Category Archives: Health

How To Make Small Offices Look Big

The amount of people setting up and growing their own businesses increases more and more. Due to all the startup businesses, the demand for small offices has risen.  Often you have to cram all your necessary furniture into one tiny space, the results can feel claustrophobic and anything but restful. But a  small space doesn’t mean you have to be cramped. Try these 5 easy room-expanding tricks to help you make your office feel bigger and consequently you employees will work harder and happier.

Step 1: Looking for the right furniture!
Avoid heavy, weighty furniture that eats up too much of the usable space in the room. For example, some chairs in the waiting room will give you as much sitting space as a spacious sofa but will take up much less of your room.

Step 2: Arrange your furniture to the optimum!
When dealing with a small room, many people want to maximise the space by pushing all the pieces to the edges. But shoving furniture against the wall doesn’t guarantee a larger room. Sometimes it is better to group the furniture on one side of the room, so people can pass through unhindered.

Step 3: Do it bright!
We all know that different colours can affect us. For example blue has a calming effect and yellow is known for energy and happiness. When choosing colours for your office, it’s important not only to pick based upon on how it could affect your workforce but how it makes the actual room feel.
As you know, lighter colours make a room feel bigger, darker smaller. So try to use light colours such as white, cream, pale greys or ice blue to keep the room fresh, light, airy and open.

Step 4: Let’s brush up the walls
If you have any wall space left, consider using mirrors to help the office feel bigger and deeper than it actually is.They not only reflect light, they also reflect the view, thereby tricking the eye into perceiving more space. So mirrors are an easy way to make your office appear larger.

Step 5: Create an uncluttered working atmosphere
Always keep clear of your clutter. It’s usual that piles of paper and post heap up around your desk. But it’s very essential that you keep this at bay. Be sure that post is either stored away or shredded and that all other items are put away after use. If possible store certain documents online or save them on USB sticks or hard drives. That will free up space.

It was time to make a stand against sitting down at work

Category : Advice , Ergonomic , Health

Stand-up guy: Justin Comiskey at his standing desk in the Irish Times newsroom. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Justin Comiskey’s back pain disappeared when he switched to a stand-up desk

It’s a question many office workers ask themselves: could sitting in front of a monitor all day be the cause of lower back pain? If it is, there could be a solution at hand.

After 20-odd years of sitting at work, my lower back pain had got steadily worse, while at the same time I gradually became more bloated from a gassy stomach that would balloon in size by mid-afternoon and bubble away like a cauldron of discontent until bedtime.

My attempts at back-pain relief focused on swimming (I swim a mile five times a week), Pilates spine-stretching exercises for 30 minutes every morning, walking for 30 minutes during my lunch hour and standing on the train to-and-from work. All of these feel great at the time but, after a while sitting in front of a monitor, the pain would return and lower back muscles stiffen.

I have consulted a chiropractor on the issue and sought massage treatment but the pain would always return after temporary respite. Eventually, my GP sent me for a lower-back MRI scan but this, too, could not pin down the pain-producing culprit.

To investigate my stomach complaints, I was sent for a colonoscopy and gastropscopy: these came back clean as a whistle – and then I was off to a dietician to determine if my eating habits were the source of my greenhouse gas emissions. The dietician suggested a strict foodmap diet where gas-friendly foods, like apples, nuts, honey and garlic, were replaced with the likes of fish and white meat. This approach produced a minor reduction in emissions after six months but nothing like a hoped-for clean air breakthrough.

With desperation setting in, I approached my employer who quickly organised an ergonomic assessment but, apart from my screen being slightly too high (causing some rocking of the neck), this hour-long consultation came up a blank.

Initially, I would alternate an hour’s sitting with 30 minutes standing so my legs and feet would get used to the new routine

My employer, again, was quick to act after I requested such a desk and, within a few weeks of using one, I noticed steady improvement in my back pain and a sustained slide in greenhouse gas emissions. Being the first to get one on my floor, the desk generated quite an amount of comment, questions from passers-by and even a visit from the MD.

Initially, I would alternate an hour’s sitting with 30 minutes of standing so that my legs and feet would get used to the new routine. Since then, my standing time has gradually increased to around five hours with three sitting.

As a result, my lower back pain appears to be a thing of the past and I no longer consider myself a major contributor to global warming. During a recent restructuring at work, however, I was moved to a hot-desking team with little access to a stand-up desk. Within two weeks of consistently sitting down, all my problems returned no matter how much back stretching I did outside of office hours to counter the pain and stiffness.

Thankfully, my employer has since been able to provide access to a stand-up desk and my issues are on the mend. Sustained sitting, even on the best of office seats, while taking hourly breaks, obviously doesn’t work for me any more and I’m amazed at the number of colleagues who complain of back pain and want to try the standing option.

Opinion on stand-up desks is divided. Some point to them as a way to combat sedentary lifestyles – given that you’re burning around 20 per cent more calories by standing than sitting – and this reduces the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer while improving mood, energy levels and alleviating back pain. Others say they lead to swollen feet, ankle and knee pain, muscular problems, and varicose veins.

James Levine,

endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, is a leading expert in the field and his research has linked the cumulative impact of sustained sitting to obesity, diabetes and cancer. He was quoted in a recent article: “The way we live now is to sit all day, occasionally punctuated by a walk from the parking lot to the office. The default has become to sit. We need the default to be standing.”

Evidence also suggests that the negative effects of sustained sitting can’t be alleviated by short spurts of strenuous exercise after the average office worker has spent more than five-and-a-half hours sitting down during their typical day. Introducing standing and pacing into your day is a good way to counter sitting’s side effects. Some office workers in the US now walk on threadmills in front of their screens for relief. Others sit on bouncy exercise balls to correct their posture and develop their core muscles.

Treadmills and bouncy balls may sound extreme, or even seem faddish, but I’m just glad to have taken a stand against sustained sitting.

5 Tips for a better work-life balance

Work-life balance can seem like an impossible feat. Rather it is a short and apparently a simple phrase, it is hard to attain for most employees. Managing all the things they have to do or would like to do is a challenge. From doing their best on the job, spending time for themselves, their family, their friends and pursuing hobbies. Sometimes it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to pay all these aspects enough attention. You may start today implementing some of the tips below for a better work-life balance:

1. Managing your time
It is very important for you to manage your time, finding a good split between work and freetime. Firstly, you have to map your priorities and need to allocate your time. Make plans for the week – your goals, activities and leisure time. It helps you stay energized, focused, and motivated. When you take a long-term view of your things to do, you may find that you have more room than you initially expected. It can help you to achieve a better balance between your responsibilities at home and at the office. If you have many plans for one day, and have some struggles to fit in all the things in 24 hours, you may try to get up earlier, so you have some extra hours per day and you might do some of your tasks before you go to work.

2. Taking time for yourself
For many people, it’s hard to say those two simple letters: No! It is okay to say no, if something is not a priority for you right now, you will have enough time so you can commit to the things that do matter. Pencilling time for yourself into your calendar, this not only helps you visually see and balance your time, it also helps you to keep this time just for you. You can go for a walk or read a book (whatever you prefer), just to switch off negative thoughts and reduce your stress level. Even if you are feeling busy, remind yourself that time away from work and the computer is energizing and important. You have to remind yourself that freetime can be just that – free!

3. Having a social life and making time for family
Usually you reserve fun things for the weekends? Try to plan at least one activity with your family or friends during the week. So, at the beginning of the week you have something you can look forward to (something closer than the weekend). Some ideas might be: Drinking tea or coffee together, meeting for dinner in the evening. As well, you can join a club. This can help you to do something regularly and you also get a lot of new contacts.

4. Managing work
In the past, you used to arrive at the office at 9 a.m., work until 5 p.m., and then spend the rest of the evening with your family and friends. But today, technology makes it even worse for workers, they are accessible all around the clock. But a never-ending workday can set-off stress. Relationships, health and happiness suffer. Make the most of the time you have in the office and leave the rest for tomorrow. If you tell people to leave at a certain time, you be much more likely to do so. You can also try to plan when you’ll leave the office from the beginning of the day. It means understanding what needs to get done for the day and what needs to get done first.

5. Enjoying weekends and vacation
Instead of saving all your chores for the weekend, get them done during the week, so you can enjoy your weekends with something fun and relaxing. Try to stay away from screens (most of the day), especially you are working in an office and have to use it the whole week. Use holiday time for travelling, it might help you feel more relaxed and come back to work happier and more focused.