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Maintaining Wellness Routines in the Office

With the slow loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, many companies are reopening their offices for in-person work. But going to the office doesn’t simply mean the end of working from home; it also means the return of client lunches, pizza parties, office snacks, and post-work happy hours. Not to mention the added commute creates less time to sneak in exercise or mindfulness opportunities throughout the day. So, how do we go back to the office without sacrificing our health?

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have turned our homes into gyms and created time in our busy schedules to prioritize healthy eating and adequate rest. But it’s not so easy to meal prep and meditate from our places of work. Luckily, there are simple steps we can take to make sure our newfound lifestyles aren’t compromised by the renewed nine to five grind.

Find pockets of time for physical activity

Believe it or not, exercise doesn’t need to be done in an hour-long stretch. A long session on the treadmill or in the weights room isn’t always feasible for us desk dwellers. So, why not aim for several 10-minute-long increments of physical activity instead of one long workout?

Professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University Glenn Gaesser, PhD, told Healthline that lack of time is the number one reason people report a decline in daily exercise.

“This is because most people think of exercise as something that requires a lot of effort, time, and a change of clothing. Mini workouts throughout the day may appeal to people who just don’t have the time or inclination for one big workout,” said Gaesser.

So, what exactly counts as a mini workout? Gaesser says five to ten minutes of walking or resistance training a few times a day can do the trick. This can be as easy as walking to and from your car with your work bag. The main objective is to refrain from spending the entire day sitting at a desk—instead, try to get up and walk around as much as possible.

Make a plan for your meals

Unhealthy office snacks and filling restaurant lunches can put a big damper on your wellness goals. Consequently, it’s critical to make a plan surrounding your food for the week. If you can, pack a lunch from home. Be sure to include all the food you’ll need for a full day at the office. Then, while at work, be careful to eat the food you brought rather than being tempted by less nutritious office treats.

There will be occasions when you’ll either want or need to go out to eat with co-workers or celebrate an accomplishment with cake, pizza, or other typical office party snacks. You can and should enjoy yourself in these moments but think about how to incorporate the extra fun into your wellness routine. For example, if you go out to lunch with a co-worker, perhaps you opt for a salad rather than a burger. If your office is bringing in cupcakes, you may consider skipping the afternoon snack you packed. The most important thing is that you indulge in moderation. You don’t have to deprive yourself, but if there are doughnuts in the office kitchen on a daily basis, try to enjoy something more nutritious and save the doughnut for one day a week, or special occasions only.

Take moments of mindfulness

Office energy is very different from the comforts of home we’ve become accustomed to. The atmosphere may feel more stressful when you’re surrounded by co-workers and bosses. You may be wearing more uncomfortable clothes, and you’re battling through your commute to arrive on-time. But, when life gets hectic, it’s even more crucial to protect your mental health.

The office is not an ideal place to step away and turn on a 10-minute meditation app or practice yoga. Instead, try to be aware of moments when you feel stressed or have heightened anxiety. During these times, see if you can pause and take ten deep breaths, or go to the bathroom and calm down for a minute. Maybe you can even step outside and take a quick stroll around the block. Whatever method works best for you, it’s important to develop a practice that will decrease your stress level and calm your mind. Remember, any obstacle that arises at the office is surmountable with a clear mind and open communication.

Talk to your boss about creating fitness challenges

Health and wellness initiatives can be a great way to boost company engagement and bonding. Talk to your boss about implementing fitness challenges or company-wide goals. For example, maybe the company encourages all their employees to sign up for a 5k, and optional group training runs are held one evening per week. Maybe everyone takes an indoor cycling class together. At Landing Point, we are hosting a Field Day in May, where team members can tap into their competitive sides during our beach volleyball tournament. There are so many fun ways companies can encourage fitness in their employees, while also allowing people to have fun and bond with one another.

Schedule time to get to know a co-worker on a personal level

Human connection is a huge part of our mental wellbeing. However, people get overwhelmed at work and neglect making time to get together with friends and family. Luckily, co-workers can quickly become good friends and confidantes, too. Make a goal of getting to know the people you work with. Perhaps you invite a co-worker to grab coffee with you or go out for a healthy lunch. The key is that, when you’re out with your co-worker, challenge yourself to refrain from discussing work. Ask about their lives (i.e. What do they like to do outside of work? Do they have a significant other? Kids? Where are they from? etc.). You may surprise yourself by learning you and your co-worker have similar interests. In the best-case scenario, you will make a new friend.

The takeaway

Reentering the workplace after two years in a global pandemic is stressful and intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to negatively impact your health. There are simple steps you can take to prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing, such as creating time for movement during the day, focusing on healthy meals, implementing mindful moments, taking part in fitness challenges, and making friends with co-workers. By taking these easy steps, you’ll ensure your time in the office is positive, productive, and motivating.

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