4 Health-Sabotaging Workplace Habits to Break in 2017

December 23, 2016

Could your work habits be sabotaging all of your hard work toward achieving your healthy living goals? Most of us rely on 30 minutes or an hour of physical activity every day to combat the 8 or 9 hours we spend at our desk at work. That’s not accounting for the hours at home spent watching TV or working. We can’t expect thirty minutes to make up for all of that sitting, and doctors–and our own waistlines–are calling us out on it.

The following are a few work habits we would all be better off breaking in the new year. If you find that any of these habits apply to you, don’t feel bad! They’re quite common–plus, we’ve got some strategies to help you shake them off (without sacrificing your productivity).

4 Health-Sabotaging Workplace Habits to Break in 2017

1. Recognize That Sitting May Be as Unhealthy as Smoking

Some go so far as to say that “sitting is the new smoking,” as our sedentary lifestyle increases obesity and chances of cancer and heart disease. The truth is that many of us are in office set-ups that encourage sitting for long periods of time, and sitting less will take some creative effort.

The solution: Make sure you get up and move around during the workday. Turn a brainstorming session into a walking meeting as you get some fresh air and move your legs. If the weather is bad, walk a few flights of stairs or take yoga breaks. If possible, invest in a standing desk or even a small wooden podium that can be easily moved on and off your desk. You can set your laptop on it when you want to stand. If you must sit for a long period of time, fold in this 5-minute desk workout from time to time. Here are even more ways to ensure that you stay active during the day. A series of small changes can make a big difference to your health and wellness.

2. Don’t Eat at Your Desk

The urge to work through lunch at your desk is understandable, especially if you’re on a roll and really want to get through a project. Unfortunately, you’re sabotaging your health in more ways than one.

First, desks are germ castles. Your keyboard contains more bacteria than a toilet seat, and cold and flu germs live for as long as 18 hours on hard surfaces. Nancy’s cough from yesterday afternoon could still be hanging out with you in the morning when you sit down to have your breakfast. Second, you’re absentmindedly eating while working or online shopping, which leads to consuming more calories.

The solution: Instead, head to the lunchroom to bond with coworkers and eat more mindfully. Or, even better, spend part of your lunchbreak talking a walk — and no, not to the burger joint down the street.

Also, be sure to wipe down your keyboard every once and a while.

3. Don’t Be a Slouch at Your Desk

Body language is often the first signal we send our coworkers, and a hunched-over posture can make us look disinterested or lazy. Further, it’s awful for your health. Poor posture can cause back and neck pain and even slow circulation, which can lead to avoiding the gym and the start of an unhealthy cycle.

The solution: To achieve a healthy posture at work, uncross your legs and keep your feet flat on the floor. Regularly roll your shoulders back and down to undo the hunched shoulder habit, and make sure your shoulders and ears line up. These tips can keep your posture in check and your back and neck feeling healthy. They will also send the signal to your coworkers that you are alert and engaged.

To add to this, make sure that your working conditions are not hindering and worsening any aches, pains, or health problems that may already exist. In a lot of cases, employers want to decrease any chance of injury in the workplace, so they’re willing to help you out. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for a new desk chair or even a convertible desk that allows to you sit or stand. Small things can make a difference too, like a back pillow to help with posture or screen risers to elevate your computer screen. Even if you’re not sure if this may be an option, it doesn’t hurt to ask! If you do experience neck pain or tension after a long day at work, unwind with these chiropractor-approved neck stretches.

4. Know That Added Calories Add Up                                    

At home, it’s easy to make a cup of black coffee since you buy the good stuff. At work, the coffee is terrible, so you add lots of cream and sugar. You also don’t want to miss out on recapping or planning the weekend’s activities, so you usually say yes to eating out for lunch.

See a pattern? It’s easy to sabotage our healthy eating habits with small cheats throughout the week, which can add up to thousands of extra calories.

The solution: You can avoid this pitfall by planning ahead. Keep healthy snacks in your desk, limit meals out, and bring your own coffee (this will also save you $$$!). You can still chat with coworkers and enjoy your caffeine fix, but you don’t have to sacrifice your health to do it. You may even find that your healthy habits inspire others to take similar measures!


If you discount the hours spent sleeping, we spend more time at work than we do at home–so it makes no sense to relegate a healthy lifestyle to your hours away from the office. Unfortunately, that’s what most of us do: leave the gym, healthy meals, and physical activity for home. Instead, integrate healthy habits into your work life to achieve an all-inclusive healthy lifestyle.

What healthy workplace habits do you want to cultivate?

Also by Cori: 5 Easy Ways to Actually Break Bad Habits

Related: 9 Healthy Workplace Habits to Start Now

9 Tips for a Workout at Your Desk

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Photo: Kaboompics

Cori Keating is a health and wellness writer and blogger. When she isn’t writing for her blog, Why So Well, she enjoys hiking, biking, and running.


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