As a mostly sedentary culture, we are well aware that sitting too much can be detrimental to our health and well-being. But standing desks and treadmills are only part of the solution. The truth is that a 9–to–5 job can seem like a grind at times, but it doesn’t have to be. You can help improve office culture by prioritizing self-care and empowering your colleagues to do the same. From placing fresh flowers at your desk and hanging plants around the office, to organizing group yoga classes and daily meditation breaks, there is much we can do to spark joy in our daily office routines and even improve our relationships with colleagues.
As a bonus—and as any good manager would agree—building employee camaraderie and cultivating healthy workplace culture makes for better, happier, and more productive workers. Read on for our ideas on how to ditch the caffeine, but up motivation and energy in the office.
Make A Self-Care Switchel
Ditch the sugary energy drinks and skip the second (or third… or fourth) cup of coffee. For an all-natural boost and the perfect post-lunch digestif, the self-care switchel is a refreshingly tart non-alcoholic pick-me-up. For this recipe, we used two parts LaCroix Lime to one-part of your favorite store bought ginger beer, which means there’s enough provisions to either share with a coworker or save for a second round. The combined element of apple cider vinegar and ginger is great for digestion and enhancing brainpower, and also helps regulate blood sugar levels.
The LaCroix Switchel
Adapted from the LaCroix “B’Witched” and inspired by Bon Appetit, this low-sugar switchel is naturally sweetened with ginger beer and gets an extra kick from fresh ginger root. For added sweetness, try a touch of agave nectar.
4 oz LaCroix Lime soda
2 oz ginger beer
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Optional: a few slivers of fresh ginger root; scant ¼ tsp. agave
Take A Mini-Stretch Sesh
With so many corporations and even small businesses embracing wellness at the workplace, yoga and meditation offerings have become widely available. Whether you’re holding out for your lunchtime office flow or post-shift unwinding, there’s always the option of doing a little stretching at your desk. Try some simple neck releasing exercises, such as turning your chin gently from side-to-side or rolling your chin across your chest as you draw one ear to one shoulder, then the other.
You can also interlace your palms and flip them out as you reach your arms overhead and bend from side-to-side, or even lift your heart to extend your spine and then flex your spine to round forward. You can also do this with your palms placed on your thighs, like a seated Cat/Cow. If you’ve got the privacy for it, or your colleagues don’t mind the disruption, you can also roll out your mat on the floor and do some Cat/Cow stretches or shift from Downward Dog to Plank a few times.
If you have your own office and can close the door, going upside down in a headstand or handstand is a wonderful way to give yourself a surge of energy. To get your coworkers involved, you could also hold a daily 3pm office plank for a minute or more (like we used to do at Wanderlust HQ in Brooklyn!).
Try An Ultradian Rhythm Break
To avoid burning out as you burn the midnight oil, increase your vitality and enhance awareness with an ultradian rhythm break. The scientific field of chronobiology has discovered the various ways in which natural biological rhythms have an affect on our well-being and functionality. While our circadian rhythms inform our 24-hour sleep-wake cycles, ultradian rhythms affect our internal body clocks throughout the day in shorter increments.
The Basic Rest-Activity Cycle can be adhered to during waking hours as an increment of active rest. The Ultradian Healing Response is a concept developed by the psychotherapist Ernest Rossi Ph.D., that breaks the waking cycle into 90 minutes of activity followed by 20 minutes of rest, give or take, to recharge your batteries and boost productivity. Depending on your schedule and how your body and mind responds, a full cycle can last from 80–120 minutes. So if your workday is eight hours, or 480 minutes, you could essentially treat yourself up to four to six 20-minute breaks per day. If you typically take an hour for lunch, that’s 60 minutes of your allotted break time, which could mean you take about three to five additional breaks per day.
While that might seem like a lot of breaks and may not always go over well with your manager or supervisor, try taking one Ultradian Rhythm Break in the morning before lunch, and then one in the afternoon, especially when you might feel that afternoon slump. If all else fails, after lunch, set a timer for 90 minutes, and then take a mandatory 20-minute break for an instant reset.
Enjoy A Stroll Outdoors
A byproduct of our evolution as desk jockeys can mean that many of us do not spend enough time in the great outdoors. Communing with nature has the power to boost our immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve mood, increase our ability to focus, and can even speed up our recovery from surgery or illness, increase energy levels, and of course, improve sleep.
Taking time to get up from your desk periodically throughout the day is important for the health of your low back and overall well-being. Better yet, if you can take a few minutes for a brisk stroll outside, you’ll increase your energy levels. Think of it as a moving meditation: notice the environment, observe your breath, feel sensation in your body. Mindfulness meditation asks that we observe ourselves in the present moment so that we may become more at ease and cultivate contentment. By infusing presence and attention into this exercise, you’re essentially practicing yoga off the mat.
Connect With A Colleague
There’s no denying it: Human connection in real time is powerful. If you spend your entire day behind a screen, chatting with your colleagues via interoffice communication platforms like Slack despite that they’re only sitting a few feet away from you, then you could probably benefit from moving one of those conversations from the digital realm to the real world. Ask a colleague with whom you have a regular rapport to go for a stroll with you to grab a bite, a tea, a kombucha or a switchel, and connect with them in a meaningful way.
Talk about work a little, but also ask them something about themselves too. Are they married? Do they have a family? What do they like to do for fun? Maybe you find a common ground and make a plan to get together outside of work, or maybe you keep it strictly business. Either way, you’ll experience a palpable energetic exchange between the two of you that will strengthen your connection and make your relationship as coworkers more meaningful. When we take the time to really pay attention to another person and actively listen, we foster a sense of community by inspiring trust, loyalty, and confidence—we gain an ally in the workplace.