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Sep 14, 2023
7 tips for maintaining your health and vitality when returning to the office

Quick Take

  • Staying healthy is crucial to reducing stress and burnout.
  • A healthy lifestyle covers both physical and mental health.
  • Stay home if you are feeling ill.

With COVID-19 no longer a public health emergency, many employees are heading back to offices and worksites for part or all of their work schedules. This will undeniably be a dramatic change for many workers, but it is also an opportunity to engage more with colleagues and make new connections.

Wherever you spend your workdays, maintaining your health and vitality on the job is crucial to reducing stress, avoiding burnout, and staying productive and fulfilled. Here are some tips to help you and your coworkers stay healthy during working hours.

1. If you are sick, stay home

When you are feeling ill, staying home will help protect your colleagues from possible infection. Continuing to work while sick is no longer seen as a “badge of honor.” It can be dangerous, as a cold, flu or other contagious illness can cause serious complications for coworkers who have chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems. Check with your doctor on when you should return to work after an illness. The CDC also has guidelines to follow for those who have the flu or have tested positive for COVID-19.

If you are a people manager, model this behavior of staying home when sick so your team feels empowered to do the same. Let your team know they can take time off when they are sick and, when possible, work remotely until they are feeling better.

2. Stay physically and mentally fit

A healthy lifestyle will help you maintain your everyday wellness. Make sure you get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Even a few minutes of stretching or walking can help improve blood circulation and reduce stiffness. Find a way to move that works for you, whether it’s a quick workout at the gym during your lunch break or a walk around the office or your neighborhood.

A healthy lifestyle means being mentally fit as well as physically fit, so be sure to take sufficient breaks and practice techniques to relax and manage your stress while in the office. Stretching and exercising have been shown to reduce stress. Sometimes, just taking a break to rest your brain can be helpful. Other ways to instantly reduce stress include chewing gum, clearing your desk of clutter, and applying a wrapped ice pack or a cold damp towel to the sides of your neck.

If you manage people, be vulnerable and share the ways you maintain your mental health, such as using company-sponsored benefits or on-site fitness and wellness programs.

3. Set work-life boundaries

Work-life balance is important to prevent burnout. Whenever possible, stick to your work schedule and let your manager and coworkers know when you will be unavailable to answer emails or phone calls.

People managers should promote work-life balance as part of their team culture by setting an example. Limit after-hours emails and calls and respect that your team’s time outside of work is their personal time.

4. Be social and connected

Nearly four out of five employed people with high vitality feel connected with their colleagues, but staying glued to your monitor or workstation can lead to feelings of isolation.

Take opportunities to connect with colleagues in person, such as in a team meeting or during a work break. Walk to a colleague’s desk to ask a question rather than IM’ing. Enabling face time with colleagues is one of the biggest reasons employers are sending workers back to the office, so make the most of being there by taking the time to see people and to engage.

Managers can encourage this type of networking and face time by planning team building events in the office and by sharing networking, training, and other programs that are available on site.

5. Stop the spread of germs

Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, which can cause germs to spread easily. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Dispose of tissues in trash receptacles.

Most importantly, wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser when soap and water are not available. Be sure to wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Finally, keep a pack of disinfectant wipes on hand. They can prevent the spread of sickness when you regularly wipe down your desk and frequently touched common surfaces such as breakroom tables and doorknobs. In addition, use these wipes when you share a desk, phone, work equipment, or other items with a coworker, cleaning it before and after use.

6. Consider getting vaccinated

Please consider getting your annual flu vaccine and the latest COVID booster when they become available. This is especially important for people at higher risk for complications, including pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, obesity, and/or diabetes.

7. Work ergonomically

Set up an ergonomic workspace to ensure you’re working comfortably and strain-free. The placement of your chair, keyboard, and monitor, as well as proper lighting, can make a big difference. Office ergonomics can help lower stress and injury caused by awkward positions and repetitive tasks.

By taking these steps to minimize illness while caring for your overall well-being on the job, you can help maintain a healthy and thriving place to work.