10 Ways to Boost Your Wellness at Work
Decrease text size Increase text size

By Cleveland Clinic Wellness Editors

#1 Go green

Get a nature fix (without going outside)! Buy a plant for your desk — it reduces fatigue and discomfort and improves performance and mood.

Interacting with Mother Nature is uplifting to your spirit and soothing to your nerves, but it’s harder to do during the cold winter months. To continue enjoying nature’s health-boosting effects, invest in a plant for your desk (or wherever you spend the majority of your time). A Japanese study found that mood and performance improved among female students who performed a cognitive task in a room with a plant in it, and a Norwegian study found that workers with plants in their office reported 20 percent to 30 percent fewer physical symptoms — including fatigue, cough and dry throat — than workers with no plants.


#2 Be thankful

Research shows giving thanks improves mood — even at the office. The key to workplace happiness: Remember what you like about your job.

Some days it’s hard to remember what we like about our job. But reflecting on its benefits is exactly what will make us more appreciative of the daily grind. Expressing gratitude helps us cope and stay positive. That doesn’t mean you should try to be so blissed out that you ignore problems. Complain constructively. Use a journal to brainstorm solutions — even when you don’t feel like it.

#3 Stay on the ball

Here’s a resolution for brain and body — replace your desk chair with an exercise ball. It strengthens the core and boosts concentration.

You might not associate a large, inflatable, bouncy ball with improved productivity, but using what the fitness industry calls a stability ball as a desk chair can keep your core muscles and your mind engaged. In fact, a rapidly growing number of schools across the United States have replaced their traditional chairs with stability balls, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times — the physical challenge of balancing on the balls helps keep otherwise easily distracted students mentally engaged. You needn’t be a child to benefit; sitting on a balance ball requires your core muscles to engage and grow stronger, and this minor physical challenge gives your brain enough of a task that it becomes more alert. Try the Balance Ball yourself!

#4 Get up, stand up!

Do you spend most of your day sitting down? Stand up for heart health. Taking mini activity breaks can help boost your health.

From sitting at a desk all day to plopping down in front of the TV at night, most of us lead a very sedentary lifestyle. Even if we work out regularly, all this downtime takes a toll on our health. Turns out, people who sit on their duff all day without taking breaks are at greater risk of a slew of health issues than those who get up and walk around regularly. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is linked to larger waistlines, higher blood pressure, lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, increased levels of triglycerides, and higher levels of inflammation. And that even goes for gym rats. Yikes. According to the study’s researchers, 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day can’t undo the effects of sitting for eight to 12 hours at a time. But standing up and walking around periodically throughout the day can help. They recommend standing during phone calls and meetings, walking over to a person’s desk instead of e-mailing them, and making frequent visits to the water cooler and bathroom.

#5 Break for lunch

Got more work than you can handle? Resist the urge to hunker down and skip lunch. Taking breaks increases productivity — and lowers stress.

When you’re under the gun, pushing yourself harder to get everything off your plate may sound like a good idea, but unrealistic deadlines will only stress you out more. It is also the quickest path to mental exhaustion. On-the-job burnout isn’t just bad for morale — it can hurt your heart. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic work stress can cause inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease. Instead, take a step back from your work. Get some fresh air or call a friend. Remind yourself that even if you can’t control how much work you have, stressing about it won’t get it done any sooner.


#6 Step outside

No time for the gym? Lace up your shoes and head outside for a walk instead; it’s as good for your heart as a more intense workout.

Your schedule is jam-packed and there’s not enough time for a full-fledged workout. May as well hang up your shoes and try again tomorrow, right? Science says no — moderate exercise is just as effective at preventing cardiovascular disease as more vigorous workouts, according to a Harvard study. Keep a pair of comfortable shoes in your desk drawer and head out for a lunchtime walk on those days you don’t have the time or energy for your regular routine.

#7 Laugh it up

Heading to a brainstorming session at work? Goof off a little first. Research suggests that being in a good mood boosts creative thinking.

A new study published in the journal Psychological Science has found that being in a good mood boosts creative thinking. And, say the study’s authors, doing things at work that put us in a happier frame of mind shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a waste of time. Watching funny videos, for instance, helped people perform better on a series of tests that required creative problem solving. Of course, that doesn’t mean your boss will agree with you on this one. Lift your mood before work or during your lunch hour by listening to humorous podcasts or hanging out with the office clown. Besides boosting creativity, laughter is also a great way to relieve stress.

#8 Surf the web

Goof off (a little) at work: A recent study found workers who surfed the Web for fun were more productive than those who didn’t.

All work and no play may make you dull in more than one sense of the word: A 2009 University of Melbourne study found that workers who engaged in frivolous Web surfing — for less than 20 percent of the total time they were at work — were 9 percent more productive than those who didn’t. The researchers theorize the brain can work more effectively after it has had a chance to take a break from concentrating. If your boss catches you watching videos on YouTube, just tell her that you’re doing it for the good of the company.

#9 Think positively

Nervous about an event? Take it as a good sign. A Harvard study shows that putting a positive spin on your jitters improves performance.

If the thought of an upcoming speech or presentation has you quaking in your boots, don’t resign yourself to giving a subpar performance. A recent Harvard study found that in students taking the GRE, those who were told their nervousness would improve their performance got better scores than the group who wasn’t told anything about their jitters. Before you embark on your anxiety-producing task, imagine your anxiety as a positive force that’s heightening your alertness and focus, and prepare to shine.

#10 Choose wisely

Looking for a job that brings you less stress and greater productivity? Choose a company that offers parental perks like on-site child care.

Whether you’re a CEO looking to improve employee morale and productivity, or you’re a nine-to-fiver trying to find a job that will bring you less stress, take note that companies that offer flex time and on-site child care to parents will give you all of those things. That’s according to a Northeastern University poll of 4,000 working parents. If you’re trying to choose between two jobs, one of which offers parental perks, don’t underestimate its ability to improve your quality of life. The study found that people who worked at family-friendly firms had fewer headaches and stress-related illnesses. Meanwhile, those at companies without those benefits were 62 percent more likely to experience job-related sleep issues and three times as likely to be treated for high blood pressure and diabetes.



Interested in building a culture of wellness in your workplace?  Ask your HR representative to contact us.