Practicing prevention on the job can keep you healthy — and happy

Prevention can be practiced many ways on the job. Whether you're fending off stress, germs or injury, there are simple tips to help you stay healthy — and happy — on the job.

How to prevent stress in the workplace

  • Move more. Take advantage of opportunities to stand up and move more. If you can, incorporate some type of exercise — however brief — into your work day.
  • Make good food choices. Choose healthy fuel to keep you powered throughout the day. Make sure to eat frequently enough to avoid a drop in blood sugar — and a dip in mood.
  • Get more sleep. Coming to work after a poor night's sleep — or dealing with cumulative sleep loss — can adversely affect your mood, your work performance and your overall experience at work. Sleep is critical to helping recharge and reset your brain. When you don't get enough sleep, you're more likely to make mistakes.
  • Ditch the negative thinking. What are you grateful for, right now? Surely, there's something that's good in your life. Focus on that. We've all felt work bearing down on us, the threat of a train wreck imminent. Take heart; it won't be like this forever. Channel your energy into what's going right, and try to set aside the bad feeling you may have toward a boss, a colleague or a project gone sideways. And be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for your accomplishments, however small.
  • Don't overcommit. Are you a yes man (or woman)? Knock it off. Survey your workload. What else can you take on? Are you overbooked as it is? Be realistic about what you can do, and don't compound your stress by trying to be a people pleaser. Distinguish between the "shoulds" and the "musts," and give yourself a cushion around meetings and other tasks to avoid feeling like you've cut out your breathing room.
  • Stop trying to be perfect at what you do. If perfectionism is your curse, banish it now. There is no such thing, and striving day after day to be the best at everything is emotionally and physically exhausting. Focus on your priorities, and do those to the best of your ability. For the more mundane tasks, give yourself a break if they're not done perfectly.

How to prevent the spread of germs

  • Wash your hands. It's the simplest and most effective way to stop the spread of germs. It just takes some thought about when to do it. We all know to wash after a trip to the restroom, but other good times to wash your hands are before and after eating and after coughing or sneezing. A dab of soap and a quick rinse will not do the trick. For maximum effectiveness, count to 30 Mississippi, and you'll be germ-free clean.
  • Clean your work space. That colleague of yours who has a bottle of Windex and an industrial-sized container of disinfecting wipes is not a clean freak; he's smart. Some researchers say that your desk has 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. Once you've let that sink in, go get yourself some wipes and some hand sanitizer for the in-between moments when you're handling the phone or taking or giving materials or equipment to your coworkers. Other spots that attract germ grossness? The refrigerator and kitchen sink handles in your break room and the microwave.
  • Get rid of food. Half-eaten food is unsightly, but it's also a hotbed for bacteria and viruses. When you're done eating, put it away or throw it out.
  • Sanitize — with caution. Love your hand sanitizer? Think it's a cure-all for germs? Well, the alcohol in it can dry the heck out of your hands. And the cracks in your super-sanitized but super-cracked skin are the perfect entryways for germs to sneak in. Use sanitizer and also use moisturizer, otherwise, you're defeating the purpose of hand sanitizer.
  • Stay home. If you're sick, don't come to work. Your coworkers will be grateful if you keep your oozy self home until the coughing, sneezing and runny nose all have abated.
  • Do more than keep your hands to yourself. Keep them out of your eyes, away from your nose and cheeks, and out of your mouth. Put down the pen you love to chew. And find another way to alleviate stress besides chewing your fingernails. Every time your hands meet your face, you're upping the ante that you're going to get sick.

How to prevent workplace injuries

  • Lift things properly. This means bending at the knees — not the waist — and keeping your back straight.
  • Arrange your equipment to fit your body. Make sure your chair is a good fit for your desk and computer height, and if you use machinery and tools, make sure you can comfortably operate both before using them for work purposes.
  • Take breaks in between lifting. Use these breaks — even as short as five minutes — to rest and stretch your muscles and lessen stress so you can come back focused on the task at hand.
  • Come to work well-rested. Getting adequate sleep can help you be alert at work, and can reduce the risk of errors, misjudgments and missteps.

How to prevent eye, back and neck strain (if you sit at a computer)

  • Monitor your settings. Adjusting your monitor's brightness and contrast can do wonders for your eyes, as can cleaning the monitor surface.
  • Position your monitor properly. It should be directly in front of you, so as to avoid neck and back strain. Now, extend your arms. Can you touch it? You should be able to. Tilting the top of your monitor back 10 to 20 degrees also will help make working more comfortable. Finally, the top of your monitor should be eye-level for maximum comfort. If your monitor is not at a right angle to nearby windows, get a glare filter to help reduce strain.
  • Don't sit still. If your job requires sitting for long periods, don't sit in one position for too long a time, and as often as possible, stand up and stretch.
  • Find your comfy chair. Adjust the backrest to support the natural curvature of your lower back. Think about using a pillow, rolled towel or lumbar pad to support your lower back. Make sure the chair is high enough off the ground that your feet rest flat on the floor, and don't use your armrests as an excuse to slouch.
For more tips on working comfortably, check out how to save yourself from an aching back with an ergonomically correct setup.