Almost everyone has some form of unhealthy workplace habits. Sitting at the desk all day is chief among these habits. Chronic sitting is linked to many health issues, including cancer and heart disease. Just hitting the gym after work is not going to offset the prolonged sedentary state. Sunlight exposure is a good source of vitamin D and a boost for mood. Just sitting by a window is not enough for a long day. At lunchtime, eating alone and staying seated at the desk creates a loneliness that can compromise the immune system. If there is no traditional lunch break or the patient is still feeling hungry before and afterwards, they might choose to snack mindlessly throughout the day. Giving no thought to the types of food eaten is not good because many people will pick out what they find to be the cheapest and most convenient snack without thinking what they are putting in their bodies. Workers will also often look to social media for little breaks, which is not really healthy. Research has suggested that browsing social media actually causes the brain to release dopamine, the pleasure chemical, creating a cycle of continuous reward as long as the person is on social media.1 Hygiene is another important aspect of the workplace. First impressions are key to any relationship, even in the work environment. Poor hygiene is also indicative of poor health. Using inappropriate humor and discussing politics and religion are also not good for professional interpersonal relationships. These are delicate subjects and should be treated as such when everyone needs to focus on working towards a common goal together.2
How to Combat These Habits
There are ways to reduce the effect of the unhealthy workplace habits. It is beneficial for both the body and mind to get up and walk around every hour if it is possible. Stretching and walking around the office are two easy ways to relieve the stress on the body caused by prolonged sitting. If the option of going on a walking meeting or taking a phone call outside is given it should be taken.3 Using an ergonomic chair during the required sedentary time might also help. Pain and strains put on the body by poor posture and improper seating make productivity difficult. Employees that are able to use ergonomic furniture are less likely to lose work time to pain.4 Food is a temptation and distraction during working hours, and there are foods to avoid. Eating at the desk discourages socializing and getting active for a little bit. A worker that brings their own lunch and watches their portions is going to be more conscious of how the food affects them. Food should be insulated and kept cold until it comes time for them to be eaten. If eating at the desk is almost always the only option, it is a good idea to clean the desk, phone, keyboard, and mouse with disinfectant wipes daily to keep the germs from spreading to the food, and a designated food placemat can act as an extra barrier and make cleaning up food messes a little easier. Getting up and walking to a cafeteria or going outside during the lunch break is also encouraged if those activities are allowed.5 Using a standing desk, exercise ball, or ergonomic chair are all better options than the standard seating arrangement. Little things, like taking the stairs, walking to colleagues to deliver messages in person, and using resistance bands or hand weights at the desk, all make a difference, and turn an unhealthy workplace habit into a rewarding routine. Doing something active is always better than doing nothing.6
Interpersonal relationships and how people work together are one of the biggest factors in any workplace. When a worker is surrounded by unhealthy work relationships, they are more likely to become unproductive and have a hard time at work. A negative relationship with the boss or a coworker creates a high turnover rate and employees who do not want to produce work for or with someone that they dislike. People can say and do negative things both subtly and outright. Quitting is not an option for everyone because of their economic situation or psychological fear, and those people need ways to handle the negative environment. It is important for the worker to not become overly stressed or angry with the situation as it happens. Should the relationship become more of an issue, or even dangerous, it is important for the affected employee to have a strong case and the evidence that they did not instigate a negative reaction. Sometimes, but not always, acting indifferent and focused on work when the problematic boss or coworker is stirring up trouble can cause that person to lose interest in their acts of harassment. The person creating the unhealthy work relationship may just be experiencing their own personal issues and taking their emotions out on people at work. It is not an excuse for their actions. Discussing the problems directly is a solution, as well as talking to coworkers to find out if they are experiencing the same harassment. An unhealthy work environment is not always avoidable, but it could be worked out.7
Find out more about how poor ergonomics affect your life.