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Workplace wellness

Oranga o te wāhi mahi

Workplaces come in all shapes and sizes, and each one has different challenges in terms of staying well.

Physical work can cause serious injuries, but jobs where we sit a lot and do not get the chance to move around (sedentary work) also have significant health risks. Sitting for long periods of time sends your muscles into a dormant state, which can badly affect your metabolism.

More of us are doing sedentary work. As well, many of us are under increasing pressure to work faster, which can cause stress. But there are things you can do to minimise risks to your health while you're working.

Eat well

Make sure you're sitting or standing correctly

Posture at work is important. There are different things to consider if you work at a desk in an office or work in a more active standing job. WorkSafe New Zealand has information about posture at work.

If you're feeling sore or uncomfortable, talk to your general practice team and your employer. It may help to get a workplace assessment from a registered health professional to identify what is causing your pain and how to get rid of it. Your employer may be willing to pay for this and may employ occupational health staff or already have a contract with a private provider.

Or you might like to search online for a private occupational safety professional.

Keep active at work

Sitting all day or most of the day at work will have a serious effect on your long-term health. For example, it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Look for ways to move around more. For example, you could:

Use safe lifting techniques

If you lift heavy weights at work, there are good guidelines to help in Safe lifting tips.

Protect your ears and eyes

FDP welderWear protective hearing to reduce the risk of hearing loss if you work in an area with loud or piercing noise.

Working outdoors, driving and working with high-glare tools like welders can affect your eyesight. To prevent this, you need to wear the right kind of eye protection. WorkSafe has guidelines on protecting your eyes and treating injuries.

If you work at a computer for long periods, make sure the lighting is good enough for you to read the screen without getting tired eyes or headaches. Have an eye check regularly to make sure you aren't straining your eyes. You may need to wear glasses when working at a computer.

Manage stress and find a good work-life balance

Trying to do too much work in the time available, conflict at work or workplace bullying can all cause stress and affect your ability to work. So too can stressful events at home, such as moving house, a relationship break-up or the death of someone close to you. Talk to your employer if possible. If your company uses a counselling service, make an appointment to see a counsellor. You will also find some advice on dealing with stress in this section.

Look for ways to build resilience into your day-to-day life so you're more ready to deal with stress when it occurs.

Consider ways to help yourself switch off at the end of the day – take a walk, do some exercise, use mindfulness techniques.

Develop positive work habits such as taking breaks, single tasking and connecting with colleagues.

It's really important not to be overtaken by work, as this can lead to exhaustion, stress and ill health. It's best to find a balance between work and other activities that you enjoy. If work is taking over your life, talk to your general practice team or a counsellor about why this is happening and what you can do to change it.

Manage shift work

Shift work can be a challenge if you rotate between day and night shifts, as it's hard to maintain a good routine and your sleep will be affected. We also find it harder to adjust to shift work as we get older. You can find tips for dealing with shift work on this Sleep Health Foundation page.

Written by a private occupational therapist, Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2022.


See also:

Getting more activity into your day

Page reference: 123350

Review key: HIWPW-123350