With COVID cases declining, more people are returning from remote to on-site work. Vaccines and COVID preventive measures have made it safe for many to return to the office.
But while many of us are welcoming a change of scenery, one thing should not be changing at all. Workplace wellness should remain a priority. Regardless of where we work, we should do our best to take care of our health and well-being.
Many employers, including Scripps, support their employees by offering programs that promote physical and mental health.
“Workplace wellness helps increase productivity and decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases,” says Rebecca Shragge, DO, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest. “Even if you have a health condition, you can start small, make progress and enjoy the positive health benefits.”
Take advantage of exercise activities at work. Some employers provide gym facilities. Just make sure to follow all safety rules, including cleaning equipment before and after use to ensure the facility remains clean.
If you have anxiety or depression, don’t be afraid to seek mental health support services available Many employers expanded employee mental health benefits during the pandemic.
In addition to taking standard COVID-19 precautions, here are some simple ways to incorporate wellness at work.
It can be challenging to sit less and move more. So, start with some stretching, which can be done throughout the day. You can do this while seated or stand up for a moment and complete a few desk stretches.
“Stretching at work eases the stiffness of major muscles and in the long term reduces the chance of injury,” Dr. Shragge says. “Think about stretching your arms, legs, fingers and torso. Even little movements can feel refreshing.”
Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Walking or any physical activity of any duration counts toward those goals.
Walking to your work place from the parking lot or going up or down the stairs may be of sufficient intensity that it can help reduce anxiety and blood pressure, improve sleep quality and insulin sensitivity, according to the CDC.
“A lunchtime walk increases your focus and enthusiasm and increases your ability to handle the work stress,” Dr. Shragge says. “If you’re inside a building most of the day, you can still take a little ramble inside to get your legs moving — even a parking lot will work in a pinch.”
Caffeine may seem like the ultimate lifesaver on long days, but water is the healthier choice. “The human brain is 85 percent water, so if you are not hydrated, you cannot function optimally,” Dr. Shragge says. “Sip on water throughout the day and you’ll feel more alert.”
Caffeine can be part of a healthy diet for most people but too much may pose a danger to your health, according to the FDA.
When you need a mid-day snack to sustain mental focus and energy and fend of hunger, be prepared with healthy treats at your desk so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy choices.
Snack on healthy foods, such as almonds, bananas, peanut butter or veggies and hummus. “Fatty food has a short-term effect on focus and brain," Dr. Shragge says. “Healthy food gives you the energy to avoid mid-afternoon crash. Packing small snacks can help you avoid reaching for processed foods at work.”
Sometimes the best thing you can do to prepare for a healthy day at work occurs the night before. Get to bed on time and the workday will feel much less demanding. “A good night’s sleep is the secret to success,” Dr. Shragge says. “Sleep deprivation increases your risk for chronic diseases.”
There are a few things you can do to help yourself fall asleep, stay asleep and improve your quality of sleep overall, including limiting electronics usage before bed and maintaining a regular-wake up time to help you with your sleep cycle.
Poor mental health and stress can have a negative impact on job performance, engagement at work, communication with coworkers and physical capability, according to the CDC.
Take advantage of employee benefits that offer programs and activities that promote stress management and mental health.
Sometimes taking a break to clear your mind, meditate quietly or reflect on positive quotes or images can help you feel more peaceful and less stressed.
“Consider spiritual wellness, meditation and relaxation techniques,” Dr. Shragge says. “Be mindful of your mental health. Check in with how you’re feeling. Take breaks when you need them.”
While the risk level of COVID is lower, it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We’ll likely be dealing with COVID for some time to come in one way or another.
If you are returning to the office, follow safety protocols If you have in-person meetings scheduled, you may be asked to wear a mask and physically distance from others. You may also have the option to participate virtually.
Stay home, if you’re feeling sick.