Are you frustrated with your current corporate gig? Is it possible that a change in your work environment might help you change the way you see your job?
7 Ways to Make Your Corporate Job Happier and Healthier
If you see yourself sticking with corporate life for the long-run, here are seven ways you can make your work life a little better. You might even help change the culture where you work and make it better for others.
1. Request a stand-up desk for your workspace
If there were only one recommendation I could offer to make your corporate environment better, it would be to get a stand-up workstation.
Not only is sitting detrimental to your health, it changes how you think and feel. When you have less mental energy, even menial tasks feel exhausting.
Sitting s-l-o-w-s things down, from your mental function to your metabolism.
Since your legs are relaxed as you sit, circulation slows, which reduces the volume of blood and oxygen flowing through your brain. Fewer waste products are removed.
You’ll also notice some serious swelling in the ankles after a long, sedentary day. When you take your socks off at night, your ankles look like they belong on the Michelin man.
Muscles become insulin resistant and lipid levels in the blood rise.
There is a huge volume of research supporting stand-up work stations. It would be crazy for an employer not to help you convert your current space.
If converting an existing space isn’t an option, ask your boss to order you something like this standing desk, which sits right on top of your existing desk. I had this when I was at Life Time’s corporate office. It’s super-easy to adjust, and comes already assembled. And it’s only $350.
Seriously, what kind of employer wouldn’t be willing to invest $350 in the health and productivity of an employee like you?
2. Take a real lunch break
For much of my corporate life, I thought that by eating lunch at my desk, it gave me an extra hour per day to get stuff done. That’s like 250 extra hours per year!
Unfortunately, working through your lunch break every day is a great way to burn out. It’s also a lot less productive.
Your mind needs breaks throughout the day to recharge. A quiet lunch of solitude can spark your creativity. So can having a non-work conversation with a co-worker over lunch.
Staying connected with other employees over lunch once in a while helps to limit drop-in conversations as well. Unscheduled drop-ins are one of the biggest time-sucks in a corporate culture.
When people stop by and interrupt the real work you were getting done, it can lead to you bringing that work home on the evening or over the weekend. And working through your weekends makes your corporate gig really start to be painful.
Make your lunch break something fun and enjoyable, so it breaks up your work day and lifts your spirits.
3. Change the standard for meetings at work
Weekly meetings are usually a little less painful than a root canal, but seem to take a lot longer.
If you’re lucky, these torturous sessions take up just a couple hours of your day each day. For some, they consume most of the day.
These hour-long sessions rarely start on time or end on time, and feel like they’re more drawn out than the movie Dances With Wolves.
If you schedule a meeting, have a plan and an agenda, and get it over as efficiently as you can.
If someone else is in charge of the meeting, ask for an agenda in advance. Chances are, there is no agenda.
By asking for an agenda, the meeting organizer will hopefully ensure that he or she will make a good use of your time, as well as anyone else who is invited.
If bad meetings are more the norm than the exception, consider sharing some copies of Patrick Lencioni’s book Death by Meeting.
When I booked meetings, I always scheduled them to start at 5 minutes after the hour, knowing that most meetings before mine would run late. Then I scheduled them to end at 10 minute before the hour.
I always felt that if I needed a 60-minute meeting session, I should be able to get it done in 45 minutes or less.
Once I did that, I found that I could often turn other meetings into 30-minute meetings and schedule them for 25 minutes.
Not only did it make my life better as the meeting organizer, I saved others some time on their calendars as well.
If people start to appreciate, or even enjoy your meetings, you may help change the standard where you work, and make part of your day more fun than it’s been in the past.
4. Make yourself unavailable for the first couple hours of the day
Another best practice in the world of productivity is to block out the first couple hours of the day.
If you read any management or productivity book, you know the absolute worst time to schedule a meeting is first thing Monday morning.
This gets everyone started with his or her week being behind. Or, because they know they have the Monday morning meeting, they work over the weekend to be prepared for it, which makes things even worse.
The first couple hours of the day should be seen as sacred productivity hours.
Block them out as busy or out of office every day. It will give you 10 hours of solid productivity hours. You may find you get more done in those 10 hours than the other 30-50 hours you put in during the week.
If you have employees, make it a commitment to NEVER schedule a meeting during the first couple hours of the day.
And if your boss insists on scheduling a meeting during those first couple precious hours, leave a copy of this blog post on his or her desk.
5. Schedule a “No Meetings” day every week
I did this on Wednesdays. Since we used an Outlook calendar, I showed my Wednesdays as out-of-office.
Some Wednesdays I would actually work someplace else. Other Wednesdays I still worked at my desk, but I got a crazy amount of stuff done as I had not meetings scheduled.
I recommend making Wednesdays the “Meeting-Free.” As you drag through Monday and Tuesday, you have Wednesday to look forward to. You get a mid-week break to actually get stuff done.
I found I could often get ahead for what needed to happen on Thursday and Friday. When everything fell into place, it sometimes left the weekend free of extra work.
How awesome is that?
I actually got this idea from the way I structured my weight training sessions. I did strength training on Monday and Tuesday and beat up my body a bit.
Then I took a break, or did something easy like walking or the elliptical on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were strength-training days again, and then I had the weekend for recovery or recreation.
I found that when I tried strength training for three days in a row, my body would get too worn down.
Three days in a row without a break to focus on my own work priorities made me mentally tired as well, so I adopted the no-meeting Wednesday as often as I could.
6. Open email only at scheduled times
When was the last time you got every email out of your inbox? If you’re like most people, your inbox is more like a junk drawer. It just keeps accumulating stuff.
If you’re among the Inbox Zero or GTD crowd, you have a system for getting every email out of your inbox.
You smile at the blank inbox. And before your lips form a full smile of satisfaction, you see an email notification pop up from your boss that says, “READ THIS NOW.”
And then you’re back to inbox 1, 2, 3…
Let’s face it, you’ll never be free of emails.
The best way to see a beginning and an end is to schedule specific times to tackle them. And it’s not first thing in the morning.
Emails are other people’s priorities.
Your number one responsibility as an employee is to get the most meaningful stuff done for your organization. That means those two key hours of productivity are not for checking email, they’re for doing work.
Most mornings, I would keep my email application closed.
As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this post, which is during my most productive time of the morning, my phone, email and Facebook are closed. Otherwise I’d be getting notifications left and right that would keep me from getting this very thing done, which I believe is the most important thing in this moment.
Oh, and one other suggestion about emails. Turn off those pesky notifications. Whenever they ding or pop up on your screen, they take your attention away from what you're doing. Even worse, they can give you a little shot of cortisol as you worry about whether you have another unexpected, urgent thing to worry about.
7. Take a non-smoking smoke break
If there is one benefit to smoking, it’s the need to take a break once in a while.
Now, that’s not any reason to pick up the habit, but if a smoker can take a break, so can you. In fact, you should.
Take 15 minutes in the middle of the morning and middle of the afternoon to step away from your work.
Clear your mind. Enjoy the fresh air. When you’re not thinking about work, you might come up with some good ideas.
In fact, that’s how I came up with the idea for this blog post yesterday.
I was walking the dog. The sun was out. It was an awesome spring day.
I somehow got to thinking about productivity and what helped me the most to get stuff done and most enjoy my corporate role in the past.
Some of your best ideas will hit you when you’re not thinking about work.
Even if you don’t come up with any good ideas, you’ll be in a much better mood when you return from your break.
Any employee in any organization can take action to make his or her work life better. You may even have a positive influence on others in your organization. Manage yourself first, and you may end up leading others toward better habits and practices, and may even make the whole work culture more happy and productive. Heck, that’s promotion-worthy!
Thanks for reading. If you liked the post, or know some people who need some of these ideas, please share it