While the report had some merit, I wondered if they weren’t too quick to attribute some things (like loss of sleep, weight gain, and high blood pressure) to office work that, in fact, isn’t unique to this setting. I didn’t see any comparisomes with people who’s jobs required more physical activity. Nor did it mention results from a baseline group that doesn’t work at all (which would mean testing the unemployed). That being said, I also wouldn’t completely discredit the study, because it made points that office workers need to be aware of, and offered some good tips on keeping in balance – eat right, move around more, get out of the office every now and then, get enough sleep, etc. Having been an office worker for nearly 17 years myself, I would add these suggestions to keeping in balance when your job has you on your butt behind a computer all day:
1. Take some time for yourself before work. Are you one of the many people that get up at the last possible minute to rush about getting ready, and head out to work? If so, you’re missing an opportunity to set the right tone for your day. All of that hustling and bustling to make work the very first thing you do in the day is allowing your job to take over your day. Don’t allow that to happen! Get up a few minutes earlier so you can have time for breakfast, a cup of coffee, catching up on the headlines, etc. I get up 30 minutes earlier than I need to because my husband goes to work an hour earlier than I do, so it gives me time to see him and do my Bible reading and prayer time before I get dressed for work. Don’t let work be the first thing in your day. Give some time to yourself and your family first.
2. Be mindful of what you listen to on the commute. Years ago when I was seeing a therapist, I was puzzled when she asked me what I listen to on the radio during my commute. When I told her I that I surfed the stations until I heard something I liked, she shook her head vigorously. “No, no, no! What you listen to in the car, even during a short commute, can have a more profound effect on your mood than you realize!” She suggested listening to Christian radio or classical music. I was skeptical, but tried it anyway. What a profound difference! I come into the office more relaxed and in fact, it worked so well that I recently got a radio for my office desk, and I listen to classical music and news on ETV radio during my workday. Sure, you may need some rock music to pick you up and launch you into your day if you’re sluggish (I do every now and then), but make sure that what you listen to is making you feel better, not worse.
Other alternatives are news radio (as long as you aren’t one to pop your top or get scared over the headlines), audio books, or courses on CD. The Great Courses offers many great classes on CD that are split into 30 minutes lessons. I’ve tried a couple of their courses, and they’re good. They cost a bit of money, but if my commute were longer, I’d consider that investment every now and then.
3. Get away from your desk during lunch at least twice a week. I heard this suggestion at an administrative assistant’s conference over a decade ago. The reason is that you need to physically remove yourself from the stress of your work for at least an hour a day to refresh and restore yourself. The person leading the session actually said to leave your desk every day, but we all know it’s not good to eat out every day (plus it’s not affordable), and if the weather is bad, then you might not want to leave the office. Still, it is worth stepping out on your lunch hour at least a couple of times a week. Meet family or friends for lunch, or go home if you work less than 15 minutes from the office. Take a walk, run errands, go shopping, or just wander to the office kitchen or canteen to see what’s up in the social realm of your work world. But whatever you do, don’t skip lunch at all – you need to eat to keep your blood sugar up – and do get up away from the desk at least a couple of times a week.
4. Make an exercise program part of your daily routine. I’m surprised the report didn’t recommend this, given the number of times it mentioned obesity and high blood pressure as huge risks of a sedentary office lifestyle. Daily exercise 4-5 times a week is an excellent remedy not only for too much on-the-butt time, but for stress as well. It gives you more physical and mental energy to get through your day, and it’s a great outlet for the stress that bogs you down, consumes your mind, and causes you to spin your wheels. You’re spending the energy anyway. Why not channel it benefit you through improving your mind and body with physical activity, instead of tearing it down with useless worry and anxiety?
One thing that sold me on the T25 program that I’m on with my husband was the ad where Shaun T said “can you give up 25 minutes scrolling on your telephone to take care of your body and feel amazing?” Yes, I can, and so can you. No matter how busy we are, we always seem to find time to check that phone, surf the Internet, or watch TV. Give up just thirty minutes four or five times a week, and consider it an investment in yourself. Believe me, it does make a difference. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel, and how much you’re able to accomplish with that extra energy as well, despite losing the time it takes to exercise.
5. Have a hobby. Preferably, something you can do by yourself without having to depend on others to partake in it. Writing, reading, arts and crafts, woodworking, gardening – anything that you do simply for the joy of doing it is good for the soul. You need something of your own that gives you an escape from reality every now and then, and it needs to be something that’s totally your own, and nobody can put their hands on. Hobbies are a great way to claim your authenticity, your individuality, and your joy. Find some “me” time for things that benefit you for at least a few times a day.
No job is perfect, but I don’t think that office work is the doom of modern society, either. Sure, there are things we need to be mindful of in these unique environments, but that’s true of every profession in the world. The trick isn’t really at where the risk is, but in how well you take care of yourself and keep it in balance with the rest of your life.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.