In my last few columns I’ve been discussing Reorganize, the fifth level of defense against stress in my Five R’s of Coping (Rethink, Reduce, Relax, Release, Reorganize) Model©. As I discussed, Reorganize is a lifestyle-based based approach to conquering your stress that makes you more hardy and stress-resistant.
In my last column I discussed reorganizing your emotional well-being. In this column I’ll talk about how to reorganize your occupational well-being. This will finish our discussion of how to reorganize your health and wellness and thereby develop a more stress-resistant lifestyle.
If you’re like most Americans who work full-time, you probably spend at least 40 to 60 hours a week at your job. Next to your home, your worksite is the micro-environment that impacts your stress most directly. There are many potential sources of stress at work, ranging from the physical environment you work in, to your interactions with your boss, coworkers, and the general public. If you have a home office and work full or part-time from home, the distinction between your home and worksite is less clear than for someone with a traditional job. When you start to think about the time you spend in this work micro-environment you can begin to appreciate how it has the potential to impact your stress.
The federal government, through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), publishes worksite standards for everything from air quality to the protective devices required by law for the safe operation of equipment and machinery used in your workplace. NIOSH monitors worksite health and safety and also responds to anonymous worker reports of non-compliance through their Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program. If your workplace is not in compliance with federal standards, and your job is unionized, you might consider working through the employee union to address these shortcomings. If that is not the case, you can contact either agency directly and report suspected violations. Go to the following website for more information about this process: www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/.
In terms of your individual workspace and work habits, be sure to take advantage of all protective devices, including noise suppression ear muffs/plugs and glare reducers, supplied by your employer to reduce potential environmental stressors. If you have any input into how your individual workspace is designed or retrofitted or into the ordering of equipment, furniture, and workstations, make recommendations for products that conform to the ergonomic guidelines described in NIOSH publications (www.cdc.gov/niosh/pubs/default.html).
A good example that can also be applied to you if you work from home using a computer has to do with your workstation. A simple but dramatic way to improve your physical workspace is to reorganize it to conform with ergonomic principles. Ergonomics is the study of individual workers and the tasks they perform for the purpose of designing better working conditions. Let me use a computer workstation as an example since more and more people use computers on a regular basis for work. You can set up your ideal computer workstation using the following 10 ergonomic questions taken from a search of NIOSH publications related to the topic:
1. How will your computer workstation be used?
2. What kind of computer will you use?
3. What desk furniture will you use?
4. What chair will you use?
5. How will you use the computer?
6. What will your sight lines be like?
7. How is your posture when seated at your workstation?
8. Is everything close enough to reach comfortably?
9. What are the other environmental conditions like?
10. Are you taking enough breaks?
Reorganize Your Occupational Well-being Exercise: Reorganizing Your Computer Workstation
Purpose: The following exercise, Reorganizing Your Computer Workstation, is designed to help you make minor modifications to your computer work-station that can greatly reduce the stress associated with it. While you may not be able to alter your work-station space to conform to all of the 10 guidelines presented in the previous questions, you can control some aspects of it.
1. Analyze your current computer workstation according to the 10 questions described in the video.
2. If you do not have a personal computer workstation at home, analyze the one you use at work.
3. Write down the answer to the 10 questions on a sheet of paper.
4. Identify which answers represent problems with the ergonomics of your computer workstation.
5. Develop a plan on how to correct these discrepancies. This may involve talking to your supervisor at work or partner or spouse at home. The plan could involve minimal changes (fix one or two problems) or result in a complete overhaul or retrofit.
6. Write a timeline for implementing your plan.
7. At the end of your timeline assess how you made out.
The seven reorganizing exercises discussed over the past series of Reorganize columns just scratch the surface of the countless things you can do to build hardy health habits and live a healthy lifestyle. Feel free to add others that you think will contribute to reorganizing your health. In addition to helping you conquer your stress you’ll feel better, have more energy, and generally improve the quality of your life.
In my next column I’ll go back to the beginning, refresh your memory about what stress really is, and start adding to the Five R’s of Coping strategies we’ve been discussing over the past year in a half.
In the meantime remember to Stress Less and Live More.
P.S. For more information on Reorganizing and building a more stress-resistant lifestyle check out my Reorganize Course: www.drrichblonna.com/courses/courses-for-everyone/the-5-steps-to-conquering-your-stress-home-study-program-reorganize-course/
Dr Rich Blonna is an expert in understanding how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. He is the author of several stress self-help books and courses and the popular college textbook, Coping With Stress in a Changing World 5th Ed; McGraw-Hill Publishing. He is a semi-retired Professor Emeritus from William Paterson University in NJ.