It’s time to face it: Most of us are in an unhealthy relationship with work. A constant stream of emails and texts pressures many of us to be always “on,” a situation worsened by the remote-work explosion necessitated by COVID-19. Even if you love your job, the daily grind makes it easy to lapse into habits that are terrible for your health. Now that office routines have begun transitioning back to something resembling a pre-pandemic state, it’s a good time to reassess what’s unworkable and hit the reset button. Here are five subtle ways your job is making you sick, and how you can turn things around fast. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
Studies have found that 83 percent of Americans suffer from work-related stress. The journal Occupational Health & Safety calls it a “national health crisis.” This isn’t hyperbole: Stress can impair your immune system and raise your risk of heart disease, and if you cope with stress by overeating or drinking too much alcohol, you raise those risks of serious illness. Better ideas: Set boundaries on your workday, take regular breaks and vacations, get regular exercise and commit to eating healthy. Enlisting your co-workers (at least with the last two) can help keep you accountable.
Whether you’re working from home or headed back to the office, mindless snacking during the workday is way too easy to do. Dipping into the office candy jar, hitting the vending machine for a cookie, or constantly raiding the refrigerator can quickly lead to extra pounds, which almost none of us need post-pandemic. Experts advise keeping high-protein, high-fiber snacks on hand—like raw almonds, fruit or vegetables—eating satisfying meals and asking yourself if you’re really hungry when you’re tempted to snack. You might find you’re eating extra to cope with stress or boredom.
Sitting All Day
Even before the pandemic turned us into a nation of couch potatoes, health experts were warning about the dangers of being too sedentary: Most of us sit all day long, and the resulting health risk has been compared to that of smoking. Now that we’re more free to move about, don’t just lapse back into old patterns. Experts advise following the 20/20 rule: After 20 minutes of sitting, get up and walk around for at least 20 seconds. Go for a walk, crank up a standing desk, or take a call or a meeting on foot.
Ignoring Your Posture
Another risk of constant sitting: Poor posture can seriously throw your body out of whack, especially your neck and back. To ensure you have good posture at your desk, make sure your chair is high enough that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your computer screen should be at a height that ensures your head is upright and not looking too far up or down. Draw your shoulders back and sit upright. Setting an alarm on your phone or computer to check yourself occasionally can help.
You Never Leave
The COVID pandemic worsened an ongoing American workplace epidemic—our utter inability to know when to say when. One study found that working from home basically destroyed our already tenuous work/life balance, adding up to two-and-half extra hours to the workday. That’s unsustainable. Focus on meeting expectations while setting boundaries. And take breaks during the workday for meals and quick bouts of exercise—both your mental and physical health will be better for it. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.