Maintaining Wellness at Work

As working women, we juggle the needs of so many people—our family, colleagues, friends—that it’s easy to neglect ourselves.

At the top of the list of our own needs should be that of our health. Many of us may have a routine in place where we focus on exercising or nutrition at home or at the gym.

However, it’s often difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when we are at work, and even trickier when we are travelling to conferences and other work events.

Here are a few steps you can take to help create and maintain a healthy lifestyle while at work:

Get moving. You probably spend the majority of your time sitting at your desk staring at a computer screen. It’s important to take breaks and walk around, perhaps to get water or stop by a colleague’s desk instead of emailing him/her. Even better, have a “moving meeting” where, instead of sitting at a desk or conference table, you talk business over a walk or a jog. This exercise is good for your physical health and the break helps you stay mentally alert. Two large studies published this month showed that as little as 15 minutes of exercise per day can lower one’s risk for death, increase life expectancy by 3 years and lower one’s risk for heart disease.

Eat healthy snacks. Have healthy snacks you enjoy such as fruit, nuts or dried fruit at your desk. When desire for a snack strikes, you will have a good option ready to go. Or if you prefer heading to a snack stand, have a healthy option already in mind that the stand sells, say like a fruit smoothie.

Get your clinical and preventive services. It’s important to receive recommended screenings in order to detect disease at an early stage, when it is usually more treatable. You should be receiving pap smears and mammograms starting at ages 18 and 40, respectively. Cholesterol screening is also important once you reach age 45 and colon cancer screening once you hit 50. Be sure to get your annual flu shot, too! Look at your company’s benefit plan because vaccinations and screenings may be covered.

Have an ergonomically correct workstation. One way to stay healthy is to prevent physical problems that can become chronic and cause pain you could otherwise avoid. It’s good to have an adjustable keyboard and chair. Your arms should be resting on armrests and be at a 90-degree angle. Keep the computer monitor at eye level. Your feet should be planted on the floor and your back straight against a chair.

Plan ahead when travelling. The same principle applies when traveling as when sitting at your desk—plan healthy food in advance. Whether it’s buying and packing healthy snacks as an alternative to calorie-ridden airplane food or strategically choosing restaurants based on healthy menu options, it pays to think about it up front. Also, bring your workout gear. Most hotels have a fitness room where you can run/walk on a treadmill and use free weights. Another way to fit movement into your trip is to walk to/from your hotel to meetings if it’s possible (just make sure it’s safe).

We spend the majority of our days at work. Let’s make the most of this time and maintain our wellness. Your company may offer specific wellness programs that go beyond the tips mentioned here. Go ahead, take advantage of these programs! It will do you and your company good—for healthier employees makes happier, more productive employees.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the author: M. Courtney Hughes, PhD, is Founder of Approach Health, a data-driven health behavior change company. She is an expert in corporate disease management and wellness and enjoys working with employers on employee health promotion strategies and programs. Courtney lives in the Chicago area and can be found on Twitter as @ApproachHealth.

About the Author

Courtney Hughes


M. Courtney Hughes

Yes, using your social network to help improve healthy habits is fantastic. In fact, a couple of large studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago showing that health behaviors like quitting smoking and obesity-related behaviors spread through social networks. One reason for this is that people’s perception of their own health risk and an acceptable body type depends on those people around them. Getting peer support is a helpful strategy in improving health behaviors.

Krista Francis

I like your tips, especially the walking meetings.

We’re a two person HR office, and we challenge and support each other with our wellness efforts. Right now, Rose implemented a ‘drink more water’ campaign with anyone interested. She encourages me to drink less Diet Coke and I encourage her to take the stairs rather than the elevator.

Another time, she and I decided to go 40 days with no desserts, candy, or sugary drinks. That was 4-6 months ago and although I occasionally eat sweets now, it’s no longer a daily habit. I’m not suggesting that anyone else should do something that ‘extreme’; rather, my point is to buddy up or use social relationships for built-in support and accountability. And it’s a whole lot more fun!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *