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Most of us spend about 40 hours per week at work — in other words, the majority of our waking hours.
And nearly all of those hours are spent sitting at our desks. It’s a definite problem — and not just because we’re missing happy hour or quality couch time at home.
But, conversely, making a few tweaks to the way you sit — and the space you sit in — all day has been proven to make you a happier, healthier worker, busy earning your killer salary.
And, scientists say, the happier you are, the more you tend to earn.
In an effort to make the time spent at our desks as productive (and as profitable) as possible, we’ve combed the research for the easiest, most effective tips to soothe your mind and body when trapped in a cubicle . . . or corner office.
Just follow these four steps.
1. Make It Comfy
When we say “comfy,” we mean “ergonomic.” It’s an unfriendly word for a friendly concept: basically it means “intended to provide optimum comfort and to avoid stress or injury.” Friendly, right? Besides, an awkward workspace can lead to major health issues, including disorders in your joints or tendons, so a little tweaking of your cubicle can go a long way for your well-being. Line up your body correctly by following these two principles:
- Your feet should be flat on the floor and your elbows should be even with your desk. This can be achieved either through adjustable chairs or — if chairs are a hot commodity at your office — a combination of step stools and pillows.
Read on for more tips.
2. Protect the Eyes
When you’re deciphering 10-point font for hours at a time, eating your carrots just won’t cut it. It’s estimated that 70 percent of people using a computer on a daily basis suffer from computer vision syndrome (CVS), which includes eye strain, dry and irritated eyes, and headaches. To protect your peepers, follow these four easy steps to reduce eye strain:
- Adjust the brightness of your monitor. Test it by evaluating a page with a plain white background, like a blank word document or the Google homepage. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it looks dull and gray, it’s too dark. Make it automatic with f.lux, free software that adjusts your monitor’s brightness according to the time of day.
- If you can, position yourself so that windows are to your side, not directly in front of or behind your monitor. This adjustment will reduce glare or contrast.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule. That’s focusing on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes. The exercise will reduce “focusing fatigue” from staring at your computer.
- It sounds silly, but remember to blink! People staring at a computer screen blink two to three times less than they would during the normal course of their day, leading to dry, irritated eyes.
For more tips on reducing eye strain, we like this article.
3. It’s Mental
Just ask your co-workers — your mental health at the office is crucial. That doesn’t mean you need a stress ball or a picture of your puppy (but by all means, go ahead). In fact, environmental psychologists have narrowed down specific strategies you can use to keep yourself mentally healthy and happy.
- Position your chair so you’re able to see the entrance or the majority of the room. Research shows that humans feel safer when they can see what’s coming (especially if it’s the leftover pizza from the sales meeting). And here are more tips to feng shui your cubicle for greater wealth.
- Minimize the amount of red you can see while working. Research examining the influence of color on behavior found that red makes us feel anxious and hinders our work. However, it’s also been shown that red increases our short-term concentration.
- Add personal touches to your desk. We feel more comfortable when the people with whom we interact have some sense of who we are, and people with personalized workspaces are happiest with their jobs. Looks like you’ll be needing that puppy picture after all.
- Get a plant. Research has proven that workers with plants are less stressed and more productive than those without. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out these nine options under $15.
4. But Get Physical
You totally get credit for meaning to go to the gym. And we completely understand that the meeting ran late, and then you had to get your dry cleaning before the place closed, and the gym would only have been open for an hour more anyway, and someone would have been on your favorite treadmill.
Instead of feeling guilty, burn calories and strengthen your body all day with these easy strategies:
- Increase your opportunities for exercise. This can include anything from getting off the elevator a floor early and walking up, to parking at the far end of the lot, to walking to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question instead of IMing.
- Change your setup in favor of exercise. Substitute an exercise ball for a chair and start by using it only an hour each day. As your abdominal and back muscles strengthen, increase its use. Or forgo the sitting altogether and fashion yourself a standing desk, which burns calories and improves your posture. You don’t have to get fancy: we found that stacking a large Rubbermaid container on our desk is an affordable, simple solution (and easy to remove when we get tired and need to sit down).
- If you have the luxury of a private or home office, you can step it up with these expert-recommended stretches and strengthening exercises, complete with hilarious animated illustrations.
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