It is too often we find ourselves relying on the punch-in-punch-out aspect of the workday. It’s easy to think of the time in the office (or other work location) as a routine of duty, working as the cog that spins another. Working as a part of a much larger machine in which duty is the only aspect of importance. Your well-being at work doesn’t matter. The only thing of importance is getting the shift finished with productivity and looking forward, with sparkling eyes, to the joy of being off work.
It’s easy to think of work as just duty. Just a paycheck and a place you must be to continue survival. And in a way, the thought is correct. Most would not choose to work if they didn’t need to, but our capitalist society calls for it. While we aren’t here to argue the economics and psychology surrounding the working world we have established as a society, we are here to push the obvious: your well-being at work matters! In fact, your well-being at work is extremely important, though our established system may make it seem like a low priority.
Luckily, the working world is shifting toward a more progressive and health-first culture, but there are still things that need to be done by the individual to maintain workplace health.
You can find plenty of articles describing ways to improve workplace health as an employer, but as a worker, these choices are out of your hands. Here are tips for maintaining your well-being at work that you can do without company help.
- What Is Workplace Well-Being?
- Tips for Maintaining Work Well-Being
- Mobile Work Tips
What Is Workplace Well-Being?
Before we delve into a plethora of health tips, we need to establish a basis for what we are speaking about. Therefore, let’s quickly define what we mean by well-being.
Ultimately, your well-being is the overall status of your mental and physical health. How well do you feel? How well do you feel as a person and worker? Consequently, workplace well-being revolves around how your work environment and actions make you feel as a person while remaining productive.
Oftentimes, work well-being is seen as how happy you are with your job. While correct, there are more aspects to it than that. It’s how productive you feel, how motivated you are to improve, how much stress your work puts on you, and your overall mood and cognition. As a worker, you can be happy with what you do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your well-being is high. You can love your job but still feel unmotivated or stressed.
Overall, workplace well-being is how you feel at work and how you go about your work day.
What If You Don’t Have Well-Being?
The 2019 Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavior Health report by Forbes found that 81% of surveyed employees said stress impacts their work negatively, manifesting in a range of symptoms from fatigue and anxiety to physical ailments and missed work. The study also found that 48% of those surveyed have cried at work, and 50% have missed at least one day of work.
Being unhappy and unmotivated at work can be a significant issue, not only for your workplace productivity and mood but for your outside life. How many times have we seen loved ones upset after a bad day at work? How many times have we seen friends take their work problems home with them?
Bad workplace well-being not only affects your happiness toward working and production but impacts the way you see life in general. Working takes up the majority of your daily life. If you dislike your job, you are likely to dislike your current place as a human and member of society. The negative impacts begin on a slippery slope from there on out.
According to a 2022 Zippia study, over 80% of employees whose employers are engaged in their wellness say they enjoy work. On the contrary, for those whose employers aren’t engaged in their wellness, only about 40% say they enjoy work.
Not enjoying your job and maintaining health causes you to dislike work. Disliking work causes you to dislike your daily life. Disliking your daily life causes you to become jaded and/or complacent. These are all obvious negatives.
Tips for Maintaining Work Well-Being
Once again, we must note a few things before discussing our top tips. Firstly, these are things that you can do as an employer.
As we said, there are plenty of articles regarding what an employer can do to improve the well-being of the workplace. In a way, that’s much more effective and important than the small tips you can do personally. Unfortunately, that’s out of your, the employee’s, hands. Therefore, these are tips that you can do on your own without the backing of the company you work for (for the most part).
Secondly, we won’t discuss the drastic ways you can improve your well-being. Things like asking for a raise, changing departments, and lowering your work schedule are extreme and impactful ways to improve your happiness, but they are an entirely different beast to tackle.
Here are tips you can do ASAP to help improve your work health:
Look Around Your Office Space
The first step to improving the way you feel at work is to improve your workspace. It’s as simple as that.
Ever seen the cliche of a dystopian universe in which everything is drab and gray? The denizens are miserable and bored, following the same footsteps every day. There’s no art, no emotion, and no love?
While a hyperbole, there’s something to be said about a surrounding that is dull and void of personality. The same goes for your workspace. If your office, cubicle, or other work area is devoid of emotion and personality, you may find yourself falling quickly into the shoes of those drab denizens. You may feel the subconscious weight of not being happy or comfortable in your work area.
Add a little spice to your life. Put up family pictures, art, or other fun visuals. Put a bobblehead on your desk or a sports jersey on your wall. Add a little something to show your personality and lighten your mood.
Furthermore, add plants. Plants are a surefire way to improve the overall ‘vibe’ of your workspace. Studies have found that having plants can improve mood and lessen symptoms of anxiety.
Don’t Forget Your Comfort
Make sure your chair is comfortable and your desk accommodates your physical needs. There’s no quicker way to decrease your productivity and happiness than to be uncomfortable. Make sure that your workspace is ergonomic.
This doesn’t mean you should work on a beanbag chair or lay on a sofa, but comfort and workability have a nice meeting place directly in the middle. Keep yourself engaged through the use of chairs and posture, but make sure they are comfortable. Don’t be miserable where you sit all day.
Bonus: adjustable desks allow you to sit and stand. This will help you get the blood flowing (something we’ll discuss shortly).
A study published in “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,” found that women who described their living spaces as cluttered or full of unfinished projects were more likely to be fatigued and depressed than women who described their homes as restful and restorative.
While that study doesn’t necessarily reflect workspaces, there’s something to be said about the core discovery. How clean your surroundings are has a direct impact on your overall mood. If your overall mood is down, your work productivity will also suffer. It doesn’t take a Freud to understand that psychological concept.
A study by Princeton University researchers discovered that clutter can make it difficult to focus on a particular task.
Henceforth, keeping your workplace clean is important to your well-being. While most offices will have a cleaner come every night or so, they may not get all of the important parts. Make sure your office is cleaned and scrubbed often. This work should include reducing clutter on and in your desk, cleaning your computer screens, blowing your keyboards, and organizing any loose papers.
Cleanliness is godliness, or whatever.
It may come as no surprise, but physical health and mental health are closely connected. If you avoid exercising, your work focus and mentality can take a sharp decline. If you don’t get moving, your brain becomes stagnant and uninspired.
A report from 2013 found that our mental agility can be directly linked to exercise. Physical activity was shown to improve concentration, aid memory, speed up learning, and lower stress. All of these attributes contribute directly to work and workplace health. If you are stressed and cannot concentrate, how are you supposed to put forward your best work?
Physical health outside of work can be a hard sell. If you are a busy human, you may not have the time to go to the gym (or you just don’t want to). That’s okay. We all can’t be fitness freaks. But, keeping active when you can greatly increases your work productivity. Just a simple walk every once in a while can boost your mood and focus.
As far as getting exercise at work goes, make sure to stretch and stand every once in a while. Walk outside for some fresh air on your break. Take the time to stretch and breathe every couple of hours. If you have a standing desk (like we mentioned) stand for a little while each day. These small tasks will help you drastically improve your work health. Seriously.
Use Your Breaks
Speaking of breaks… Use them.
Whether you are given multiple short breaks throughout your workday or one large lunch, use the entirety of them. It’s there and allotted for a reason. It can be easy to get swept up in your work, pushing alone time to the wayside. Don’t do this. By overlooking your break, you may believe you look more impressive and hardworking to your superiors, but you are drastically lowering your work health.
Taking your breaks when you can greatly improve your workplace well-being. Which, in return, will improve your work productivity. So it may actually look better to your employer to take your breaks. Go figure.
Get Away During Lunch
Here’s an easy one: don’t work on your lunch break.
We’ll say it again. Don’t work on your lunch break.
As we stated, your breaks should be used in their entirety. Furthermore, they should be used for their true purpose. Take your lunch break and use your lunch break as intended. Go somewhere else and get away from your work for a specific period of time. You should also be eating, but we’ll get to that next.
If you don’t have the time or need to leave the office for lunch, you don’t have to, but you should still leave your workspace. Go to the common room, kitchen, or other areas during your lunch. Go outside and take a walk if it’s a nice day.
We understand that you are a busy bee and you can get more work done if you skip or work through your lunch. As we said, this may reduce your productivity, making the sacrifice of it all null and void.
Think of Your Food and Drink Options
Two things: you should be eating and you should be eating well.
Eating unhealthily is linked to a 66 percent increased risk of loss of productivity. Not eating has an even worse effect, negating productivity and energy tenfold. As we stated, your physical health is directly correlated to your emotional health. Both realms of well-being affect how you work during the day.
We aren’t going to sit here and tell you that you should diet or look at your nutritional intake. We are just going to state the facts. Eating better helps you focus and produce better. Eating well during the day will keep you happier and more focused at work.
There is also something to be said about your beverage choices throughout the day, too. While we would be hypocritical to sit here and point fingers for drinking coffee or caffeinated beverages, we have to note how dire they can be to your well-being. If you notice that coffee makes you overly anxious or decreases your focus, you may want to reach for a healthier alternative. If you find that caffeine causes your production to drop midday, you may want to cut it in general.
Once again, we aren’t saying you have to do these things. We are just pointing them out (sips my third cup of coffee today).
Take Your Vacations, Please
If you have been given yearly vacation time, use it. Think of this as a more important and impactful version of our tip on breaks.
Researcher Mark Rosekind of Alertness Solutions found that the respite effect of a vacation can increase performance by 80%. In his study, the reaction times of returning vacationers increased by 40%. Simply put, workers are more healthy and productive when they are well-rested.
You don’t have to have a fancy vacation planned to enjoy the benefits of time off. Even if you can’t manage to get away, still take your vacation. Even staying home can help you become rested and improve your workplace well-being. Time off of work is still time off of work, regardless of where you spend it.
Obviously, not every gig comes with vacation time in place. It can also take time to accrue vacation. If, for some reason, you don’t have paid vacation time but still feel on the verge of burnout, take a few days off. It can help immensely.
Social people are happy people. If you are going to work to punch in and punch out, not speaking to any of your teammates, you are quickly negating your work well-being.
As a staffing agency, we speak often about the importance of team-building time and activities. While you don’t have to be friends with your coworkers outside of the office, you should still get to know them. You should still find like-minded individuals to share work experiences with. As humans, we are social creatures. Denying that is awful for your mental health.
Unfortunately, we can’t push the idea of creating team-building activities to employees (unless you are willing to approach the higher-ups with an idea). So, all you can do is be friendly and social while at work. Take the time to say hello to your coworkers. Ask them about themselves at the water cooler or in the break room.
Even just a little bit of socializing can help bolster your mood. Furthermore, it helps build workplace morale, greatly improving team production. It’s a win-win from an employee standpoint.
Let Boss Know, If Needed
Companies are beginning to understand the need for work well-being. Henceforth, plenty of businesses are starting to shine a light on all of the tactics mentioned on this list. Some companies are offering health stipends for employees, extra vacation times, flexible workplaces, and much more. It’s both admirable and heartwarming to see employers start to understand the needs of their employees. We’re a long way from the Industrial Revolution, after all.
If you have tried to do everything you can as an individual and still feel as if workplace well-being is down (whether for just you or your entire team), speak up. Let the managerial team know that the group is becoming burnt out. See if changes can be made. Maybe you can garner a few mental health days, change something in the office, or get a team-building activity together.
Ultimately, see if your company is willing to accommodate your mental health needs. In the modern day, they should be. If not, it was worth asking
If All Else Fails…
We must mention that sometimes your well-being is outside of your control. Sometimes you need a change of scenery, not just a few stretches and granola bars. We can wax helpful all we want, but sometimes the truth is deeper than it appears.
If you feel that you are burnt out in your company, career, or role, and all of the well-being tips aren’t helping, you may need to reflect on the situation. It may be time to look for a new career or job.
If this scares you, remember the importance of happiness to you as an individual. Sure, a paycheck is wonderful, but fulfillment as a human is more important. It seems impossible, but you are not alone. After the ideal-alternating shift of the worldwide pandemic, millions of workers began questioning happiness over work. Over 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month in 2022.
If you aren’t happy, don’t push it. Sometimes working on your well-being isn’t enough. Sometimes the surrounding stimuli are the issue, and that’s okay.
Mobile Work Tips
Bonus round, baby!
We live in the post-pandemic age. We would be dropping almost half of the working population if we didn’t speak on at-home work well-being.
In some ways, working from home is an entirely different beast to tame. Not only are you alone, but you are in a workspace that’s too comfortable and accessible. It can be easy to quickly fall into bad habits (like never leaving your bed). And though comfort sounds appealing, it can quickly harm your productivity and well-being.
If you are working from home for the time being, you may want to follow a few of these tips.
Getting dressed in your daily attire is a must in feeling and working like yourself.
While the concept of getting ready may not be as stressful as usual, wearing the pajamas you slept in will only make you feel sluggish. The idea is to feel like you are going to work. You might not need to wear a suit, but you definitely need to wear something.
Secondly, don’t let your personal hygiene fall by the wayside. Take care of yourself as usual. This will only help you feel better in the long run.
We speak of mental health and work well-being in the same vein. If you staying in your bed and pajamas is bad for your mental health, it certainly isn’t great for your work production.
About 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency. If you are working from home, your need to go outside may be close to none.
We get it. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to venture out into the wild (especially during the more brutal months). Unfortunately for some, we need sunlight to survive and thrive. In fact, a study found that employees with low blood levels of vitamin D were significantly less productive at work compared to employees with higher levels.
Therefore, open up the blinds and curtains. Let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find. Try to set your office or workspace in a place that gets sufficient natural sunlight. Your body and well-being will thank you.
Natural sunlight is also easier on the eyes and is more comfortable. That’s a plus.
Set a Workplace
Firstly, while working at home may seem like a dream concept of laying on the couch while typing emails, there’s a reason we sit at desks. A dedicated workspace is necessary for efficiency and productivity.
Therefore, it is utterly crucial to establish a place that you can go to for your work activities. Whether it be your kitchen table or a completely designated office, stay away from your normal comfortable places.
Remember that there are benefits to working in your own space, though. You are free and able to have all the amenities you may need. Perfect lighting and correct seating arrangements are entirely up to you.
If you feel burnout or loss of sanity while working from home, pick a public place to work a few times a week. Coffee shops are known to be the hub of mobile workers. Just getting out for a while can hit a few of the tips above (natural light, exercise, and socializing).
Get Social Somehow
Working from home can be a lonely experience. Human contact is important in keeping your mind healthy and working.
This tip may be hard to put into action, but it is possible. Keep lines of communication with coworkers open. Meetings on applications like Zoom can help you feel fresh, communicative and keep efficiency high. It’s also nice to see a friendly face!
In addition, daily communication can be a great way to keep your energy and spirits high. While there may no longer be water-cooler conversations, having open chats with coworkers on apps like Slack and Google Chat can be a great way to keep things feeling normal.
If you go out for lunch or work from another location, say hi to the workers. Make acquaintances with the people you run into every day. Not only will it help you be more productive, but it’s good for your overall mental health.
Know When to Step Away
If you’re being productive in your work, it’s okay to step away from the computer for a few minutes.
As a matter of fact, small breaks are great for increasing your focus. So, set some time for yourself during the day, but make sure to keep disciplined.
Bake breaks into your schedule. Maybe set 15 minutes aside to do some yoga or step outside after you finish up a chunk of work. Maybe take five minutes to make a coffee after your morning emails. It’s okay to step aside, as long as you stick to your schedule. A break can be a great refresh.
As we’ve stated, it can be easy to overwork and find yourself tossing breaks aside. We cannot stress how important it is to get away from work during work hours.
And those are our top tips for well-being at work.
Remember, though work seems important, you always come first as a human. Don’t put your mental and physical health to the side for a paycheck. Stay on top of your well-being, always.
Some things here may work better for you than others, but they are all worth trying. Improving your health goes toward many different facets. Improving your physical health will impact your work health and mental health. So on and so forth.
Keep yourself healthy, regardless of your needs!