Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Are Your Work Habits Healthy?

Are Your Work Habits Healthy?

HR Manager

Americans today are living longer, healthier lives than we did 20 years ago, according to a study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. And when we think about health and wellness, we tend to think in terms of eating the right foods, getting the right mix of exercise, and sleeping a requisite number of hours each night.

 

But as we live longer, we are also working longer. And we need to make sure that those healthy habits at home translate into healthyworkhabits. These are habits that allow us to work at an optimal productive level throughout the day.

 

With this in mind, let us look at a hypothetical typical workday.

 

5 a.m. - 6:15 a.m.: Rise, shower, dress, check messages (personal voice and/or email), grab a cup of coffee or soft drink and a breakfast bar, and head out the door. If you have a family, you may check on your sleeping children, give your spouse a quick peck on the cheek, and then leave.

6:15 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.: Travel time to work

7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.: Me time-check work messages, view your calendar, and prepare for the days' workload

8:30 a.m. and for the rest of the day: Attend one meeting after another, fill up on coffee/soft drinks, and eat something from the vending machine

6:00 p.m.: Shut down the computer and head for home

6:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.: Travel time home

7:45 p.m.: Arrive home in time to see the youngest off to bed, your teenager finishing his or her homework, and dinner on a warming burner. Exhausted you do nothing but sit.

 

What healthy work habits did you observe in this work day? Could time for healthy habits be built into the day?

 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Schedule time to do actual work. Perform the work that you need to do. This is not a time to attend a meeting or view and respond to messages. You will feel good when you can cross items off your to-do and wait lists.

2. Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can have a negative impact on how alert we are and on our ability to concentrate at work. Dehydration can also adversely affect the quality of our work.

3. Take breaks. For every 90 to 120 minutes of work, take 15 minutes to refresh. Step away from your desk or the office. Our brain is not a computer; it cannot continuously process information. A quick walk may be just what is needed to clear your mind and avoid overload and burnout.

4. Refuel. Lunch breaks are essential for refueling the body. Just as we have to break the fast with a healthy morning meal when we wake up, eating a well-balanced lunch will give our body energy for optimal performance during the afternoon hours.

 

For more information on how we can manage ourselves, refuel, and increase our personal energy, check out this Forbes article: Seven Paradigm Shifts for the New 24/7 Normal.

 

Knowing Your Limits

 

We all reach what is called a "point of diminishing return," meaning there is a time in every day that we reach our maximum productive period. We can work longer hours, but they may not be productive hours. We need to be self-aware. Here are a few signs to look for.

1. Fatigue

2. Easily distracted or loss of focus

3. Hunger or low energy

4. Fidgeting or the need to move about

 

We are more productive if we plan our day and build in time to refresh. Doing so can lead to our developing healthy work habits.

 

Remember: It took time to develop healthy life habits (eating, exercising, and sleeping); it will take time to develop healthy work habits. Start by keeping a log of your work habits. Writing it down makes it real and is a way to commit to making changes. Give attention to the areas where you can make changes and build them into your day. The result is that you will have the energy needed to complete your work day and energy for quality time with your family.

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
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