Friday, February 26, 2016

Staying Healthy With Workplace Health Hacks...

We spend so much of our time and life at work, whether we're working for someone or for ourselves, these hours can have a profound effect on our overall health, well-being and our relationships. One personal example stands out. A close friend recently changed her job from working long hours and some weekends managing multiple projects, years of ritual 10-minute desk lunches, near zero breaks to an office that puts employees' health first with an emphasis on family-work life balance. Talk about change.... how does a play room equipped with a ping pong table and board games, catered Monday lunches, accessible healthy snacks and free daily fitness classes, with a 9 to 5 work day sound? Her husband tells me the change in his wife's personality and stress level have been significant, and their relationship as well as with their kids have improved dramatically. Well, let's think about it for a minute... when you are so wrapped up, busy producing and meeting deadlines with no time to come up for air, what little energy is left to consider your well-health (even with the best of intentions); we know that taking care of ourselves can feed the mind and soul with nourishment and replenishes, and help better our productivity but when you're in the thick of things, the reality of pulling away can prove difficult. Happy for my friend and lucky for her, but not everyone works in a Google-type office where employees are lavished with countless health-in-mind perks, so what are some of the things we can inspire ourselves to do to improve our health while at work? When approached me to collaborate on sparking a conversation about workplace health hacks, I couldn't be happier to jump on board. They're gathering various ideas on ways to staying healthy during the work week and along with other bloggers, we're sharing our top tips to improving the work-life. Here are mine:

With an emphasis on the top three listed hacks, #1-- Find a workout or walking buddy. Set up a week-by-week schedule (pre- or post- work day or lunch) and stick with it. Hold each other accountable by keeping one of the other's workout shoe. No show, means your friend doesn't get her steps in either. Since I work out of my home and more and more people do these days, I think it's even harder to follow a workout routine. It's so easy to make an excuse and not make the commute to get the work out in-- I'm kinda tired; my son hasn't been eating well, soooo...; it's colllld out there!! When you're at your workplace already you might as well (you need to take a break anyway), you'll have to meet your friend about the shoes and it'll be harder to dodge why you were thinking of not (so much for motivating each other). I was toying with this idea with my girlfriend who's joined a yoga membership for three months, and I desperately need to get back at it, so let's see what happens... I would hate her to miss her workout because of me, but I guess that's the point here right? 

#2-- Stand more. If possible elevate the height of your desk/working table/work station or suggest to have a designated shared area where people can take turns working upright. Research says that sitting, especially for prolonged periods of time is just plain bad for your health for a variety of reason and also due to lack of movement. My friend Florence tells me, her new job has an office meeting room equipped with a walking station that her and her colleagues have access to. It's set up so that they can walk and work at the same time-- great for one person to make conference calls or when you need to read something. She says, it's a great benefit to 'urban' offices because it allows them to still feel active. Having not to commute anymore, she gets less steps in so this is a great 'excuse' to go for a walk now. I say, that's super fantastic-- look at that cool space!

Photo Credits: Florence Wang

I have been fortunate in that my culinary profession required me to stand, walk, and speed walk most of my workday. Recipe development, testing, cooking, baking, product developing, presenting and catering needs you on your feet, and so for me it was about wearing the proper comfy shoes, outfitting the workspace with good flooring or mats (at Kraft, the homestyle kitchens we worked out of had cork board flooring) and industrial kitchens always had safety and feet-friendly mats for long standing; sitting becomes brief, enough to rest, stretch and rotate the feet, and at times for longer periods working on administration in the office (typing up recipes, research, etc.,). Now, as a food blogger, I am often stuck at the computer hours at a time, typing away and the time seems to disappear. Before I know it, it's noon and I haven't got off my chair for over two hours. When I do, I walk around and stretch, rest the eyes and grab some food or fruit. I always have water within reach (my office desk is my dining table :)). I am hoping to find a suitable bar table soon (been looking for one like forever) for the corner spot in my kitchen to pair up with my bar stools, so I see myself moving my laptop to work in that new space occasionally and blog while standing instead of constantly hunkered, back-crowned sitting down.

If you want to see my life and day as a Food Blogger read it here.

#3-- Get a shared blender. Take the challenge with your peers on rotation to make a healthy breakfast or break-time smoothie for everyone. This leads to trying new foods and open the discussion on healthier eating. For Food Revolution Day in previous years, I knew of people who brought a blender to work to make healthy beverages for their workmates to honour the day of real food awareness and celebration, and people loved it so much they end up keeping one there permanently.

Other things that could be awesome when it comes to food, request that vending machine suppliers or in-house cafeteria offer healthy snack options such as nuts, granola bars, fresh fruit, and yogurt. I find that more and more companies that provide food offerings to their employees are becoming health-aware, and if these things are not already there, just ask the right person to get it going. Better yet, make your own and bring from home. Here are some great healthy work snack recipes to try brought to you by For more information, check out their healthy snacking page for tips and recipe ideas on a range of snacking scenarios from low-carb, high-protein snacks to late night and road trip snacking.

As a blogger and such as the work life of many of us relying on the computer and digital gadgets, I try (I really do try) to rest my eyes in every 30 minute intervals away from the computer screen for about two to five minutes. Staring outside my window, a photo or a paper with an inspirational quote and meditating away from what I'm working on helps to take a mental break, and I like that you really get in tuned with your breathing- it goes deeper and is more relieving. My artist brother Dan working hours on end, sometimes well into the earliest of mornings on his hand-crafted double-hand-sized statues tells me he gets his break by stepping outside, going for a walk, driving out to get a coffee, and to get some real people interaction. Working from home can be lonely, and social media as much as we are engaged on it, is still not a live person you can see, hear and talk to. You come back to your work with fresh eyes, a new energy and we both believe our products will result better for it.

My brother Dan aka Marten Go, founder of Preserved Dragons was not aware 
I took a shot of his work-in-progress a while back, but happy he approved I can use it :)

Ironically, this past weekend I walked into my much-anticipated macaron-making class with friend and city famous macaron instructor Mardi Michels, and a big bag of ground almonds was sitting on her counter with the big label across :). Mardi swears by their superfine ground almonds and only uses this brand for her macarons. And here I am partnering with to get the word out about healthy workplace practices, which is really translating back to my own blogging/work life from home. Working for yourself inside the home requires I think even more discipline to be health- and well-being-aware because it's just too easy to fall in your everyday home routine and forget. I read somewhere, maybe it's The Happiness Project where the author knew of a woman who worked out of her home office-- she never failed to put on her work wardrobe, make up her face and take a walk around the block on a daily basis before returning home to start her work day. Clever right?!  I may just adopt that--- but you know, maybe when it's not so cold out.... brrr!! :)

What are your top tips for staying healthy at work?

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