It's no secret that well-being in the workplace is becoming an increasingly important issue, with research finding that 81% of UK office workers now spend between 4 and 9 hours each day sitting at a desk and looking at a screen. Not only can this lead to physical injuries such as eye strain, chronic back pain, neck strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, but it can also have a negative effect on mental health. According to the Health and Safety Executive, anxiety and stress are the two biggest causes of illness in the workplace, with 1 in 6.8 people experiencing mental health problems at work. Now is the time to overhaul your bad habits with some top tips for improving well-being at the work.
Wellness top tips
This is a common problem for office workers in the UK as we all often spend hours every day reading text on computers, tablets and mobile devices. In 2018 research from the British Medical Journal found that digital eye strain (DES) was 50% more prevalent among avid computer users. Although this may feel like a difficult problem to escape from, there are a few steps one can take to help reduce DES.
Firstly, reduce the glare on your monitor and consider installing an anti-glare screen on your display.
Secondly, make sure you take regular intervals from looking directly at your monitor, at least every half hour.
Lastly, researchers have found that when we read we blink half as much, making your eyes become dry, which leads to DES. So making sure that you are blinking regularly, or investing in artificial tears (eye drops), to help spread moisture over your eyes allows them to recover and reduce DES.
Back and neck pain
Chronic back and neck pain are issues of growing prevalence across the UK as office workers spend large amounts of time hunched over looking at a laptop or computer screen. It is estimated that the average human head weighs 5kg - the same as a bowling ball! So, you can imagine the strain your neck and back are feeling when your head is bent over at angle looking at a laptop screen. Aside from the weight, as Joan Vernikos, former NASA scientist explains: 'any position we hold for a length of time will eventually turn to pain because the body is not primed to do that'. Evidently, the human body is not designed to be stuck in positions of immobility for long periods of time.
Thankfully, there are simple remedies we can try to help alleviate neck and back pain and reduce overall pressure on our spine:
Firstly, doctors recommend that we should stand up every half an hour and walk around for one to two minutes, especially if you start to feel tightening or stiffness.
Secondly, making sure your posture is in the right position is of upmost importance. Both feet should touch the floor with your lower back always touching the lower part of the chair. Your hips and knees should also be bent to 90 degrees, the torso should be upright with your elbows supported on the armrest.
Lastly, your screen should always be positioned at the correct height to avoid looking down. Your monitor should be set at or slightly below eye level to promote a neutral spine position. If you are using a laptop consider investing in an adjustable laptop stand that allows you to increase the height of your screen.
Not only are physical problems at work on the rise, but mental health is also becoming an increasing prominent topic on a global scale. Stress and anxiety tend to be the biggest causes of mental health related issues in the UK and in 2018, 19 600,000 people in the UK reported experiencing work-related stress, anxiety or depression, accounting for 44% of all work-related illness.
Experiencing mental health issues at work is nothing to be ashamed of, you might be surprised how many of your colleagues have been in the same situation. If you feel that you are struggling, talk to someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive and listen. Although it can be difficult, talking about your feelings can be a huge relief and helps you to maintain a healthy mind and deal with the times you feel troubled.
It's sometimes claimed that there is no physical cure for mental illness, however, there are some actions we can all take to help reduce symptoms and enhance our mood. Keeping active is considered as extremely beneficial, the School of Public Health found that running for just 15 minutes a day can help reduce the risk for major depression by up to 26%. This is because regular exercise leads to changes in the brain that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise also releases endorphins which reduce our perception of pain. Healthy eating can also help improve mental health, with studies showing that there is a link between certain nutrients in food and emotional well-being. These nutrients include: Vitamin D, Magnesium, B vitamins, folic acids and tryptophan which are all found in foods that are part of a healthy diet.
Evidently, individuals need to start recognising the harmful health risks associated with working in an office environment and need to start taking steps to improve their well-being at work. The more we keep ignoring these issue and pushing them to the back of our minds, we increase the chances of becoming seriously ill and reinforce bad working habits.
*Want to find out other well-being top tips? Head over to our 12 days of Christmas blog*