6 Ways to Protect Your Lower Back From Injury

Man holding his backBack pain is one of the most widespread issues in modern American life. Experts estimate that eight out of ten Americans will experience back pain in their lives. 

According to the Integrated Benefits Institute’s Health and Productivity Benchmarking 2016, musculoskeletal disorders (aka pain in the back and joints — especially the hips, knees and shoulders) account for the biggest portion of long-term disability claims — a total of 29 percent in 2016. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meanwhile writes that musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

Here are six ways you can protect your lower back against injury — and the negative effects such an injury could impact on your ability to work and earn an income: 

Exercise Your Core

There are many real-world benefits of building up well-balanced and resilient core muscles. There is a wide range of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, such as incorporating front planks and leg lowering. If you can’t see yourself doing front planks and want to start with something simple, aim to go out for more walks. A walk nourishes the spinal structure.

Watch Your Posture

All the tiny habits we engage in every day can lead to big effects down the line. If you work in an office, check your posture at your desk. Follow these steps from the Cleveland Clinic to make sure you’re sitting with an optimum posture. 

Next, analyze your chair. Is it designed for a six foot two soul but you’re five foot four? Do your feet even rest on the floor? Ergonomics means “fitting a job to a person”, and an ergonomic chair is designed to perfectly fit with your body. By using a chair that allows you to adjust your posture according to your exact height and particular desk setup, you’ll lessen muscle fatigue, increase your productivity, and be far more healthy. It’s worth the time to investigate and correct your posture.

Walk Frequently

Regardless of what sort of chair you sit in, make sure you build up a habit of getting up and moving about frequently. The Mayo Clinic writes that the impacts of movement at work are profound; even leisurely movement with frequent breaks from one’s seat has been proven to have great impacts. You’ll burn more calories by doing this, and as the Mayo Clinic writes: “The muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”

Travel With Care

If you drive a lot, tweak your posture while behind the wheel. A recent study in the U.K. found that a massive 75 percent of drivers were suffering from back pain caused by driving. A physiotherapist who worked on the study offered the following advice:

  • Keep the seat as close to the wheel as is comfortable, so you can easily reach the wheel with your elbows relaxed.
  • Adjust your backrest recline so it supports your spine without leaning too far back.
  • Ensure all mirrors are adjusted before you start your journey.
  • Build in rest stops every one-two hours for longer journeys, to stretch your legs.

Life Objects Carefully

Spend a moment to brush up on the best techniques for lifting heavy objects: keep your feet shoulder width apart, squat down rather than bending, and maintain a good posture with a straight back throughout. But don’t go too far, and avoid lifting all objects. Fiona Wilson, an Associate Professor and Chartered Physiotherapist at Trinity College Dublin recently argued that, “People are becoming less active and more overweight, which means they are becoming less fit and less able to tolerate the activity and loading for which we were designed. Recent expert advice highlights that the best way to prevent back pain is with exercise.”

Live Healthily

A healthy lifestyle, with a good diet, lots of water, and frequent exercise shores up your body’s strength and fitness. Watch your diet and try to keep the extra weight off — and be sure to get enough sleep. By building a preventative approach to your back’s health where you watch your posture and engage in healthy habits of exercise, eating, and rest, you’ll be able to build up your body’s best possible defenses against back pain.

That said, you won’t be able to prevent accidents that come out of the blue — so make sure you have an income protection plan in place in the event that you need to miss work for a prolonged period due to a back injury. A combination of health, exercise, and a solid financial plan will make you that much more ready to react to whatever life throws your way. 




3 Ways Meditators Benefit the Workplace

Woman meditating at workHow many people are meditating or practicing mindfulness in your organization? A 2017 study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggests it may be more than you realize.

According to the study authors, approximately one in seven workers in the U.S. workforce “report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity”. The authors go on to argue that “these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”

There has been a rush of scientific studies over the past three decades that measure the beneficial effects of meditation on human health (and while many report positive findings, the consensus isn’t out; some reports suggest that the science isn’t to be believed just yet). While the scientists debate the issue, business leaders are advocating for meditation. David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness, went as far as arguing that workspaces are the perfect places to meditate within, and should offer rooms for meditation. 

Here are three key ways that meditators benefit the entire working ecosystem according to recent data:

  1. Stress Reduction

Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are the fourth most common cause of both short- and long-term disability claims, according to 2016 data from the Integrated Benefits Institute. A 2017 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research offers compelling data that mindfulness meditation can help with the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enhance resilience to stress. Stress and employee burnout are major issues in HR management, so having employees actively offset their stress with a regular practice brings tremendous benefit to their health as well as benefiting those around them. 

  1. Increased Focus

Distraction has become a major obstacle. According to the 2018 Workplace Distraction Report by online learning marketplace Udemy, a staggering 36 percent of millennials/Gen Zers say they spend two or more hours per work day looking at their phones for personal activities. That same report says 66 percent of workers have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction. Meditation is the art of learning to concentrate — on the breath, a mantra, or physical sensations depending on the type of meditation. This ability to focus on one thing leads to increased productivity.

  1. Strengthened Empathy

Meditation practices drawn from Mahayana Buddhist schools in particular, where the focus is on compassion, progressively build and develop one’s empathy and awareness of others. Not only does this positive frame of mind make people feel better and happier, it also makes them think more creatively. Many business leaders have connected empathy with innovation. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently gave a talk at Wharton where he argued that empathy is a key source of business innovation. It has also long been argued that Steve Jobs’ ability to empathize with the needs of consumers led to such innovations as the iPod and iTunes.

As you review your wellness program, consider mental health as much as physical health. Investigate bringing in speakers, establishing silent rooms for people to meditate or recharge within, and encourage the meditators in your ranks to share their experiences. When The Atlantic asked David Gelles, a New York Times writer and author of Mindful Work, about whether mindfulness is just another fad, Gelles had an interesting response.

I don’t think it’s a fad that employees and employers are realizing that we have to take better care of our own minds and our own bodies and that, by doing so, we can actually create better companies and better outcomes,” he said. “I think that that is a hopefully lasting shift in the way that many of the largest companies are thinking about how they have to do business.”




Is Loneliness a Health Risk In the Workplace?

Young woman looking out of window.Of all the health risks that HR teams are watching these days, how many are analyzing the rising levels of loneliness in the workplace? We live in the most technologically connected age in human history — with open plan offices and devices that allow us to communicate with each other in manifold ways in an instant. Yet loneliness is on the rise.

An Emerging Epidemic of Loneliness

In September 2017, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy wrote a riveting cover story for Harvard Business Review titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014 to 2017, argues that loneliness is one of the most pressing health risks of our time. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes,” he writes. “It was loneliness.”

He cites conditions such as the gig economy, the rise of telecommuting, social media, and the fact that communities are becoming increasingly geographically displaced, contributing to loneliness levels doubling since the 1980s. This is having a very real impact on people’s health. One study showed that people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of a long life than those with weaker social bonds: the researchers concluded that a lack of social relationships has a greater impact on shortening life spans than obesity and a lack of physical exercise.

Workplaces Can Pioneer Solutions

Murthy argues that institutions that can play an essential role in weaving back together the threads of our communities and sense of connection. It’s not just an initiative that is good for people; it’s good for business and the bottom line. “Companies in particular have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners, and clients,” he argues. “But also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organizations to address loneliness.”   

An engaged and strongly connected team boosts productivity. Research in 2011 by California State University and the Wharton School of Business found that a person who feels lonely at work will not just suffer themselves, but their loneliness will negatively impact the  effectiveness of the wider ecosystem. 

When surveying 672 employees and 114 supervisors across 143 work team units, the researchers found that “an employee’s work loneliness triggers emotional withdrawal from their organization, as reflected their increased surface acting and reduced affective commitment. The results also show that co-workers can recognize this loneliness and see it hindering team member effectiveness.”

Their conclusion is that management “should not treat work loneliness as a private problem that needs to be individually resolved by employees who experience this emotion; but rather should consider it as an organizational problem that needs to be addressed both for the employees’ sake and that of the organization.” 

How to Address Loneliness in the Workplace

There are many ways you can start to build more social connection into the workplace. Here are a few:

  • Build Trust: Make sure that your leadership team is modeling the kind of relationship-building that you want to see happen throughout the organization. As Murphy writes in HBR, “Having senior members of an organization invest in building strong connections with other team members can set a powerful example, especially when leaders are willing to demonstrate that vulnerability can be a source of strength, not weakness.”
  • Encourage Diverse Friendships Across Departments: The British job site Totaljobs did research into “work spouses”, a phenomenon where two people will form very close relationships with each other at work. While these friendships are very healthy, there is one drawback: 23 percent of people said they would consider quitting if their “spouse” left. Companies can offset the isolation people may feel if their work buddy leaves, by helping people build bonds across departments. Building more friendships into the fabric of the organization will make it more resilient. It’ll also make it more innovative. O.C. Tanner showed that 72 percent of great work projects involved people talking to people outside their inner circle.
  • Encourage Conversations: With all the efficiencies of modern life, many of us have lost touch with the simple art of having a conversation. Weave genuine conversations back into the workplace by setting up regular lunches or social gatherings where people can connect in an intentional way. Even things like adding five minutes of personal talk into the start of a conference call can make an enormous difference for remote workers. These small touches go a long way in making someone feel included and part of the team — and that feeling of inclusion is good for everyone. 



4 Ways to Make Your Commute Healthier and Happier

Man driving car. Working Americans are spending a lot of time behind the wheel. The U.S. Census reports that in 2016 the average American commute was 26 minutes each way. That’s nearly an hour a day on the road, five hours a week, 20 hours a month. What effect does all this time in the driver’s seat have on your body and mind?

Studies show that commuting can be very challenging for your health from its physical toll to increased stress and anxiety. Here are four ways you can reduce the negative effects and build a more healthy and happy commute:

Exercise

Even though we may be moving at 70 miles an hour down fast-moving highways, driving is largely sedentary — and one of its biggest impacts is on our physical activity. Studies have shown that a longer commuting distance adversely affects people’s physical activity and makes them more likely to be overweight and have poor cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Overcome this by finding creative ways to infuse exercise into your daily life. Take a walk during lunch time or during a break. If you sit at a desk a lot during the day, get up every hour or so and walk around the office, stretching your legs and moving your muscles. Consider waking earlier to add some physical exercise into your routine. 

Watch Your Posture

Another major negative side effect of regular driving is neck and back pain. One Gallup survey in 2010 showed that one in three employees with a commute of 90 minutes or more reported neck or back pain. A more recent study by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) showed that 14 percent of drivers experienced neck or back pain. Musculoskeletal issues are the leading cause of disability insurance claims in the U.S., and a bad driving posture can contribute to your risk of this. 

Your best line of defense is to actively check how you are sitting in the vehicle, and shift to the best possible posture. The BCA report includes a list of great recommendations on how to reduce neck pain while driving, such as aligning your steering wheel, mirrors, and adapting your back posture. There are also various subtle exercises you can do while you drive (butt clenches anyone?) Although adapting your posture and the way you hold the wheel can feel distinctly uncomfortable at first, keep practicing and it’ll soon start to feel perfectly normal. Your future body will thank you. 

Explore Flexible Hours

There is a psychological impact to our commute — and not just the road rage that flares up. A large-scale 2017 study in the United Kingdom by VitalityHealth, the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, found that those with longer commuting distances were 33 percent more likely to suffer from depression, and 12 percent more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress. 

A lot of this is arising from something called “time pressure”. This is when we feel that we don’t have enough time to get things done — for example, the commuting time is eating into family time or exercise time. Address this by talking to your employer about options for flexible work hours. Can you come in and leave a little later to miss the morning and evening rush hours? Or can some of your time be spent working remotely from home to allow more yoga, exercise or family time? Show them the data: 2.7 million more Americans were doing this in 2017 than they were a decade ago. 

Change Your Perspective

If there’s nothing you can do about shifting the time of your commute, consider transforming the very way that you view that time spent in the car. Could you use it as an opportunity for self-improvement? Perhaps you can practice mindfulness during the commute, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts to educate yourself. Maybe you can start to treat it as valuable time for you to unwind and think through work problems, so that when you arrive at home, you’ll be ready to focus on your family or just relax.

Finding a way to make your commute as comfortable and enjoyable as possible will help to improve your long-term health. You’ll also enjoy those 20 hours a lot more. 




Sleep is the Most Fundamental Part of Your Daily Wellness Routine

Man waking up in bed. Most of us know that sleep is important. Our sleep — or lack thereof — can make or break a day, a job, or a relationship. With enough sleep we’re happier, healthier, more productive people. Without it, we become moody zombies who can barely remember what day it is, only that the weekend seems too far away.

We spend so much time, money, and effort on other aspects of our health and wellbeing. We pay for gym subscriptions and yoga classes. We make a mess in our kitchens every morning attempting to make a green juice that’ll somehow fix our tired minds and bodies immediately. (That, or queuing for a giant coffee becomes a top priority in our morning routine.) What if we were to invest in something utterly free — our sleep.

Sleep is Essential For Wellness

It is recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. And when your colleague at work says that she can survive on just four hours a night, ignore her. While we may be able to complete a given task on less sleep than our well-rested counterparts, throw an obstacle into the equation and we’re rendered useless.

Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, authored a study on how sleep deprivation disrupts the ability of our brain cells to communicate with each other. “We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly,” he said in a statement. “This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.”

Sleep deprivation not only makes us less effective at our jobs and all areas in our life, it can also have detrimental effects on our long-term mental and physical wellbeing. A lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression, while physically it can lead to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

How to Improve Your Sleep Habit

Here are four things you can do to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:

  • Exercise: By doing at least half an hour of exercise a day – walking, jogging, swimming, whatever gets you moving – you’re giving your body a stretch and distracting your mind from whatever stresses are plaguing you. They’ll thank you by shutting down when you need them to.
  • Eat right: This doesn’t just mean eating healthily, although of course that’s an important part of any wellness routine. There are certain foods which actually promote sleep – for instance, almonds and cereal – so by having these an an evening snack you can boost your chances of getting those zzzs in at a reasonable hour.
  • Get some fresh air: Whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a quick power walk around the block, a little fresh air can go a long way in helping you settle down at night. Or why not dine al fresco whenever’s the weather’s nice and eat your lunch in your nearest park? Your eyes will thank you for the change from your computer screen.
  • Establish an evening routine: Winding down for the night early can make all the difference in sleeping peacefully or tossing and turning until morning. Switch off those screens an hour before bedtime and do something that will help you relax. Have a bath, read a book, meditate, hang out with the cat, fold the laundry, whatever it takes. Do this regularly as a prelude to sleep and you’ll find that your brain is that much more able to unwind.

By weaving these habits into your daily routine, you’ll start to see the impacts in your wider life. With a body and mind that is well rested and alert, you’ll be that much more resilient both physically and emotionally.




5 Innovative Apps for People With Disabilities

Man with an appEver since Steve Jobs appeared on a stage with an iPhone in 2007, software has been radically changing and disrupting our world. Our phones have become virtual publishing houses, TVs, calculators, cameras, GPS devices, and countless other things. For people living with disabilities, accessible tech is making a big difference — and offering new ways to engage with the world.

This is happening on a city-wide level around the globe. One university in Seattle is pioneering a new map-based app that allows pedestrians with limited mobility to find the best routes through the city. In Toronto, a nonprofit is installing battery-powered beacons on streets to help improve accessibility for those with visual impairments. Then there’s also a whole ecosystem of apps that people can access via their phones. 

Here are five digital apps to be inspired by:

Access Now

This app was created by Maayan Ziv, whose advocacy work has won her accolades such as the David C. Onley Leadership in Accessibility Award. Ziv lives with muscular dystrophy and she created Access Now to share information about the levels of accessibility in buildings in areas throughout the world. The app allows you to search for specific types of accessibility and includes crowdsourcing via its global community map, where members of the public can update info and rate venues.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is an inspired app that connects people with blindness or other visual impairments with other members of the wider community. Someone can take a photo of an object — for example a gallon of milk in their fridge — upload the image, then ask a question such as, “what’s the sell-by date?” They’ll get a near-instant reply, spoken out loud via their phone’s audio. This app has been around for several years now, and at the time of writing this blog, has amassed more than 60,000 blind and low vision users and over 876,000 volunteers. 

RogerVoice

RogerVoice is a close captioning app that allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to converse in real-time. The app draws upon voice-recognition technology to transform someone’s words into text, as well as allowing people to type responses, which are then converted to voice on the other side of the call. 

MyRA

Rheumatoid arthritis is a leading cause of disability. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks tissues close to joints and other body parts, and can affect areas throughout the body. MyRA is an app that helps people track their RA and make daily updates of how they’re feeling. A clever design makes the process visual, where they can click on areas around the body on their screens. This creates a history of data that help them discuss their condition more accurately with their physician. 

Reachout

If you’re living with either a short-term or long-term disability, there will be psychological effects. Whether it’s getting used to a completely new way of life or dealing with chronic pain, it is beneficial to have a community around you. Reachout is an app that offers an online support network for those who need one. There are groups for chronic pain, mental health, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease — as well as groups for caregivers.




How To Start an Exercise Habit—And Stick With It

Runner puts on shoes.Just under half of all adult Americans do not meet the physical exercise guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of these people, you probably already know that you should be exercising. You’ve heard all the benefits of frequent exercise: how it can control your weight, build resilience against disease and illness, increase your energy, lift your mood, and help you sleep. But you’re still not doing it. Why?

Often it’s because we’re not very good at building the habit itself. We book ourselves into a yoga studio, join a gym, decide to run everyday, or find a tribe of fellow cyclists — but we don’t know how to commit to a regular rhythm of engaging in that practice. We decide we’ll exercise when we feel like it, which means we rarely do it. To succeed at this, you need to focus on building the habit itself.

Here are a few ways to make it work for the long-haul:

Start Small

Instead of taking on the Boston Marathon, what if you were to walk around the block once a day at work for a week. Clearly, this isn’t a huge aerobic workout — and it probably doesn’t hit the CDC’s guidelines. However, because it’s so manageable you’ll be that much more likely to do it. And through the very act of doing it — walking, moving your legs, breathing in that fresh air, and successfully accomplishing the goal for a week — your confidence will scale up. So set yourself a tiny, totally achievable goal — and just enjoy seeing it through. 

Try a 30-Day Challenge

When you’ve identified the form of exercise you’ll be doing, set up a goal for a month. Don’t commit to something for the rest of your life — that’s too easy to fail at, then feel bad. But by committing to something for a certain stretch of time, it’s that much easier to succeed. Perhaps you decide you’ll go for a run two mornings a week for 30 days. If you make it through to the end of your challenge, congratulate yourself, perhaps have a few days off to celebrate and laze about in glory, then commit once again.

Build Triggers Into Your Schedule

According to a fascinating study published in the journal Health Psychology, some of the most successful people build exercise routines based on “instigation habits”, where an environmental or internal trigger tells them it’s time to exercise. This might be an simple as setting an alarm on your phone, deciding to put on your running shoes as soon as you wake up in the mornings, or deciding that at 5:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll go to the gym. By making it an automatic trigger, all ambiguity goes out the window. It’s not about whether or not you feel like doing it, it’s on your calendar. 

In order to build long-term habits, you need to set yourself up for success by defining and setting manageable goals. Then focus on seeing through those goals. Once you do this in a sustained manner over time, you’ll start to feel all those benefits of exercise kicking in. You’ll be feeling stronger, looking better, boosting your natural serotonin levels and sleeping more peacefully. You’ll have created a virtuous cycle, where to not exercise actually feels bad. At this point, the habit is so ingrained, it’s become a part of you. 




Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Workplace

Employee facing the sun in a workspaceIt’s the final stretch of winter for people in the northern parts of the U.S., and while the light-filled days of spring are closer, a significant number of people in your workforce may still be struggling with seasonal affective disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately five percent of Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a seasonal form of depression. The negative effects tend to be particularly strong during the months of January and February. Women and young people are statistically more at risk from SAD and the numbers increase the further you move away from the equator: The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one percent of people in Florida and nine percent of people in New England and Alaska suffer from the disorder.

Depression has a very real effect on the workplace. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the total economic burden of major depressive disorder was estimated to be $210.5 billion per year in 2010, which signaled a 21.5% increase from $173.2 billion per year in 2005. The number of Americans suffering from depression, anxiety and stress in the seven years since has been on a major upswing.

Here are a few ways you can help employees navigate the impact of SAD during these final months of winter — as well as build new practices for the coming year:

Optimize Natural Lighting

While some people believe SAD is the result of living in colder climates, the main issue is a reduction in sunlight. Design light-filled workspaces and place desks as close as possible to windows. A recent study found that getting the right amount of daylight helped reduce eyestrain and headaches in participants by an astonishing 84 percent.

You may have obstacles, such as windows in older office buildings which often include weather stripping to keep heating and cooling costs down, which can prevent optimal light transfer. If you have areas where natural light is low, consider installing light boxes which provide specialized shades of light.  

Encourage Exercise

An ongoing Gallup poll shows that more people are exercising regularly today than they were 10 years ago, yet many struggle with sticking to a consistent fitness regimen. Encourage exercise by building a fitness program, where staff are incentivized to incorporate more action into their days without having to go to the gym on their own time. If you don’t have the resources to run a company-wide initiative, do small things like encouraging people to leave their desks and take invigorating walks in the sunshine at lunchtimes or exploring flexible work options. 

Build Dialogue and Support

Employees will need their own support systems and in some cases treatment such as cognitive therapy or medication. Establishing a strong benefits program that includes health insurance and disability insurance helps to reduce the stress of some of these costs. Make sure you’re also facilitating spaces for conversations into the workday. Set up happy hour gatherings once a week or launch company events to boost morale and bring people together for social gatherings. By building a culture that maximizes access to sunlight and activity and strengthens human connections, you’ll help to support the resilience of the people that power your business.




3 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System

Elderberry teaFlu season is in full-swing, which has people hiding underneath the covers and doing whatever else possible to avoid getting sick. While the best path toward a healthy immune system is a combination of a proper diet, sleep, and exercise, there are a number of supplements that can help boost your defenses against the myriad viruses swirling around offices, schools, and public gatherings this time of year.  

Here are three supplements that can bolster your body’s defenses. They’re all natural remedies that have been helping humans fend off sickness for centuries. 

Elderberry

Elderberry can be purchased either in capsule or liquid form and is an excellent starting point for those in search of immune-boosting supplements. Its central compounds are known as “anthocyanins,” which not only help immune function, but can also reduce the severity of congestion in some people. Elderberry can reportedly reduce the longevity of flu symptoms by three days — a veritable lifetime for those who are feeling as if they’ve been hit by a truck.

Zinc

An essential mineral that works as an antioxidant within the body, zinc plays a critical role in proper immune system functionality. Zinc is necessary for the development and activation of T-cellswhich allow the immune system to operate at peak performance. While some know and love zinc due to its reported ability to reduce the duration of the common cold, its presence in the body can also help reduce the chances of catching a cold to begin with. Zinc is often sold in lozenge form, although tablets and capsules are also available. It can also be found in various foods, such as beans and nuts. 

Probiotics

Many people associate probiotics with gut health, and rightfully so. But did you know that as much as 70 percent of the immune system lives within the gastrointestinal system? As a result, poor gut health often leads to reduced overall immune functionality, which may manifest in the form of repeated colds, or even just a general feeling of malaise. This is often overlooked as people research ways to build up their immune health, yet it offers a powerful form of protection. Probiotics are essentially “good” bacteria that — when taken in supplement form — help to restore balance to the gut microbiome, fighting against disease and harmful pathogens in the process. A word of advice: don’t pay too close attention to colony forming units (CFUs) when shopping for probiotics supplements, as “more” doesn’t necessarily equate to “better” in this case. 

There’s nothing worse than feeling sick with an impending work-week ahead of you, and by the time you get to that point, it’s too late. So take preventative action now. By adding one or more of these supplements to your regimen, you can reduce your chances of becoming a sick day statistic. More than that, you’ll start to pave the way for long-term health and resilience. 




Why Silent Spaces Are Needed in the Workplace

Quiet spaces in the workplaceThe modern workspace is open, collaborative, and egalitarian. It’s also been shrinking in size. According to a 2013 CoreNet Global Survey, the average amount of office space per worker reduced from 225 square feet in 2010 to 150 square feet in 2013.

That reduction in the personal space of employees has coincided with the rise of messaging devices, from Slack to email and social media — and an overall increase in the number of times we’re being interrupted at work. Research at the University of California, Irvine, found that the average worker is interrupted or switches tasks once every three minutes and five seconds. This is having a major impact on productivity — and causing increasing levels of worker burnout and stress.

The Need for Sound Privacy

Research indicates that all this busyness and noise is taking a toll. Humans need periods of silence to focus on tasks and concentrate. A report by the University of Sydney shows that nearly 50 percent of people with a completely open office floor plan — and nearly 60 percent of people in cubicles with low walls — are dissatisfied with their sound privacy. The research also shows that people in open working spaces are 15 percent less productive, have trouble concentrating, and are twice as likely to get sick.

One leader from Microsoft has spoken out about the need for private spaces where his team can work on more focused tasks. “It was important to be able to hunker down and focus behind closed doors, but be in close proximity to each other so we could collaborate,” Pankaj Arora told the BBC. “We never see the doors as barriers to communication, just as barriers to noise.”

Science, meanwhile, is proving just how much our brains need a pause from all this incessant noise: periods of silence reduce stress hormones, help the brain to absorb information, and even help the brain develop new cells. Here are three ways you can help your employees find silent spaces at work:

Offer Silence Pods

If your office space is open and collaborative, aim to include silent spaces that people can use if they need quiet time. In addition to rooms for calls and larger meetings, make sure you also build areas where workers can head to for focused, uninterrupted work. The U.S. Workplace Survey 2016 by global design firm Gensler, found that innovative companies are five times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize both individual and group workspace. They cite noise management as a key differentiator for innovative companies.

Allow Remote Work 

The 2016 Gensler report also found that people in the most innovative companies spend more time working away from the office, averaging 74 percent of an average week in the office compared to 86 percent for respondents with the lowest innovation scores. Working from home offers an opportunity for people to focus exclusively on a project.

Schedule in Silence 

In smaller companies, it’s even possible to schedule in silence. The co-founder and CEO of Milanote, a tool that helps creative people organize projects, wrote a blog about the company’s “Quiet Time”, where they dedicate mornings to silent work, devoid of emails, Slack messages and conversations. In the afternoons, interruptions can flow. The CEO claims it made the company 23 percent more productive.

It’s worth noting that as you ramp up opportunities for silence spaces at work, you don’t want to overdo this. While silence is a helpful tool, an environment that is too quiet can be highly unnerving for people. Rather, aim to provide a mixture of spaces and options so that if employees need to shift into a space of concentration, they have that option. This will have a very real impact on the state of mind of your team and their ability to do great work.