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We’ve all heard that sitting at a desk all day takes a toll on both the body and the brain. Long hours of stationary screen time can affect our eyes, shoulders, back—even our hips. Lack of energy impacts our mental health, leading to decreased productivity, creativity, and motivation.
So, how do you take care of yourself and keep killing it at work? Whether you’re remote or in the office from 9 to 5, these healthy hustle habits can help you avoid burnout, lower stress, and boost your work mood every day.
Work wellness begins before you pour that first cup of coffee. Resist the urge to check your phone while still in bed. Reading emails and notifications first thing in the morning puts you on autopilot, and creates the perceived pressure of needing to respond right away. Instead, turn on a ten-minute guided meditation or stretch to wake up slowly.
I’ve noticed that on days when I treat my morning routine as “me time”—reading a book over breakfast and listening to a podcast during my commute—I feel calmer and more prepared when I arrive at the office. Since I can’t actually make progress on important tasks until I get to my computer, flagging emails on my phone duplicates my workload and adds unnecessary stress.
Take a page from The Little Book of Hygge. While typically associated with being cozy at home, happiness expert Meik Weiking argues that the Danish concept of hygge is just as relevant for your office or cubicle. Try decorating your space with a candle, a few potted plants, postcards, an art print you’re obsessed with, or even a mini aromatherapy diffuser. Too much clutter or disorganization can be distracting though, so keep it simple with just a few favorite things.
Fostering relationships with coworkers is the most important element to enjoying your workspace (and the work you do). Organize a monthly potluck lunch, book club, a windowsill garden, or other activity that promotes sharing and collaboration.
Keep healthy snacks in your desk or fridge to fight fatigue and *hangry* moments. When cravings strike, but you’re short on time, you’ll be more likely to reach for something you already have rather than hit the vending machine or the fast food place around the corner. I like to use my Monday lunch break to go to the grocery store near the office and bring back apples, bananas, a jar of peanut or almond butter, yogurt, oatmeal, KIND bars, dried fruit and nuts, cut veggies, and hummus. Little snacks keep my blood sugar stable during the day, which allows me to think clearly, prioritize tasks better and make level-headed decisions.
Equally important is staying hydrated throughout the day. Keep a large mason jar or a water bottle on your desk and refill it frequently. For extra motivation, try a smart bottle that lights up to remind you to drink, or an infuser bottle to create your own flavored water.
An adjustable standing desk is worth the investment (and some companies may cover the cost!) so that you can alternate between sitting and standing.
Pro tip: a thick foam floor pad makes standing easier on your feet, knees, and hips.
If a standing desk isn’t an option for you, mimic the variety by standing up and taking a short walk every 15-20 minutes, even just around the office. If your coworkers are game, schedule walking meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.
If your workspace has other seating, such as couches, chairs, or conference tables, take your laptop or notebook and sit somewhere else for half an hour for a change of scenery. Sitting on an exercise ball can also help with posture and balance, and keeps you engaged and energized.
Working on a laptop with a touchpad or with a small mouse causes me to experience pain in my fingers, palm, wrist, and lower arm. To combat the constant scrolling, an ergonomic mouse creates a more stable, neutral position for your hand.
Minimize eye strain by looking away from the screen often—look out the window or into the middle distance for a few minutes to combat staring up-close at your monitor.
Want to clear the brain fog and re-energize your mind? Get some much-needed fresh air. Be sure to get outside at least once a day, but preferably more. Don’t just go pick up a takeout lunch and come back. Walk around the block, eat on a park bench if it’s nice out, take the long way back to the office. Take deep breaths. Look at trees or flowers or water. Even in cold or rainy weather, a few minutes outdoors can make a big difference in your mindset when you sit back down.
When your energy lags, get your blood flowing with jumping jacks, lunges, or even sprints. Ease tension on your neck, shoulders, back, and hips—after work, try doing stretches or a yoga sequence that targets these areas. Poses with twists and backbends, gentle shoulder stands, upward dog, happy baby, and forward folds can help release tense muscles.
If you have the option to commute by foot or by bike, do this as often as you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Get off a subway stop early to lengthen your walk.
Whether it’s a Monday morning or Thursday lunch break, try adding some of these wellness tips into your daily routine for a much-needed energy boost while working!