Staying Healthy at Work While Transitioning Back to the Office 

For many people, the last few years have been all about learning to transition. When COVID-19 closed offices and forced thousands of Michigan workers to learn how to do their jobs remotely, they adapted to work lives centered around video chats and group emails. As the pandemic eased, many employees began hybrid schedules between work and home. And now many are heading back into offices on a more regular schedule.    

As people prepare to spend more time in the office, it might feel like learning an office routine all over again. Let’s look at ways to stay healthy at work while transitioning back to the office. 

A healthy transition 

After the pandemic it’s important to take additional health precautions:  

  • Know the workplace’s re-entry health guidelines. Check to see if masks are required or optional. Respect employees who choose to wear a mask, regardless of the office policy.  
  • Understand the meeting protocol. If large gatherings are not allowed, make plans for small-group meetings or video chats.  
  • Maintain good hygiene in the office. Wash hands throughout the day. 
  • A person should not come into the office if they are feeling sick.  
  • People should decide how much physical interaction/closeness they are comfortable with before returning to the office. 
  • Be aware of others’ social cues involving personal space. Some employees may have changed how they feel about physical proximity to others.  

Add movement 

Movement can help increase blood flow to the brain and help boost alertness. While working from home, people may naturally get up more often to do other home-based tasks, prepare meals or just toss a load of laundry in the washer. But at work, deliberate movement is good for the body and helps break up the day. Here are some ways to get that much-needed productivity boost: 

  • Try easy exercises and stretches while at a desk or workstation 
  • Turn a one-on-one meeting into a walking meeting 
  • Partner up for accountability with a coworker for regular lunch walks or quick workouts 
  • Park farther away from work to increase steps before and after work 
  • Take the stairs when possible 

 Lunch-packing refresh 

Leaving a home office can sometimes mean resorting to one too many restaurant or takeout meals. This is a good time to refresh lunch-packing skills. Make eating fruits, vegetables and lean proteins a priority and pack in foods that offer long-lasting energy like whole grains and brown rice.  

Leftovers are an easy choice for lunch, but it’s important to plan grocery shopping and portions accordingly. When making dinner, set aside a lunch portion before digging in. When leftovers aren’t an option, there are plenty of other lunch and snack ideas that can help save money: 

  • Apple slices and nut butter 
  • Construct a pita: bring grilled chicken, hummus, veggies and a whole wheat pita 
  • Flavored tuna packs and bagged crunchy chickpeas are quick and healthy protein choices to grab on-the-go 
  • Meal prep large portions of proteins and sides at the beginning of the week to piece together easy lunches such as grilled chicken, veggie-packed pasta salad and roasted sweet potatoes 
  • Rice or grains like quinoa topped with roasted vegetables and a lean protein 
  • Veggie spears with a garlic Greek yogurt sauce 

 Focus on health 

It’s important to prioritize physical and mental health habits. A Healthier Michigan has tips for this:  

  • Stay on a regular sleep schedule.
  • Make time for daily exercise, even if it’s just a lunchtime or after-work walk.
  • Make sure to have annual checkups with health care providers and regular visits to the dentist .

Preparing for the first day back 

  • Do a mental walk-through of the transition back to the office, and what activities might be taking place those first few days. 
  • If possible, visit the office at a time when co-workers are not there. It’s good for workers to reacquaint themselves with where everything is, see if any of the space or configurations have changed, and prepare a workspace for their return. 
  • Make sure work clothes still fit and are in good condition. 

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more healthy tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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