January always make me think of new starts, of new beginnings, of forming new habits and building new intentions. But that’s all easier said than done when many of us spend much of our day at a desk, feeling hungry, tired, balancing a large workload and personal tasks.
Recently, at Yoga Hero, we ran a ‘Back to School’ workshop, which was all about forming intentions, and sticking to them. I personally believe small, regular changes are the way to make a change stick for life. I know some people really believe in the cold-turkey method: making huge changes and sticking with them with good old-fashioned willpower, but practically speaking, most of us will benefit from a few small changes at a time. This quote is what I mean, but way more beautifully put:
With that in mind, we’ve put our heads together and we have 15 very implementable small to big, free to costly, barely noticeable to life-changing ways to bring wellness into your workplace.
1. Have a fruit bowl
Simple. Buy a big bowl, fill it with fruit. Ideally the company will pay for this (the bowl, and the fruit). You get your vitamins and your boss gets increased productivity as you’re less likely to slump in the afternoon from a sugar low / hunger.
2. Walking meetings
Those five / ten minute catch ups that you have regularly with colleagues, maybe daily or twice-weekly catch ups, think about making these walking meetings rather than sit down meetings. You’ll get your fresh air and increased step count and to be honest, you’re more likely to think clearer when moving around. Need to take notes? How about either speaking straight into a recorder (iPhone already has an app called ‘Voice Memos’, I’m sure there’s alternatives too) or write notes onto a hardbacked note pad – hold it like a waiter or waitress would. Disclaimer: watch where you’re going when walking and writing!
3. Standing meetings
If the weather is pants, or walking and writing is proving impractical, or both, try standing meetings instead. Less sitting is going to be a good thing physically and mentally, so if it’s not possible to move around, just stand up instead. From experience, this makes meetings much more focussed; whether that’s people wanting to keep the meeting short to go and sit down somewhere asap, or that standing does actually help with focus, I don’t know but who cares? Focus = more work done in less time = very good stuff.
4. One thing at a time
Seriously. One. Thing. At. A. Time.
If you’re going to read a document, close everything on your computer, put your phone on silent and read it. If you’re writing something, do the same. Wear headphones to signal to your colleagues that you’re not to be distracted and get on with the task in hand. Complete it, reward yourself, might be a tea, coffee, chat with a colleague, walk around the office, and then return to your next task. There’s a couple of sub-points here: try to break tasks down so they won’t take more than 25 minutes, and take regular breaks. Or just use the Tomato Timer, it really is absolutely great.
5. Take your full lunch break
Do it. Why? Read more here >
6. Start and finish work on time
If your time in the office is focused and productive, but you still have so much work that you need to start early and / or finish late and / or work through your lunch hour, you have too much work to do. It’s that simple.
Start on time, take your lunch break, finish on time, and then take the list of outstanding tasks to your boss or line manager to discuss what to do with them. They could be delegated / automated / written off completely, but you shouldn’t have to do them.
More hours in the office doesn’t equal more output, says Stanford University (and me. I agree wholeheartedly!). Plus your extra free time can be used for seeing friends, yoga, massage, walking, resting etc etc etc. More time for fun things! Yey!
If you work somewhere that’s open to change and forward-thinking, it might not be a ridiculous idea to implement a two-minute meditation at the beginning of each meeting, or longer if possible. Just ask all colleagues to inhale for a count of 4, exhale for 6. It might be met with confusion or even sniggers but the benefits will outweigh any initial bad reaction.
8. Led meditation in the workplace
At Yoga Hero, we offer meditation in the workplace sessions. We do also, of course, offer yoga in the workplace, but if space is hard to find, and time is a premium, meditation in the workplace can be more accessible. This can be standing, or seated in your chair, and you can do it in your work clothes. Doesn’t that sound ace? Want to find out more, just email email@example.com. If you’re not in or around Leeds, a quick Google should help you find someone in your area, or ask us for recommendations.
9. Yoga in the workplace
Whether that’s bringing Yoga Hero into your workplace or someone else, or following YouTube videos, some at-work movement can be a real boost. In the morning or at lunch, it’ll help to boost your productivity during the day and yoga after work can be just what you need to help switch off.
10. Improve your posture
Suggestions above such as standing and walking meetings are great for reducing the amount of time overall spent in a seated position, but ultimately many of us will spend a great deal of the day sitting in one way or another, so let’s look at how to ensure that’s as well spent as possible.
Ideally legs will be uncrossed; crossing the thighs can reduce blood flow to the legs, and it tips the pelvis to one side, negatively affecting the spine. Ideally, spine is long and tall, as if you had a helium balloon tied to the crown of your head, lengthening your spine. Shoulderblades sat on the back, not dropping forwards, and shoulders soft, not hunched up by ears. Read more here >
A poor posture affects digestion, heart and lung efficiency, attitude and so much more. You might think that slumping at your desk just isn’t great for your spine, but it’s so, so much more than that. Yoga and Pilates classes will help you to notice your posture, and build strength and flexibility to improve your posture, so attend them when you can.
11. Create a chill out area
This might be a place for you to eat meals away from the desk on days that you struggle to get out of the office, or it might be somewhere to let your creativity go wild or somewhere to sit and chat with colleagues during break times. When a company creates such an area; it’s clear that they’re behind your need to chill out, so it takes the guilt out of using such a space. Also put plants in it…
12. Put plants around the office
“Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who have been studying the issue for 10 years, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.” Read more, from The Guardian, here >
13. Drink more water
Get a jug and fill it with water, and use it to keep topping up your glass throughout the day. Or drink out of a big bottle and refill that during the day. Or put some fruit or cucumber or lemon in your water. Whatever you do, drink water. Aim for eight glasses / two litres per day, plus a glass of water for every dehydrating drink that you consume (fizzy pop / coffee / tea etc).
14. Invest in a height-adjustable desk
Yep I’m talking about sitting again. #sorrynotsorry.
And also – warning – this suggestion certainly falls into the ‘more costly’ ways to bring wellbeing in to your workplace. According to BBC article on the matter; “Advocates say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers’ energy and creativity. And some big organisations and companies are beginning to look seriously at change.”
The same articles says: “BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter Trevor Nelson presents his programmes standing up, from one of the few electronically adjustable desks that did find their way into the BBC’s new building. I think you’ve got to think of doing something during the day that doesn’t involve going to a gym”, he says. For him, it’s not just about health benefits. “I feel more aware, I feel sharper, standing gives me more energy while I’m on air”.
Who are we to argue with Trevor Nelson…?!
15. Implement Mindful Employer’s 10 Step Toolkit for Employers
In associated with Leeds Mind, Mindful Employer has created a 10 Step Toolkit for Employers to create a mentally healthy workplace. It’s an incredible initiative, and a credit to Leeds that we’re right at the forefront of improving mental health in the workplace, in an official capacity. Go Leeds!
Did we miss any? Let us know what you do to improve your overall wellbeing in the workplace, in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
Written by Holly