroll into your new bff? It’s just like dating; at first, finding out which co-workers you’re most compatible with might be a little awkward, but over time, you’ll be able to forge real friendships that have lasting benefits for your health.
Take the longest route to the printer.
“I know getting your steps in sounds a little trite, but I really do try to count my steps during the workday,” says Leyton. “I take walks during lunch, and I try to take the least direct route to meetings and the copy room to maximize my step count. I just make sure to give myself extra time, so I’m not late!” Wearing a step counter can open your eyes to how many steps you’re actually taking at work. You might be shocked to find that even though you are exhausted when 5 p.m. rolls around, you only took a thousand steps! To increase your step count during the day, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk around the printer while you’re waiting for that 90-page document to print. Set a reminder to get up and walk to the break room (for water!) every hour. You’ll be surprised at how many more steps you’re getting in every day when you’re making a conscious effort.
Shop online. Yes, really.
Okay, so this last tip comes from yours truly. You’re welcome. A study conducted by Brent Coker at the University of Melbourne found that workplace internet leisure browsing (WILB)—like shopping the latest Amazon deals or scrolling social media—can actually increase your productivity at work. Bless you, Dr. Coker. So, if you’ve been plugging away at a project for several hours, it’s okay to take a break and scroll through that cute guy from the gym’s Instagram. Just make sure you don’t accidentally deep like one of his pics!