Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What if I told you that you can start your journey towards good health without taking a single step, right from your work desk?
In the fast-paced life chasing corner offices and boardroom meetings, the demands on a busy executive's time and attention are never-ending. Often, because of the demands of the day, it may not be possible for busy professionals to hit the gym or even complete the usually recommended ten thousand steps a day. That said, despite the busyness of leadership, it's essential to make small but consistent investments towards personal wellbeing every single day.
But how can you manage that with a busy schedule? In this week’s column, I guide you through 10 desk-friendly habits that seamlessly integrate into the daily routine of any busy professional. From discrete stretches to mindful breathing exercises, these practices may help you become a healthier, more energised version of yourself, without having to step away from your desk.
1. Desk Stretches And Exercises
Desk exercises are a great way to incorporate physical activity into a sedentary workday. Even five minutes of stretching your muscles after being seated in one position for 30 minutes helps improve your metabolism. Incorporate simple stretches and exercises to prevent stiffness and improve circulation. Neck stretches, shoulder stretches and rotations, desk push ups, desk squats, seated leg lifts and ankle alphabet (drawing alphabets with your toes) can all be done discreetly, without leaving your desk.
2. Mindful Breathing Techniques
When dealing with stress or high-pressure situations at work, we often take quick shallow breaths. This can lead to insufficient oxygen intake and feeling more stressed out.
Consciously practising deep breathing exercises when at work reduces stress and increases oxygen flow. A few minutes of focused breathing can reduce stress, and improve focus and mental clarity. It can also help with relaxation and better productivity. Enable the ‘breathe’ notification on your smartwatch if it has one, to take a deep breathing break a few times a day.
3. Hydration Routine
In an air-conditioned work environment, we rarely feel the need to drink water. The chances of you sipping water through the day are way better if there is a bottle of water handy. Keep a water bottle at the desk and maintain a consistent hydration routine. Staying hydrated supports overall good health and prevents non-hunger snacking.
4. Healthy Snacking
To prevent eating junk when you get hungry between meals, keep your draws stacked with nutritious snacks. This could include nuts, seeds, fresh fruit or even dark chocolate. It’s best to avoid sugary or processed snacks as they can help maintain stable energy levels throughout the day.
5. Ergonomic Adjustments
When you spend over eight hours a day at your work desk, ensuring that the desk and chair are ergonomically aligned is of utmost importance to prevent back and neck pain. This also promotes good posture and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal issues. If your chair or desk is giving you aches and pains, then it’s time to go for something more comfortable and supportive.
6. Digital Detox Breaks
For most of us, working means looking at a screen or two for several hours a day. I dread to see the screen time report my phone sends me every week, and I’m sure most of you feel the same. Take short breaks from screens to reduce eye strain and mental fatigue. Use these breaks for stretches, drinking water, chatting with a colleague or simply looking away from the computer.
7. Desk Organisation
Decluttering the workspace can reduce stress and create a more organised and efficient environment. A clean desk can contribute to a clearer mind. There are plenty of aesthetic desk organisers available these days to keep clutter at bay. Taking some time out to put everything away in its place will also take your eyes off the laptop screen.
8. Pack Your Meals
Even if you spend long hours in the office it’s best to bring your meals, be it breakfast or lunch, from home. This ensures access to wholesome food options and helps avoid relying on unhealthy alternatives from the canteen or food court. You can also share meal times with your colleagues making it a pleasant eating experience.
9. Desk Plants
Are you a plant parent? Work desks need not be a sterile place reserved only for gadgets and wires. Introducing indoor plants to the workspace brings in a touch of nature and greenery, enhances the aesthetic and also contributes to improved air quality. Seeing a little patch of green on your desk can have positive effects on mood and focus.
10. Mindfulness Meditation
Dedicate a few minutes to mindfulness meditation. Use apps or guided recordings to help focus the mind, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
Incorporating these health-boosting activities from the comfort of your desk are little steps towards improved physical and mental well-being, enhancing your ability to navigate the demands of a high-pressure work environment.