Our workplaces is where we spend a large portion of our time throughout the majority of our lives. As our most important place, it does provide us many opportunities and positive experiences, but can also present a number of risks and hazards to our health.
When we talk about health, particularly health at work, there is a tendency to focus on physical health. However, looking after our health should involve three key aspects: physical health, emotional health, and mental health.
Here are some tips and advice for staying physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy at work.
1. Promote Physical Health at Work
Depending on the type of work you do, it can present a number of different risks to your physical health. It is, therefore, important to be vigilant and protect yourself from these risks in order to stay fit and healthy, and to be able to give your work your all. No matter the work you do, not being at your best physically will invariably impact on your effectiveness and performance at work.
There are certain risks that are specific to the industry you work in: construction and industrial workers can often suffer work accidents so must be very careful with onsite safety. Health care workers (nurses), on the other hand, are exposed to a large number of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, making hygiene in hospitals paramount to workers (as well as others’) health and safety. Cops who patrol at night get poor sleep, risk injury and life.
Sedentary work, such as working at a desk all day can be very damaging to your physical health. There has been a great deal of scientific research in recent years showing that sitting for long periods of the day is linked to many serious health conditions, and can even shorten life expectancy.
Combat this by breaking up sitting periods and integrating physical activity into your work day: get up and walk around the office at least once an hour, and go for a walk on your lunch break or head to a lunchtime yoga class. You can also try deskercises to keep fit at your workplace. Even continuous exposure to laptop screens and computers can cause eyesight issues and affect your longterm vision.
Protecting your physical health is also linked to what you do in the hours you’re not at work. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet and get enough sleep (experts recommend 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep per night) so you can be performing at your best the next day. This, of course, is related to work too: if you are doing shift work, or staying up late to finish work, this will impact on your sleep.
2. Promote Emotional Health at Work
Emotional health is about how you feel within yourself, and how you feel in your relationships with others. Emotional health and work are closely related because our work is such a large part of our personal identities, as well as being the centre of many of our personal relationships.
Our work relationships have a particular tendency to be challenging, which can be a source of emotional ill-health. Human interaction is an important part of emotional health, so maintaining positive relationships with your co-workers is critical to good emotional health.
If your work is mostly solitary, make the effort to spend time with your co-workers, whether in the break room during lunch, or briefly throughout the day. Remote workers should make an effort to connect with colleagues socially, whether through meetings, emails, or messages.
Extra-work activities with co-workers can also be a great way to boost emotional health, as well as providing valuable team building. This can be informal activities such as after-work drinks, or more formal work clubs and activities.
Balancing the time you spend at work with other parts of your life is also essential for strong emotional health. Leaving work at work, and not letting work spill into your personal life, whether it be emails and phone calls or working on tasks at home, will help you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
3. Promote Mental Health at Work
Mental health has to do with your mind. Strong mental health means having positive, empowering thoughts, and being able to deal with stress and challenges. At its extreme, poor mental health can be a severe and debilitating illness, though many people suffer from mental ill-health to some degree, which can also manifest in physical ailments.
Working long hours under stress or in a poor physical environment can be detrimental to our mental health. Make sure you take regular work breaks. If you work inside, get out into the fresh air and enjoy some sunshine whenever you can.
Remember that stress is not healthy. Prolonged stress can be detrimental to both our mental and physical health. To manage stress effectively, try meditation and yoga. You can also take up online therapy for help with mental stress.
Addressing the root causes of stress and removing them is important, even if this means finding a different job or a new line of work.
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