How to Stay Healthy at Work

There’s nothing worse than hearing a sneeze or sniffle ring out in the office, because, in that moment, you know everyone’s going to start getting sick.

You can save yourself by knowing how best to defend against the germs floating around. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips to stay healthy at work that will keep you as close to sniffle-free as possible this year and beyond.

1. Wash Your Hands

It seems obvious — seriously, it’s on every list of tips to stay healthy at work that you’ll ever read — but people simply don’t wash their hands as much as they should. Think about all that you touch in and around the office and what your sick coworkers might have also touched. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot of overlap.

Make a point to wash your hands regularly. This is especially true before you eat, after you’re in the restroom and after you sneeze, so that you’re not responsible for spreading germs, either.

2. Use Hand Sanitizer

No matter how important it is for you to wash your hands throughout the day, it simply may not be possible for you to get up over and over to go wash up in the bathroom. Sometimes your schedule simply won’t permit you to step away from your desk for a quick suds session.

In this case, it’s good practice to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk to kill germs when you can’t mobilize to do it yourself. You might even want to bring a travel bottle with you to meetings when people around you seem particularly sniffly.

3. Drink Water

Drinking water won’t necessarily keep germs at bay, but it may help strengthen your immune system. Drinking enough water will also have you feeling amazing: you’ll feel more energized and alert throughout the day, so long as you sip all day long.

If that’s not incentive enough, good hydration can also equate to weight loss and improved heart health. Make it easy to get into the habit by buying a reusable water cup or bottle that stays at work so you can always refill it and have water on your desk.

4. Routinely Clean Your Desk

We’re not talking about decluttering your workspace, although that’s one of the many ways to boost your productivity.

Instead, clean the surfaces of your desk with a disinfectant each day during cold season, especially if you’re in an open office where germs are likely to travel. You should also dust your desk once a week to remove any particles that could cause those sneezes in the first place.

5. Keep Caffeine to a Minimum

This one might be a shot to the heart for all the coffee lovers out there. But too much caffeine can give you a jittery burst of energy that leads to a crash into tiredness later. Plus, too much caffeine can interfere with your sleep — you can be so wired that you can’t fall asleep at night — and sleep is vital to your immune system. That leads us to…

6. Sleep Well – Every Night

For some of us, this is easier said than done. Regardless of how easily you drift off, the value of a good night’s rest cannot go unmentioned — in fact, it should be on every list of tips to stay healthy at work or any other place on earth, really.

That’s because your body uses sleep as a time to replenish and rebuild. Your immune system releases proteins that help you fight inflammation, infection and even stress. Without sleep, you might not have enough of these proteins to help your body defend itself. Most doctors recommend seven to eight hours of sleep for adults for full body replenishment.

  1. Avoid the People Who Are Sick This might sound a bit harsh or antisocial, but it will lessen your chances of getting sick if you’re not around sick people. If you must have a meeting, make sure you wash your hands and sanitize your workspace after your meeting participants leave.

If you have the power, remind your staff that staying home while sick is the best policy to avoid perpetuating the sickness cycle in the office.

8. Always Say ‘Yes’ to the Flu Shot

Simply put, flu shots work. Some people may feel residual side effects, confuse a post-shot cold with the flu or somehow get a strand not covered by the vaccination. However, those side effects are rare and, most of the time, the vaccine works.

Since flu season is nearing a close, remember this tip for next year or, better yet, mark it in your calendar for next year. The ideal window is between Halloween and Thanksgiving, according to the American Council on Science and Health.

9. Sit Up Straight

Okay, so good posture isn’t necessarily linked to a boost in the immune system. However, you don’t want to make yourself susceptible to all-over aches and pains while taking such strides to protect your health, do you?

Start paying attention to how you’re sitting at the office. Keep your feet flat, your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and your line of vision directly in line with your monitor. That way, your body won’t hurt and you won’t have a cold — win-win.

10. Exercise Regularly

You already know that exercise is good for your body. While it’s strengthening your heart and lungs, though, exercise is also increasing the number of cells in your body that are built to fight off the very bacteria that’s making everyone else sick.

People who don’t exercise as much have these beneficial cells, too, but you’ll have more if you make time to work out, which means your body will be better equipped to fight off bacteria.

11. Breathe Some Fresh Air

Good, old vitamin D: Like many of the other suggestions on this list, the inclusion of vitamin D into your routine will boost your immune system.

One of the easiest ways to get vitamin D is to head outdoors and soak up the sun for a few minutes. You’ll have the added benefit of a refreshing, stress-busting break from your desk, too, and the fresh air will leave you reenergized and ready to take on the rest of your day.

12. Ward Off Stress

To that end, your stress can be more than just a mental strain. If you suffer from ongoing anxiety or stress at work, it can really wear on — you guessed it — your immune system.

Once your immune system is compromised, you’re more likely to pick up that cough that’s spreading around the office like wildfire. Find your favorite way to fight stress and stick to it to strengthen your mind and body.

13. Take Care of Yourself When You Are Sick

Finally, no matter how cautious you are, you might still succumb to whatever virus is going around. In that case, don’t try to power through and work despite how crummy you feel.

Go home, rest up completely and then come back to work. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re at risk of perpetuating the cycle. You won’t completely heal and you’ll come back, infect others, get sick again yourself, and so on. No one wants that, especially not you.

You know how to stay healthy at work, but Punched Clocks can teach you a whole lot more about the best workplace practices. Sign up for the newsletter and never miss a beat.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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