When it comes to making healthy (or not) choices, there are many habits that busy individuals fall into over the years. We make decisions on how best to get through each day, but just because these decisions are appropriate at a specific time doesn’t mean they’re the choices that bring us optimum performance for the long-term.
Think about decisions as simple as skipping lunch to hit a deadline, loading up on caffeine and burning the candle at both ends to complete a project, or sidestepping the gym in order to attend an important meeting
These things happen once or twice for good reasons but then gradually, they can become the norm and we soon start feeling as though the balance of our routine isn’t where we want it to be.
In most cases, staff are simply too busy to pause to consider if there could be a better way to run their daily routine. An advantage of a corporate wellbeing programme is that it provides the opportunity to help people target simple behaviour changes that enable them to achieve the same results, or maybe even take their performance to the next level, while ensuring less stress, more energy, better sleep and an improved sense of work-life balance and all round feel-good factor.
So, for all those in need of some inspiration, motivation and practical advice to sharpen up their health, wellbeing and performance for 2014, here are 29 simple tips to consider in your office.
1. Regular activity is key for long-term results
For busy workers it’s far better to be realistic and complete 1 or 2 quality workouts per week, every week, than to aim to exercise 4-5 times a week and then end up squeezing activity in when you’re distracted, wasting energy on ineffective training time, or feeling that you’ve let yourself down if you don’t manage to fit in everything you planned. Bear this in mind when thinking about New Year resolutions and plan to feel great for the entire year, not just for the first two weeks of January!
2. For dramatic results, be consistent
Remind everyone that even a small amount of daily activity can create a positive mindset, and that completing a couple of exercise sessions each week will add up to 100 workouts a year. That’s enough to keep anyone feeling positive about their fitness routine, and achieve great results.
3. Work hard, get faster results
Higher intensity exercise, practiced regularly, leads to faster results. You can explain this to staff in your wellbeing material but even better than that is to organise some fitness sessions that illustrate the point in an enjoyable and memorable way.
4. Keep it varied, keep it interesting
Many people stop exercising simply because they get bored with a single approach. Give staff access to a range of ideas – resources and practical demonstrations – that will show them how to keep their activity schedule interesting and effective.
5. Be clear on individual objectives and specific deadlines
Most people have vague ideas about what they’d like to achieve with their wellbeing. Providing staff with regular coaching and advice will really help them firm up these vague ideas, get to the heart of why they want to make changes, inject motivation into their aims and ensure they put together an effective plan to achieve them.
6. Join a group or team
Whether it be office colleagues or friends outside of work, planning to exercise with others can be a key factor for many in making sure workout sessions actually take place. Training with a group makes exercise more of a social event, strengthens the commitment to make it happen and can increase the element of enjoyment hugely.
7. Prioritise quality over quantity
Time may be short for exercise but as little as 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference if the time is used wisely. Providing staff with a range of time-efficient workouts will really make a difference to what they feel they are capable of and how they plan exercise into their schedule.
8. Fit activity into every day
Encourage staff to walk, stretch, and practice deep breathing throughout each day. This not only provides a quick break to re-invigorate body and mind, but also helps people feel they are making regular efforts to optimise their wellbeing which keeps them on track in other areas such as healthy eating, managing stress and ensuring quality sleep.
9. Develop body and mind
Help staff experience a full range of activities from fitness and team sports to yoga, Pilates and massage. A balanced wellbeing programme will keep them physically fit and help prevent injury while stimulating the brain to a variety of states ranging from dynamic and energetic to calm and relaxed.
10. Drink more water
It’s a message people hear often but it’s always worth reiterating. Good hydration means consistent energy and improved concentration. Provide everyone with easy access to water and regular reminders to drink it.
11. Eat breakfast
The way people begin their day can set the mood until bedtime. Skipping breakfast or making poor choices can compromise concentration levels and increase stress. A good breakfast is the foundation for a calm and productive day.
12. Monitor portion sizes
Too much of any food at one sitting will stress your digestive system and leave you feeling lethargic. Slow down and tune into how much food your body actually needs at various points throughout the day.
13. Reduce sugar intake
Too much sugar creates inner turmoil and can aggravate stress levels leaving you less able to cope with a busy day. Get familiar with where sugar comes from in your routine and moderate your intake.
14. Fuel yourself regularly
Grazing throughout the day on well-chosen meals and snacks stabilises energy levels and is the most effective strategy for weight management.
15. Make a plan and follow it
Help individuals establish what a good food routine looks like for them and then provide the resources they need to follow this routine. Simple information on how to plan recipes, prepare a selection of meals, and shop effectively can save staff time, anxiety and money.
16. Eat more protein
Protein keeps you fuller for longer and flattens out peaks and troughs in blood sugar and energy levels. Make sure nuts, seeds and lean meat protein or vegetarian alternatives are a regular part of your food routine.
17. A simple plan for 5-a-day
It helps to make a clear plan for consuming more fruit and vegetables. Fruit with breakfast and morning and afternoon snacks, salad with lunch and vegetables with evening meal is a simple schedule to follow.
18. Experiment with greater variety of food
Try one or two new products or recipes every week to develop a healthy eating routine that never becomes boring.
19. Make time to eat
Very few meals or snacks these days are consumed without something else going on in the background – people eat at their desks, while on their tablets, talking on the phone and even while driving. At the same time digestive issues have become increasingly common and obesity levels have never been higher. Give your digestive system a break and pick at least one meal or snack each day when eating is your sole focus. Chew your food, engage with what you’re eating and enjoy it.
20. Take regular breaks throughout the day
Many people run through their day at a million miles an hour, only to find that by the end of it they feel exhausted and have spent valuable time in the wrong areas. Regular review points ensure attention is focused on appropriate priorities with moments to refuel, recharge and ensure consistent energy.
21. Control your schedule
Focus on detailed daily & weekly planning: A few quality planning minutes each day can save hours every month. Prioritise time for yourself to maximise effectiveness in all areas.
22. Set boundaries
Every individual needs to establish what work-life balance means for them so they can plan their time and set their priorities. Without an idea of what you’re aiming for with your time management, you risk a lack of focus and tasks taking longer than they need to. Be proactive in this area.
23. Manage technology
Technology can make our lives easier or it can take over our routine and eat time. It’s up to each individual to design an approach to making the best use of their phone, email and the internet. And remember, there is an off switch!
24. Monitor caffeine intake
Too much caffeine can disrupt concentration and make people irritable, so while a little can be a great aid to productivity, everyone should be wary about finding the right level of consumption to suit their needs. Decide how many caffeinated drinks are best for you and enjoy them. Watch out for habitual or ‘passive’ consumption when you take a caffeinated drink simply because it’s there rather than because you really want it. Meetings are a key area when this happens often.
25. Devise an alcohol strategy (and follow it)
Alcohol can affect sleep, energy levels, blood pressure and weight management. Everyone should take a moment to consider their current approach to drinking and decide if they want to make any adjustments. Areas to consider include how many alcohol free nights you have each week, how many units you consume over the course of the week, and specific strategies for social events to help you maintain your desired balance.
26. Prioritise sleep and recovery
Our mind and body need recovery time so rather than stealing time from sleep to pack more into each day, prioritise your rest and recovery. You’ll become more efficient at using time wisely when you’re well rested rather than tasks taking longer because you feel fatigued.
27. Create a bed time and pre-sleep routine
Good sleep does not happen by accident so it’s worth considering how you run your evening to ensure activities lead you towards a restful night. Tapping out emails right up until you drop off might not be the best strategy for a restful slumber.
28. Be conscious of how you organise your day
The ability to get a good night’s sleep can depend on how we manage stress, get active and fuel ourselves through the day so think about your regular routine, what you do and when you do it and consider your actions in relation to whether they’ll help you sleep or could they hinder a quality night of rest.
29. Update your communication strategies
Major causes of stress include emails, telephone calls, meetings and interaction with others, so unless you work in complete isolation, you may need to regularly review how you handle communications. Being clear, consistent and keeping others informed using appropriate channels of communication can prevent misunderstandings and reduce stress levels dramatically.
We originally wrote this article for the HR Zone website.