Tim Polisano

By Tim Polisano
Senior Designer |

Wellbeing is about the health of mind and body - but how can you maintain your physical wellbeing when you’re in the office all day?

Wellbeing is exactly that: the state of being well. Of course to be ‘well’ we must consider both our mental and physical being. In recent years, we have started to talk a lot more openly about mental health and slowly perceptions are changing and mental wellbeing is being prioritised. In the workplace, this has resulted in the growing acknowledgement that we need to support the mental wellbeing of our staff, not only through a greater awareness of mental health issues but also through making people feel valued and supported in the roles that they do. Yet whilst we focus on the incredibly important factor of mental wellbeing, it’s important not to forget that our physical wellbeing is just as important.

The reason that the workplace is such an important factor in wellbeing is that we spend so much time there. And the practices and routines that we establish in the workplace, are things that can impact our health and our futures. This includes things like movement and posture, exercise, eating habits and access to fresh air and natural light. We look at things that we can all do and how the workplace can support its staff in achieving better physical wellbeing.

Movement and posture

Sitting at a desk all day may seem like an easy life but research shows that leading a sedentary, computer-based lifestyle, is responsible for a number of health issues and diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes as well as postural problems. 

Back pain alone costs the UK around 10million working days a year. Sitting at a desk puts twice as much pressure on our backs as standing so experts suggest having an ergonomic workstation set up as well as moving for one or two minutes every half an hour to stave off the bad effects. 

Simple ways to do this could be moving around your office to work in different locations, taking the stairs and not the lift and having communal bins or printers that you need to walk to. Fitness trackers can help you to monitor your activity or to remind you to move but simply setting an alarm to remind you could do the job.

Exercise

Closely linked to movement and posture is exercise. Whilst being active around the office is a great way to combat the ill effects of sitting all day, we should still be aiming for 30 minutes of cardio activity five days a week – a task that isn’t always that easy when you’re working 9 til 6 (or more!) in the office. 

Try taking a guaranteed lunch break and go on a brisk walk. Too busy? Why not have a walking meeting with colleagues? Richard Branson is a big fan as it quite literally keeps people ‘on their toes’. Can’t get out? Just google ‘deskercise’ for some great office-based moves and stretches you can do from your workstation. 

Other ideas could be after-work or lunchtime runs, yoga or dancing sessions. Don’t forget the best way to maintain an active lifestyle is to do it with a buddy, so having an office full of people is a great place to start!

Healthy eating and drinking

Healthy eating advice is everywhere so we’ll spare you the lecture on the usual things: ‘You are what you eat’, ‘get five a day’, ‘cut out sugar’, ‘cut out caffeine’, etc etc.  We all know what we should be eating, and what we shouldn’t and whilst will power is a wonderful thing when we have it, sometimes it’s not always possible! 

Some ways to keep you on the straight and narrow may be to keep a food diary, or fill up on healthy, complex carbs like porridge for breakfast or lentil soup for lunch, and drink plenty of water. 

Then at least when the chocolate hobnobs get passed around, you won’t be battling hunger pains as well as the desire for a tasty treat!

Fresh air and light

People forget how important fresh air and natural light is for our physical wellbeing, but without it we are more prone to illness, unable to think as well and less productive. It’s your workplace’s responsibility to ensure that the office is well ventilated with a sufficient quantity of fresh or ventilated air, but there’s no reason why you can’t take yourself outside for some fresh air throughout the day. More offices are now being designed with communal areas centring around the windows so that everyone can benefit from natural light, so where possible, work or take a break in these areas and get your daily dose of vitamin D!