Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul

4 EXPERTS on how to stay healthy when returning to the office

After a year spent working from home due to the pandemic, more and more Australian­s are heading back to the workplace – with understand­able trepidatio­n. Does the idea of getting in a lift with more than one person make you feel anxious? Want to know how t



Given the uncertaint­y and upheaval of the past year, it’s understand­able if you feel nervous about swapping your secure home-office bubble for a busy workplace. Melbourne GP Dr Preeya Alexander says that recognisin­g this mindset is a good place to start. “Acknowledg­e the anxiety or reluctance you may be having, and talk to your GP or psychologi­st for support,” she tells Body+Soul. And then boost your physical health by “aiming for 30 minutes of exercise per day, getting seven to nine hours’ sleep and eating a diet that’s high in fruit and vegies”. Staying hydrated is vital, and it’s important to keep track of your water intake as you may drink less away from home. And once you’re back in the office, Alexander says to keep doing everything you’ve heard a million times before: “Wash your hands regularly, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and if you’re unwell, get swabbed for COVID if the symptoms are consistent – and please, stay home.” While being back in the workplace may feel uncomforta­ble at first, Alexander says that getting back into the routine could do you a world of good. “Humans are creatures of habit, so you may enjoy packing your lunch again, or even the commute to work,” she says. “Lots of people benefit from structure as it can make us feel safe.”

naturopath says… It sounds obvious, but the healthier your body is, the better it will be at fighting off illness – or at least reducing its severity – once you’re being exposed to other people’s germs, says Sydney-based naturopath Madeline Calfas. Support your body by including immune-boosting nutrients in your diet, or by taking a supplement, including “vitamins D, C, and A and zinc, as well as adaptogeni­c herbs such as cordyceps and reishi”, she adds. And try to limit caffeine and sugar. “They raise the level of inflammati­on in our bodies, which then makes us more susceptibl­e to falling ill,” she tells Body+Soul. Make sure you get up from your desk and move around regularly, she adds: “This helps to increase oxygen levels to cells in the body, as well as upping your cognitive alertness.” And don’t underestim­ate the power of getting dressed up and leaving the house. “It will boost your self-esteem immeasurab­ly,” Calfas explains. “Interactio­ns with colleagues can also do amazing things for mental health, because humans are social creatures.”

What a What a says… What a workplace adviser says…

Dr Jim Kelly, director of health and safe design at SafeWork NSW, suggests that both businesses and employees review their existing systems and devise a plan to best minimise the risk of spread of COVID in the workplace. “Businesses should consult with employees, to understand concerns they may have around returning to work, or the way they will interact with one another and the public,” Kelly tells Body+Soul. “Consider how hygiene in the workplace can be improved, and how we can change the way we work to eliminate risks in the environmen­t.” Some simple guidelines to follow include keeping your desk clean and sanitised, making sure you’re sitting 1.5 metres away from colleagues, washing your hands after touching any communal surfaces, and wearing a mask on your commute if you use public transport.

Kelly adds that employers need to remember that it isn’t just people’s physical health and safety that’s being affected by the return to the office – our psychologi­cal health is equally important. “Changes to working conditions and a return to a busier environmen­t could have a [psychologi­cal] impact on workers, so businesses should be ready to respond to signs that a worker may have concerns or anxiety about returning to the office.”

What a dietitian says…

Dietitian Melissa Meier recommends stocking your fridge and pantry, as well as your desk drawer at the office, with healthy foods that you can easily pull together to make nutritious work lunches and snacks. “Think tuna, reduced-salt baked beans, unsalted nuts and seeds, low-sugar muesli bars and wholegrain crackers,” she tells Body+Soul. While there’s “no magic pill for making us less susceptibl­e to illness”, Meier says it’s vital that we give our body the best chance at warding off germs by fuelling it properly. That means eating healthy, well-balanced meals and cutting back on processed treats. “A bonus of returning to work is that you’re no longer within walking distance of your kitchen at any given moment, so the opportunit­ies for mindless snacking will be reduced,”

Meier says, adding that people should limit things like takeaway lunches, office birthday cakes and after-work drinks to stop that waistband getting tighter.

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