Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #123:  Good Health at Work


Introduction Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:  Considering that the average Canadian spends 36 hours at work per week, it's not surprising that the workplace can significantly affect overall health and well-being.

Whether you work fifteen or forty hours a week, your job can be physically and mentally draining and affect your health and well-being. Prolonged sitting or standing or poor posture can cause pain and other health effects; fatigue and lack of sleep can make it difficult to concentrate, and inactivity and poor eating choices can contribute to weight gain and other health issues. 

But it's not all gloom and doom. With all the time you spend at work, the workplace provides the ideal setting to promote healthy behaviours and prevent disability and diseases through healthy, safe work environments. Research has shown that healthy organizations are good for employees, as well as the bottom line. A healthy workplace has a culture and practices that support employee health and safety and create comprehensive, successful and sustainable wellness programs for their employees. It's no secret that healthy workplaces have a competitive advantage and incur fewer costs associated with absenteeism, recruitment, and healthcare. Healthy workers’ equal healthy organizations.

Even small, positive actions can make a big difference, and often have a ripple effect. Here are some things you can do to help promote and achieve good health at work.

Take eating healthy as an example! Employers can support healthy eating programs by providing time for employees to go to information sessions, offering healthy food options in the cafeteria and vending machines, or by having refrigerators and microwaves for employees to store and prepare meals appropriately.

From the employee's perspective, eat at least every four hours to keep your energy up. Preparing and packing your own lunch can be not only healthier - giving you more control over hidden calories and fats - but cheaper as well. Choose foods that have been prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt. Use the Canadian Food Guide as a reference to prepare nutritious meals. In the busy world we live in, you have to figure out what works best for you, for example, making your lunch the night before. Planning ahead and being organized are key to healthy eating.

Try to keep healthy snacks on hand such as small bags of nuts, raw vegetables or fruit, or cheese and yoghurt, and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and keep muscles healthy.

Another thing to keep in mind is how long you’re sitting each day. Sitting for prolonged periods of time may seem like a good way to be productive, however it can be very unhealthy and place excessive strain on the body systems, especially if your workstation is not set up correctly. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up, move around and change position. If working at a computer - every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet away. This 20-20-20 rule will help rest your eyes and help prevent eye strain. After 30 minutes of continuous typing, take a quick break to you’re your hands. Resist shaking them out as that can cause injury to wrists. Do stretches at your desk to help your circulation and avoid muscle and joint stiffness and discomfort. Employers should encourage their employees to stretch and take their micro breaks to help prevent the development of musculoskeletal disorders.

Also, don’t forget that whether you work sitting or standing for long periods of time, you should try to change your body positions frequently. Don't sit for more than 50 minutes at a time. It's important to set up your desk or workstation to achieve good posture. When sitting at a desk, position yourself close to the work station with your shoulders relaxed, wrists straight, and elbows tucked in. Lumbar supports in chairs can be helpful to reduce the likelihood of developing low back pain. Monitors should be at eye level. Keep your keyboard close to you at a level that doesn't require too much reaching and isn't too high or low. Sit with legs flexed at a 90-degree angle with feet resting comfortably on the floor or foot rest. 

When lifting, use proper techniques such as using your legs and keeping the object close to the middle of your body, to prevent being injured.

To walk extra steps, park a little further away, walk over to your co-worker rather than phoning or email, and walk to the furthest restroom. Take the stairs where you can. If you feel really adventurous, try holding "walking" meetings where you can go for a walk while you talk and meet.

For a true break, get away from the cubicle or out of the building. Take a walk in the park or stroll along a quiet, calming street and experience nature. Not only will you get some exercise, but you will also get a mental break that will help relax and recharge you. Keep walking shoes and/or workout clothes close by to make it easy to be active. If possible, try to exercise on your lunch break, or before or after work.

Sleep also plays an important role in keeping us safe and healthy at work. Sleep is needed to restore the body, repair the damage from the day as well as stimulate brain growth, consolidate memories, and for emotional rejuvenation. It is very important to get a good night's sleep, which should be about seven to eight hours per night. To promote good sleep, create a routine by going to bed and getting up at the same times. Ensure that the room in which you sleep is a cool, dark, quiet space. If necessary, use earplugs, an eye mask, and darkening blinds. Time it so you aren't eating a large meal right before bed time.

Lastly, make good health a habit. The workplace can play an important role in worker health by providing a safe and healthy physical work environment, ensuring a healthy balance between workers' home and work lives and control over the work, and supporting healthy lifestyles by making the healthy choice, be the easy choice.

For more information about how to develop healthy habits, and make healthy choices at home and at work to feel better both physically and mentally, visit www.ccohs.ca. T
hanks for listening everyone.