Singaporeans are known to be hardworking workers. This may be a pattern we know too well – blurred lines between work and personal hours, replying to work messages on weekends, checking emails on vacations – particularly as flexible work arrangements and a technologically driven work culture (think smartphones and work chat groups) have become the norm.
An obsession with work may see us unconsciously cultivating unhealthy work habits. How do we achieve the desired balance with so much time spent at work, and sustain a happier work life?
Defined as the basic human ability “to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by our surroundings”, something as instinctive as mindfulness is increasingly a trending concept. A conscious reminder to keep tabs on our obsession with overwork involves being aware of our thoughts, emotions, and what our body is telling us as we move through the day’s motions.
By being mindful, we know when to shut down our work laptop, switch our mental gears and focus on other commitments and activities such as weekends with the family and getting sufficient me-time. This “switching off” in turn instills calm, confidence, satisfaction, and joy when we are back in work mode.
Mindfulness has more benefits, such as stabilizing heart rate, boosting our immune system, and coping better with stress. We refresh our perspective and appreciation of people and things around us, rediscover challenges in mundane work, and regain good mental health. Every May is mental health awareness month, but our mental wellbeing at work has absolutely no deadline.
Avoid habitual inactivity
While we are mentally active at work, we could be physically otherwise. Sitting at our desks and hunched over our laptops for hours day to day could see us becoming sedentary at work. Severe risks include weight gain, deteriorating muscle strength, reduced blood circulation, and a weakened immune system.
Try these for a conscious effort to move during work hours:
- Get up from our seats at least once every hour to stretch.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator when heading out for lunch.
- Walk over to talk to colleagues instead of Skyping them.
Watch out for poor posture
With working from home being more common than ever, we may be conveniently sitting at the dining table or slumped into our sofa while working on emails or making video calls. With reduced time at a proper work desk or in an ergonomically designed office chair, it does not take long for us to feel the strain on our back, shoulders, and neck.
Be it an office or home desk, here are some tips to encourage better posture:
- Our computer should be about an arm’s length away from us, and the top of our screen should be level with our forehead for us to look down with our eyes, not our necks.
- Our keyboard and mouse should be at a height that allows our elbows to be bent at 90 degrees by our sides.
- When seated, our knees should not be higher than our hips, with feet resting on the floor. Avoid constantly crossing our legs, worse if we habitually only cross one leg over the other.
Set up a proper workstation
If working from home is your company’s new norm, it is worth setting up a proper homework zone. If you already have a workstation, why not go a step further and spruce it up?
Here are some ideas for a conducive work area:
- Invest in furniture and accessories, from a good chair and desk to use a separate monitor and keyboard.
- Keep everything you need to use within arm’s length.
- Use a back support cushion if you are prone to slouching.
- Deck out your desk in your favorite colors or with some fanciful stationery. Take the chance to declutter with organizing trays, or display photos of your family or furkids on cork or pegboards.
- Plants encourage productivity and induce joy for many people. You don’t even need green fingers to try easy-to-maintain succulents or an ornamental terrarium. If not, consider flowers that you can change periodically, or even dried ones for some color or mild fragrance.
Drink and eat well!
Stay hydrated through the workday. This is also a good way to make sure we move from our seat to refill our mug or make a trip to the loo. While we should remember to eat proper meals, excessive or unhealthy snacking should be kept in check. If there is a need to snack, make it a healthy one.
Lastly, remember that our kids learn from observing our behavior. By setting a good example with good work and desk habits, it is easier for us to motivate them into embracing a positive attitude and active lifestyle.