Over the last few days, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has announced that a new study demonstrates that there is a strong relationship between windowless offices and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.
This won’t come as a surprise to many of us. The Engineering industry is full of windowless environments – warehouses, factories, aircraft hangars etc. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the job. Once you start coupling that with other effects of working in an office, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from typing and using a mouse, back and posture problems from sitting too long, eye strain from staring at monitors and stress, you would be forgiven for thinking that you may be better off working as a lion tamer.
However, no matter whether you have windows in your office or not, there are ways to look after yourself properly while working in an office environment:
Take A Break Every Hour
I try and make sure I get up from my desk at least once every hour for a short walk. I either go and get a drink, go to the little boys room, or go on an errand to see somebody else at their desk.
Our bodies aren’t designed for sitting for long periods of time. Our metabolism drops, so we burn fewer calories; we have a tendency to develop bad posture, so we develop lower back pain and we put too much pressure on the base of our spine.
By taking regular and frequent, short walks, we keep our metabolism ticking over, even though we have a sedentary job. We also prevent ourselves developing too bad a posture.
Look away from your screen
Short walks also get us away from our computer screen, preventing eye strain and the need for thicker and thicker glasses. Some doctors recommend the 20-20-20 rule. This rule states that every 20 minutes, you should look away from your computer to a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You could fit this in with your posture breaks.
Walk about more
The British Heart Foundation recommends you take 10,000 steps a day for a healthier heart and reduced body fat. A typical office worker will take 2,000 steps in a day. By making small changes to your lifestyle, you can soon bump this up – park at the back of the car park, take the stairs rather than the lift, take the small breaks I mentioned before.
You can pick up a pedometer for very little money (Amazon £1.85), or if you want to take your exercise seriously, there are systems such as the Fitbit or the Jawbone. They track your sleep and other exercise you may carry out and log it all on a website. Perhaps a bit extreme for tracking steps, but if you do more exercise then it’s worth it.
Get Out of The Office At Lunch
This is something I am terrible at doing, as I tend to be writing articles for this site in my lunch hour. However, getting out of the office at lunchtime has many benefits. Firstly, it gets you exercise and contributes towards your 10,000 steps. Secondly, you get exposure to sunshine. This boosts your vitamin D, which in turn can enhance your mood – especially when coupled with the mood benefits of exercise. Its also good to break up your day – it makes your day feel not quite so long. Especially if you are a worker that works 60+ hours a week.
Getting out of the office is doubly important if you work in an office without windows – as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have shown.
I tend to take 1000 IU (25 micrograms) of Vitamin D a day, just to make sure I keep topped up.
Change Your Commute to the Office
You could even change how you commute to work. If you live nearby, a walk is an option. Or further away and you could cycle in. The UK government established a cycle to work scheme that may be active in your office. Essentially, it lets you pay for a bike pre-tax, so you end up saving up to 42% on the cost of your bike. Check your workplace to see if they are involved. You’ll not only keep fit and healthy, but you’ll save a tone of petrol money and help the environment in the process.
I’d like to set a challenge, starting from next week. I am going to aim to walk my 10,000 steps every day. I’ll record my progress and announce over twitter how I do each day. Then at the end of the week, in my Sunday Muse post, I’ll post the details of my progress.
Does anybody want to join me in this challenge? Hit me up on twitter @babblingeng and we can follow each other’s progress.