Photo Source: Lenzie
By SU-ANN CHIEN
The stereotypical work day starts from 9am and ends at 5pm officially, but in reality, most employees enter the office while the sky is still dark and leave only after it gets dark again.
An ILO expert on working hours was quoted in BBC’s 2012 article “Who works the longest hours?”, saying “Asian countries tend to work the longest [hours], they also have the highest proportion of workers that are working excessively long hours of more than 48 hours a week.” Malaysia is no exception.
To add salt to injury, these unrealistic work hours take a toll not just on our social life, but even on our physical and mental health.
We cannot easily change that; however, here are some simple ways to help you combat the effects of long hours, and maintain a healthier you.
Health and Diet
It’s true when they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It kick starts your metabolism and generates enough energy to prevent the mid-morning slump.
Stay away from nasi lemak or fried noodles. Instead, go for fruit, yoghurt and cereal. You’ll see that it really makes a difference in your energy levels.
Learn the art of power-napping. A quick 10 minutes of proper shut eye can boost your energy levels more than ingesting coffee or Coke.
If you’re the kind to feel peckish before the allocated mealtimes, keep some snacks at hand. The occasional keropok is acceptable, but go for healthier foods such as raisins or muesli. Snacking actually helps your body to metabolise food faster.
Make sure that you drink lots of water. Keep a water bottle at your table to remind you to take a sip every now and then. It does wonders not just for your health, but for your skin and mental alertness too.
Stick to a proper bedtime every night and try to get your body clock into a set rhythm. As your body gets used to the timing, you’ll sleep and wake up a lot easier. Plus, it also prevents you from oversleeping.
Don’t underestimate the importance of ergonomics. Ensure that you maintain the proper posture while at your desk so keep your laptop, mouse, phone and even your chair in the most optimal position.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, choose a chair that has a natural curve to support your lower back and adjust it to a proper height. Your feet should be able to rest comfortably on the floor and your forearms should be parallel to the ground.
Every now and then, pump up your heart rate by taking a quick walk: go to the toilet, offer to greet the people at the reception or even walk to the pantry to refill your bottle of water.
Items like your keyboard and mouse are actually full of bacteria. Prevent the spreading of germs by constantly disinfecting your hands every time you go to the toilet and avoid leaving soiled mugs or tissues at your workstation for extended periods of time.
Remaining in your “at-desk” position for long hours can cause muscle strain and other minor injuries. Do some mini stretching exercises to improve your circulation and prevent over-stressing your joints. Here is a list of simple exercises that you can do endorsed by the North Carolina State University.
To relieve dry eyes, close your eyes tightly for a second, then open them widely (repeat several times). Refocus eyes momentarily on an object at least six metres away.
With elbows straight, bend your wrists down as far as they will go, hold for three seconds then extend your wrists back as far as they will go. Repeat several times.
Slowly turn head to side and hold for 10 seconds. Alternate sides and repeat several times.
Slowly shrug shoulders in a forward circular motion. Alternate to reverse the circular motion. Touch the fingertips of your hands together just behind the top of your head without letting your hands touch your head, move your elbows in a backward direction, hold for five seconds then relax. Repeat several times.
With hands on hips and feet about shoulder width apart, slowly lean hips forward and shoulders slightly back. Hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds.
Create a daily to-do list to help you focus your efforts on what needs to be accomplished in the short term. Break up your tasks into specific segments so that you can have a clearer view of your progress. Avoid carrying tasks over to the next day.
Studies have shown that employees spend a longer time constructing and replying emails. Set an allocated time to check your emails to limit the probability of being distracted.
Reduce the mess at your workstation. Organising your desk not only helps to organise your work, but psychologically you will feel less pressured to stay back late in the office, as you are on top of your deadlines.
The health tips presented here are small ways of improving your quality of life; however they are no replacement for actually practising a work-life balance. Although work is important, remember that no amount of productivity or wealth will ever be able to substitute for good health in your years. No job will ever be worth any sort of mental, physical or emotional detriment.
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