The post below is a guest blog from Elizabeth Johnson who serves as Health Management Coordinator for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.
Stretching is a vital and important part of beginning any fitness routine, but did you know that it is absolutely essential to a productive and healthy work environment as well? It increases flexibility, improves mental alertness, and reduces anxiety, stress and fatigue, making your employees healthier and more productive all around.
Employees who work behind a desk all day are susceptible to developing musculoskeletal disorders that commonly arise from having poor or inappropriate seating, spending too much time in one position and engaging in repetitive actions, such as typing. Encouraging employees to take short breaks every hour or two to stand up, walk around and stretch will improve their focus and long-term well-being.
Regular stretching can:
- Reduce muscle tension
- Improve circulation
- Improve mental alertness
- Decrease risk of injury
- Tune the mind into the body
Many stretches can easily be accomplished at the desk, but some should not be attempted without warming up. A brief walk around the office stretches and warms the legs and body at the same time, which helps to ease into a few stretching routines for key parts of the body.
Working a desk job and sitting in front of the computer can cause damage to the neck, wrist and back. These areas of the body need special attention. Below are some stretches that will help prevent injury and soreness.
Neck: Stretching the neck is very important for employees who spend hours working in front of computers. Stretching the neck is simple and can be accomplished anywhere. Looking straight forward, employees should slowly tilt their ear toward their shoulder, paying close attention not to raise the shoulder, but to focus on the stretch in the side of the neck. Hold the position for 15-20 seconds, then slowly tilt the head to the other side. It is also beneficial to look left and right, practice chin tucks (tucking the chin to the chest) and look up towards the ceiling. This stretch should be done two or three times throughout the workday.
Wrists: Desk employees who type frequently are highly at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, and while experts still argue if it is caused by repetitive strain, employees should exercise caution and stretch their wrists. Extend one hand out in front as if making the hand motion for “stop” and use the other hand to gently pull the fingers back towards the body. Then, letting the fingers of the same hand point toward the ground, use the other hand to pull back towards the body once again. Repeat with the opposite hand. Additionally, moving the hands slowly in a circular motion, in alternating directions, is a great stretch for the wrists. As much as employees type throughout the day, they should stretch their wrists about once every hour.
Back: The most common and consistent complaint for office workers is back pain. The best remedy for it is to consistently practice good posture. To combat the common habit of slouching in front of a computer screen, interlock the fingers and stretch the arms upward. Slowly lean the body to one side and then the other, like a slow pendulum. To invigorate the lower back after long periods of sitting, stand and place the palms of the hands on the lower back with fingers pointing downward. Then, push forward with the palms and lean back gently until a stretch is felt. Employees should perform this stretch about four to five times a day.
Does your company have a system in place to suggest stretching to its employees? If not, get a couple of co-workers together to stretch at the same time to keep up with a healthy work environment. Or even suggest having a professional come in for an hour to set best practices for stretching at the workplace. Whatever you do, fit in some kind of stretch regime to keep your mind, body in balance for a productive workplace. Our Health Management team at HCW has several tools to help our clients develop and implement wellness strategies such as this to create a healthier workforce. Contact us to help you through that 7th inning stretch!
Photo credit: iStock