6 Ways To Improve Wellness at Work
Pain in the back(side)? Crick in the neck?
No, we’re not talking about your boyfriend who double books date night (though we empathise), nor are we referring to your housemate who conveniently ‘forgets’ the bin rota every week (though again, sympathies). On the contrary, we are very literally describing the symptoms so many women suffer after long days at their desks.
Although you may lead what you consider an active life, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end is storing up trouble for the future. Indeed, the British Chiropractic Association has found that two in three of us have suffered serious neck or back pain by the time we hit 35, whilst a US study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who sat for long periods every day triple the risk of a dangerous blood clot. Putting in the hours at work may please your boss, but the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death – regardless of how much you exercise or how healthy your diet is.
But with working hours increasing, and millennials demanding more of themselves professionally, what is the answer to this catch 22?
Having suffered with neck pain for some time, I decided to enlist the expertise of Lucy Patterson, founder of MILK mobile beauty, to advise on physical fitness for the 9-5. If you suffer from muscle stiffness, lower back, neck and hip pain, or simply want to learn how to avoid blood clots and repetitive strain injuries, read on for some simple steps to help to get your body boardroom ready:
1. Align Your Spine
Don’t dismiss wellness at work guidelines as ‘HR drivel’. Setting up your desk correctly is imperative when you’re sitting for prolonged periods at a computer. At a minimum, ensure your screen is slightly below eye level, your feet rest flat on the floor, and your wrists are straight when typing or using the mouse. You can buy all sorts of ergonomically optimised mats, rests and stands to achieve this, so petition your boss to do so. In the interim, improvise with whatever you can find lying around the office (out-of-date Yellow Pages work well as both monitor stands and footrests).
2. Core Blimey
Strong core muscles help maintain good posture, which in turn prevents putting your body under undue stress. The best way of building up long-term core strength is taking regular Pilates classes, which help ‘lengthen’ you from head to toe. Additionally, swapping your desk chair for a Swiss ball helps improve posture and negate pain without needing to take time out of your working day. A huge trend in Germany right now, introduce a Swiss ball for half an hour at first and build this up as your core strengthens.
3. Cradle Cap
Cradling a phone – even for short periods everyday – can cause tension and pain in both neck and shoulders. Instead, channel your inner Britney Spears and invest in a headset (impromptu renditions of Baby One More Time inadvisable).
4. Flat Pack
Heels throw your spine out of alignment and can damage feet, tendons and joints in your ankles and knees. So, if your office allows it, switch into flats when walking round staff only areas (or at least for your journey to and from work). We’re not saying ditch them altogether – heels are a must for meetings in our book – just be savvy about your stilettos.
5. Power of Touch
Massage is an excellent way of reducing muscle stiffness and anxiety. Indeed, research shows that massage can help alleviate stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Therapists suggest a full body massage once a month for optimal results, however even taking 15 minutes out your working day for an in-office chair massage can make a world of difference to both physical and mental wellbeing.
6. Soak and Stretch
Supplement work and lifestyle adjustments with some simple home remedies. First, be sure to stretch regularly. MILK’s massage therapists recommend crossing your arms in front of you and getting someone to pull firmly from behind. Repeat several times a week. Second, set aside one day each week for a warm bath with muscle soak. Blissful and beneficial.
Founded by ex-City professional, Lucy Patterson, MILK is London’s mobile beauty service, setting up a virtual salon wherever suits you. Book your MILK treatment here (full body massage highly recommended!).