Human bodies are designed for a lot of things. They’re designed to get up, run around, and jump places. They’re certainly not designed to sit on a chair in front of a computer all day—which is exactly what most professionals do.
Not that it’s a bad thing, by itself. We all need to make a living, after all, and if it means pounding away at a keyboard every waking hour of the day, so be it.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sacrifice your health in the process, though. Long-time desk workers tend to suffer a good number of health hazards, and if you’re not careful, overworking yourself can cause you to not be able to work at all. An ironic situation, don’t you think?
Fortunately, you can still do something. You can still make a few, relatively inexpensive tweaks to your desk, which will not only make it a better place to work in, but also keep you in good shape. Are you ready to do that? Then let’s get started.
If you work in an office away from home, this isn’t much of a problem. Here, you can mentally separate “work” and “leisure” without much trouble. But if your office is your home, compartmentalizing can be more of a challenge.
When choosing a place for your home office, pick an area you don’t normally associate with “rest and relaxation”. Otherwise, you’ll keep thinking about work when you should be resting, and rest when you should be working. If this isn’t practical for you, you can either build a home office from scratch, or find a nearby café where you can work on your laptop without distractions.
Also, remember to answer these questions:
Try to keep your computer monitor away from the window. The light from it can bounce off the monitor and cause glare, which hurts your eyes. If you have to work near a window, cover it with blinds, curtains or adjustable shades to keep glare at a minimum, and position your monitor perpendicular to it.
Once night falls, you can switch to artificial light. The best artificial light source is a small lamp placed behind your monitor, rather than a task lamp or overhead bulb. What you want to do is to avoid glare, and give just enough light for your computer.
You can also adjust your monitor’s display settings, so that the brightness of your monitor is almost the same as the brightness of your surroundings. If there’s too much contrast between the two, your eyes might suffer. Consider upgrading to an anti-glare screen or LCD monitor, since these are easier on the eyes compared to their more conventional counterparts.
If, after working, you experience pain in one part of—or all over—your body, it’s a sign you need to fix your posture. It’s also a sign you need newer, more ergonomic equipment—but we’ll get to that later.
For now, let’s discuss the basics of good desk posture.
As long as you have good posture, you’ll be comfortable and healthy. On the other hand, if your current equipment makes it impossible to maintain good posture, you can proceed to the next step.
Any equipment that maintains good posture and minimizes injury while you’re at your desk is “ergonomic”. Examples include:
Make sure you buy only the ones that correct your particular posture problem. That way, you’ll get your money’s worth on ergonomic equipment.
You don’t need a green thumb to care for a desk plant. As you can see in this interactive infographic, most of these plants are pretty low-maintenance. Also, they clean up the air around your desk, and are nice to look at, so that’s a plus.
A few caveats, though:
For these reasons, it’s best to exercise caution and do your research before buying any desk plant.
It might sound hard to believe, but your office’s colors can determine your success at work. For example, if your job requires you to focus for hours on end, a blue office accented with yellow can boost your concentration. Likewise, an office covered in red or orange shades can pump up everyone’s energy levels.
Before you head for the paint store, however, keep these considerations in mind.
In short, don’t forget to consider your personal preferences when buying paint.
As of this writing, there’s no official, one-size-fits-all rule regarding breaks. Some swear by the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes straight before taking a 5-minute break. Others say it’s better to divide your work sessions into 90-minute intervals. One study even suggested that the formula for “perfect productivity” is taking 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work.
In any case, one thing’s for sure: It’s impossible to force yourself to work for several hours straight. Even if you do manage that, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer burnout symptoms eventually. After all, willpower is a finite resource, and the only way to replenish it is—you guessed it—taking frequent breaks.
It doesn’t matter whether you follow the Pomodoro, the 90-minute rule or the 52-minute rule. Just take a break as soon as you need it.
If you want to take a break without leaving your desk, here’s what you can do.
These are just a handful of exercises you can perform at your desk. For more of these, check out this WebMD article.
Which do you think is better for productivity: a clean desk, or a messy one? That depends on what you’re using the desk for, according to a University of Minnesota study. The researchers found that people with messy desks tend to be more creative and open to risks, whereas those with neat desks are more likely to stick to the norm.
In other words, if you’re mulling over how to approach a new project, it’s best not to throw away those scrunched-up, empty candy wrappers (yet). But if you’re in the process of working on that project, you’ll be much more efficient without those candy wrappers around.
Note that there’s a social cost to messy desks, though. In an interview with Forbes, Jennie Dede—Adecco’s vice president for recruiting—said that co-workers often judge you based on the tidiness of your desks. If your desk is messy, people are more likely to think “Ugh, what a slob!” than “Wow, how creative!”. In this case, you have to decide which is more important to you: Your social standing, or your self-expression?
It’s okay to keep your desk messy. What’s not okay is letting the mess get into your computer, and damage it in any way—which is the last thing you want to happen to your most valuable work tool. To prevent this from happening, follow this step-by-step guide to cleaning your computer’s hardware.
By the way, your computer’s not the only one that’ll benefit from spring cleaning. According to a study by the University of Arizona, keyboards contain a jaw-dropping 3,295 germs per square inch, while computer mice contain 1,676 germs per square inch. Makes you think twice about eating finger food at your desk, doesn’t it?
When it comes to your workspace, “healthy” and “productive” don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they pretty much go together: You can’t work if you’re not healthy, and you can’t be healthy if you overwork yourself and neglect your body’s needs. Get these changes done to your desk today, and avoid becoming another stereotypical sick desk worker.