How to Create Healthy Desk Habits at Work


Sitting at a desk in front of your computer all day has become the norm. Because of technology, we never have to leave our chair for anything—except maybe the bathroom. Time for a meeting? Use Skype or FaceTime. Hungry for lunch? Order online. Need to talk to a coworker? Email or send them a Slack message. Even with more people freelancing and working from home, a lot of that still relies on sitting for hours on end in front of your computer. While this may sound less tiring than being on your feet all day, sitting at your desk in front of the computer can give you an incredible amount of fatigue, not to mention being detrimental to your health.

Side Effects from Sitting All Day

If you sit for more than 6 hours a day, you may unknowingly be destroying your health. Sitting at a desk every day is now being ranked right after smoking as a top risk factor for increasing your risk of disease. Aside from this, there are several other health risks that can come from sedentary work. A few of these risks include:

  • Increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer
  • Poor posture
  • Weight gain and muscle degeneration
  • Neck and back pain
  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Brain fogginess and irritable mood

While these are some serious side effects, a lot of us have to be at our desks and computers all day to get our jobs done. It’s something we can’t avoid. But just because you have a desk job doesn’t mean you’re doomed to deal with these scary side effects. Adding a few changes to your work life to gain more physical activity and health benefits can help you not only combat these issues, but feel better and more energized at work.

How to Create Healthy Desk Habits at Work

1. Take a short break every 30–60 minutes.

This can mean walking around the office for a few minutes or standing up to stretch and activate your muscles. Take a few minutes to relax your shoulders, hands, and eyes, and detach yourself from your desk. Even just taking a 10-minute break for a brisk walk will improve your blood flow, helping to work your muscles and increase your mental energy. Now with access to smart phones, watches, and numerous apps, it’s easy to set a timer to remind yourself to get up and be active. It’s so easy to get consumed by work, and before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t moved a muscle.

Flynn, Online Optimism's CEO, standing and playing with his dog, Pimm's.

2. Step outside for some fresh air on your lunch break.

Sometimes we become so busy we don’t think we have time for a break. However, taking a break and stepping outside can make you happier, help you focus, and get your blood flowing. Instead of sitting inside on your lunch break, take advantage of a nice day and walk around the block. Not only will the natural light and exercise rejuvenate your body, but a break from focusing so hard on one task will help you combat brain fogginess and bring you back inside energized and ready to work.

3. Rest your eyes.

The contrast of text against the computer background and glare on your screen can be hard on your eyes. You know that feeling—the burning, tired eyes you get when you’ve been staring at your computer screen for hours. To soothe your eyes, make sure your computer screen is at least 25 inches away from your face. To eliminate glare, look into getting a matte screen filter. Having a screen that is too bright can really put a lot of strain on your eyes. Make sure your screen isn’t brighter than the lights around you. And most importantly, follow the 20-20-20 rule. To give your eyes a break, every 20 minutes, look at an object about 20 feet or so away from you for at least 20 seconds.

4. Drink plenty of water.

When you’re on the job running around, you might notice how thirsty you are. When sitting at a desk job all day, hours can fly by before you realize you haven’t had anything to drink. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so it’s important to drink enough water throughout the workday. Keep a water bottle on hand and try to drink a full bottle before lunch and then another after. Or, take advantage of getting up to stretch your legs and move your body by getting a glass of water every hour.

An Online Optimism employee using our office's standing desk.
5. Sit up straight.

We heard that all the time as kids, but we should still take that advice when we’re at work. Make sure you have a comfortable chair and sit with your back up straight resting against it. A lot of the time, we’ll end up sitting hunched over staring at our screens. Not only does this cause eye strain, but your back and neck will begin to hurt. Once you sit back straight, you should be able to feel immediate relief on your spine.

6. Change your means of transportation.

If you’re close enough to bike or walk to your job, take advantage of this chance to get your body active before and after your workday. Listening to music or a podcast will make the exercise more enjoyable, plus being out in the open air is a great way to unwind and de-stress after a long day at work. If you live too far, consider the way you get into the office. Having to park further away might not be such an annoyance when you think about the brisk walk you’ll get at the beginning and end of the day. If your office has an elevator, unless you’re at the top of a skyscraper, consider taking the stairs for added muscle activation.

Don’t let sitting all day at work wreak havoc on your health. You can have a healthy lifestyle and still work a desk job, as long as you take the time to give your body the care and attention it needs throughout the day. At Online Optimism, we promote a healthy workplace by taking advantage of breaks to get outside and step away from the desk to activate both the body and mind. Take advantage of these simple tips for creating healthy desk job habits to help you and your coworkers keep moving throughout the day.