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Canon’s ‘Office Olympian’ Guide

Research from Canon UK and ICM has shown that office workers spend an average of 5.5 hours per day sat at their desks. This equates to a staggering 1265 hours per year (34 five day working weeks). With two thirds of office workers saying they work beyond their contracted hours and 20% not taking any interest in their health whilst in the office, it is clear that more needs to be done to promote a healthy workplace and replace inactive office workers with ‘Office Olympians’. Canon’s guide is designed to provide simple yet practical tips for office workers to keep active and healthy whilst at work.

1. Keep Active
A majority of office work is now computer based and people spend more and more time in sedentary positions sitting in chairs that do not meet their postural needs. The irony is that our bodies are made to move and yet we do little to implement this – especially at work.  Workers who spend long amounts of time in the same position can be exposed to overuse or repetitive work leading to muscle tension, stiffness, and pain.  In 2007 the Health and Safety Executive identified that you have an 80% chance of developing low back pain at some point in your life and more than 10 million working days were lost to musculoskeletal disorders, which are the most common form of ill-health disorders at work, both in the UK and across Europe.

Tip:- Ensure you are familiar with the adjustments on your office chair and how to set them up correctly to suit you.  If there is a dynamic tilt mechanism on the chair use the rocking motion to promote active sitting which increases blood flow and reduces muscle fatigue.

When sitting at your desk set yourself up to ensure that:
• Your feet are flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
• Your back is straight, and at an angle of no less than 90 degrees from your thighs.
• Your elbows are at 90 degrees with your forearms parallel to the floor.
• Your elbows are level with the home row of the keyboard (middle row). NEED TO CLARIFY THIS POINT
• You maintain a straight line from the elbow to the wrist and ensure the wrists are in neutral at all times when using the keyboard, resting the wrists on the work surface only between bouts of typing.
• The top of your monitor is at eye level and the monitor itself is an outstretched arm's length away from you.

2. Broaden Your Horizons
Office workers often make sure that all they need for their working day is within close proximity, even if it compromises their posture or their work surface area i.e. piling paperwork up on their desk or having a desktop printer next to them on their desk. Although the motivation is to organise ourselves in this way for time and space efficiency, people may alter their typing technique to accommodate the paperwork or twist their upper body to retrieve printed documents from the printer.

Tip:- Place all display screen equipment directly in front on you i.e. monitor, keyboard and mouse, and position the monitor at an arm’s length away from you.  Don’t use desktop printers or if you do, move them to another location within the office or another room entirely to encourage you to get up and move about.

3. Go Walkabout
Most of us want to get the job done which means we are prepared to sit for prolonged periods of time in front of the computer without taking a break.  Often we sit in awkward postures because we are creatures of habit or the posture has been forced upon us due to the design of the furniture, equipment and environment. On a day to day basis this can put your body under unnecessary mechanical stress which may, in the longer term, lead to discomfort and pain or even time off work.

Tip:- Aim to get up and move about at least once every hour for five minutes and use this time as an opportunity to visit the photocopier or printer, get a drink, visit a colleague, or take a toilet break etc. There are many positives for taking regular breaks:

• Encourages a change in working posture
• Improves blood flow
• Reduces muscle fatigue
• Improves cognitive performance

4. Meet Up
Email is heavily relied upon for communicating within offices today.  A lot of people end up emailing their work colleagues who sit opposite them for the sake of convenience which is making a significant contribution to encouraging static working.

Tip:-  Get up, away from your desk, and meet with your work colleagues.

5. The Breakfast Club
A recent review of the evidence behind breakfast, from the Nutrition Bulletin, found that breakfast eaters tend to put on less weight than those that don’t have breakfast. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism and ensures you are less likely to eat more later in the day. Breakfast is also the ideal time to get in essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Tip:- Eat something before you leave the house or if you have to, have something at work – start the day with a wholegrain cereal, porridge or multi-grain toast.

6. Healthy Snacking
Energy levels drop mid afternoon and this inevitably leads to a loss in concentration and therefore productivity. Instead of being tempted by a sticky bun or chocolate bar, try and eat more healthy snacks that release energy slowly into your body and help to curb those cravings for high calorie junk. Ideas include fruit, dried fruit, malt loaf, low fat yoghurt or homemade plain popcorn.

Tip:- Have a stockpile of healthy snacks in your drawer to give you a mid afternoon productivity boost.

7. Packed Lunch
Fed up with your daily trip to the local supermarket or sandwich bar for the same old cheese roll? Ready made meals / sandwiches are often loaded with hidden fat and sugar so you are better off taking your own lunch – even leftovers from the night before. You have more control over what you eat when you’ve cooked or prepared it yourself and you save money too. It’s also a great opportunity to hit your five a day by including some fruit and vegetables in your lunchbox as well as some lean protein such as chicken, beef or fish to keep your brain functioning throughout the afternoon.

Tip:- Think about what you’re going to have for lunch the next day when preparing your evening meal. Can you make a bit more and take it to the office? Also, during the weekly supermarket shop, think about food for work as well as home. You will eat more healthily and it will save you money.

8. Lunch Hour Means ‘Hour’
Depending on which research you read our average lunch break is anywhere between 18 and 30 minutes. You need to take time to eat lunch (preferably away from your desk). Eating while you are distracted – i.e. whilst you are checking your emails or on the phone – means you are more likely to eat quickly, which in turn can lead to a greater food intake before your brain tells you that you’re full. Obviously this can, over time, make you prone to gaining weight. In addition, you are less likely to exercise after your meal if you are already sitting at your desk and ready for the afternoon’s work.

Tip:- Don’t chain yourself to your desk during your lunch hour. Get up and get out. Ask different people from your office out for lunch or take your packed lunch to a local park.

9. Team Treats!
Take it in turns to bring in healthy snacks for your team instead of the same old chocolate cake or doughnuts. Sounds simple but how many times have colleagues brought in low fat muffins or flapjacks or even a hamper of exotic fruits?

Tip:- Celebrate office birthdays with low fat cakes or some delicious fruit. See who can bring in the healthiest option for team treats.

10. Keep drinking
You should be drinking at least two litres of fluid. This doesn’t just have to be water as other drinks such as squash or even coffee and tea all count. Staying hydrated helps to keep you alert throughout the day so will keep office workers more efficient and productive. 
Tip:- Make drinking an excuse to leave your desk regularly and don’t worry about the additional toilet breaks you will require – these are good for stretching and exercising too!

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