Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

5 ways to boost wellness at your workstation

Productivity shouldn't come at the expense of comfort and health

Only one in three Canadians take all their vacation time, which means lost opportunities for improving wellness through rest and relaxation. If we spend so much time at work (you may even be reading this there), why not make that space healthier?

“It’s the easiest place to make impactful changes,” says NAIT student recreation coordinator Curtis Dell. “You can be more intentional with your choices.”

Even slightly tweaking your environment or habits can lead to a healthier lifestyle that, as one study has found, can in turn lead to higher productivity. Here are Dell’s suggestions to improve your wellness at work.

1. Take smart breaks

woman eating lunch outdoorsOne of the easiest ways to incorporate breaks into your day is with the 20-20-20 approach. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at an object 20 feet away.

“It gets your eyes off the screen and can help with grogginess,” says Dell.

It can be tough to walk away when you’re dialed in. Do it anyway.

It’s a given that our bodies require regular movement, but it can be tough to walk away when you’re dialed in. Do it anyway. Dell suggests setting an alarm or reminder to stand up regularly to get the blood pumping. Take a quick walk or find a flight of stairs to go up and down before returning to your desk. The movement will re-energize you, says Dell.

At lunchtime, find a change of scenery. Dell says that can have the biggest impact on your emotional well-being. “Get away from your building, go to a completely different spot. Get somewhere where there's some [natural] light,” he says. “It can really help break up your day.”

2. Clean up

well-organized, tidy desk

“Organization of your workspace is huge,” says Dell. “There is a physical and emotional response to what you have on your workstation, and it’s one of the easiest wins.”

Try to only have out what you’re working on.

3. Personalize your space

music at work

Try to add a few things to your space that make you happy or evoke nostalgia. Just a couple of pieces can make the environment more welcoming, such as trinkets from a vacation or photos.

“If you have something that can give you a quick memory or daydream, that helps with your emotional and mental state at your workstation. It can give you a break while remaining at your desk.”

You could consider adding a few plants as well, says Dell. Not only do plants improve air quality, they’re a great way to make the space your own. But don’t overdo it to the point where it becomes clutter.

Don’t overdo it to the point where it becomes clutter.

Listening to your favourite music can help boost your mood and improve productivity during monotonous tasks, Dell says. Have a couple of playlists ready to go so you don’t spend too long searching for the perfect tune.

Even changing your computer desktop background can elevate your wellness at work, he says. Different images can have different impacts – nature, for example, can lead to stress relief and baby animals can help with your focus.

4. Get comfortable

office worker stretching

“Body strain is a real issue,” Dell says. “It’s incredible how many things [contribute] to that – chair and monitor height, angles, position of your keyboard, lighting. Why not set it up right?”

When you take breaks, move in ways that are opposite to how you’re positioned while you work.

He recommends an ergonomic assessment so you’re set up properly. When you take breaks, move in ways that are opposite to how you’re positioned while you work. If you sit a lot, your hamstrings will be shortened and you should stretch them, he says. If your main computer monitor is to the right, you’ll want to stretch to the left.

5. Experiment

happy office worker

Improving your wellness at work is a matter of finding out what works best for you, says Dell. Whether it’s a playlist, a plant or a puppy screensaver, try introducing a few things and assess the changes in your mood and productivity. Small, simple choices can add up, Dell says, and being intentional with how you treat your workspace can make for an overall healthier experience.


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