Occupational Therapy week: staying safe at work

Occupational Therapy (OT) week is a chance to spread awareness of how Occupational Therapists can help people in the community reach their greatest potential. WISE Employment’s Occupational Therapist, Ellen Titterton, explains the importance of being physically and mentally safe at work, along with how we can achieve this.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapists define work as your day-to-day job. This can range from being an employee, employer, parent, carer, job seeker or any other role you do. Ellen explains that the role of an OT is to ensure you conduct this role safely, so you can reach your potential.

“OT is about helping people of all abilities be able to get the most out of their lives and engage in things that they find meaningful.” This can look different depending on your role in society. For example, a child’s goal could be staying safe on the playground, and an employee could be remaining safe in the office.

“Looking after yourself in the workplace is really important as it’s the only way we can work for long periods, not get burnout, and achieve our greatest potential,” says Ellen.

Minimising injuries

One way to look after yourself in the workplace is to minimise physical and mental health injuries through ergonomics. To do this, we need to minimise repetitive movements of the same muscle groups that you might use a lot in your line of work.

It is important to think about these movements and assess how we can reduce injury in the workplace. A good place to start includes:

  • Conducting a workstation assessment to ensure your computer is at the right height for your gaze, you have a comfortable chair that supports good posture and your keyboard is in the right position.
  • Swapping your mouse to the other hand for a while
  • Take regular breaks by setting an alarm so you remember to stretch
  • It’s unnatural to look at the same thing for a long time so ensure you focus your gaze away from the screen regularly
  • Staying hydrated with water breaks
  • Change your environment – move to the balcony or move your chair slightly
  • Use headphones instead of holding your phone
  • Take some time to refocus your attention with breathing exercises or other mindfulness activities

Create your environment

“The feeling of our environment really has a big impact on how productive we are at work. It affects our stress levels and can create tension,” explains Ellen. “Think about the things in your life you feel inspired by or motivated by. Now incorporate these into your workspace.”

If you need a calm and stress-free space, think about incorporating candles, cool colours and greenery. For a high-energy workspace, add motivational quotes and listen to your favourite song. Your environment should allow productive work time and ensure you feel happy to be there every day.

Social connections

Ellen believes social connections in the workplace can make all the difference.

“It’s really important in the workplace to have social connections. Some people can spend more time with their colleagues than with their families, so it’s good for productivity to have a feeling of belonging.”

“Whether you are working remotely or not, managers and employers could think about activities which help the team get to know each other.” Ideas include:

  • Trivia
  • Online games
  • Creating a team playlist for everyone to listen to throughout the workday
  • 15 minutes of meditation or yoga / stretches you all do together
  • A riddle, joke or fact of the day
  • Bringing your favourite food to a team meeting
  • Ordering the same food and eating together
  • Team lunches

Routine

Routine is essential to our everyday lives. However, when it comes to routine around work, it’s important to have a pre-work and post-work routine to ‘turn on’ and ‘switch off’ the brain from work mode.

Before work, you could start the day with one small non-work related task to provide a sense of calm and achievement. This could be going outside to get some fresh air before turning on your computer and checking emails, exercise, meditation, journaling or calling a friend.

At the end of the day, switch the mind from ‘focusing on work’ to ‘focusing on yourself’. Whether it’s your home office, study desk or child’s playroom, set a time to finish the workday or exit yourself from your workspace. For ideas on switching off after work, click here.

Learn more about OT week and WISE Ways to Work.

 

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