4 Simple Ways to Prioritize Your Well-Being at Work

By Lisa Marie Basile
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
August 14, 2023

If you're feeling increasingly on edge and stressed by work, you aren’t alone. According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report, stress among employees is at a historically high level, and only 33% of workers say their well‑being is thriving.

Instead of finding ways to relieve the pressure during the workweek, many of us put off tending to our well‑being until our days off and then try to pack a week's worth of self-care into the weekend. But what if we gave caring for our physical and mental health during the week as much attention as we give deadlines and meetings? Maybe then we’d feel more energized—and less full of dread—come Monday morning.

While it’s up to employers to create inclusive environments and sustainable workloads to support our well‑being, there are also simple steps we can take to make sure our needs don’t fall to the wayside when on the job. Here are some tips for helping you to prioritize your well‑being at work.

Take Breaks Frequently

Research published in the journal Workplace Health & Safety suggests that actually taking breaks not only supports well‑being but also may enable us to do a better job at work. There may be physical benefits, too, like improved circulation, reduced tension, and less eye strain.

“Go outside, take a walk, read a book,” says Kimberly Parker, a licensed clinical social worker and doctoral candidate in psychology. “Physically leave your place of work. You can even sit in your car and just listen to music.”

Practice Advocating for Yourself

“Setting boundaries with your boss, co-workers, and yourself is crucial to your well‑being,” says Amanda Levison, a licensed mental health counselor based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “It is okay to say no to a task.”

Other ways to create work boundaries include setting—and sticking to—a specific time to log off, declining meetings over your lunch break, or muting emails and chat notifications after hours and during the weekend.

If you don’t feel comfortable setting such hard-and-fast boundaries, start by initiating an open dialogue with your manager. Make the most of that conversation by reflecting on your needs and the barriers that are preventing you from taking care of them. Then, work with your manager to come up with ways you can tend to your well‑being while meeting your work goals.

People often have guilt and shame when speaking up for their needs, Parker says—especially if they’re people pleasers. But doing so will help you preserve your time and energy, ultimately making it easier to perform at your highest level. Remind yourself of this if you have a tendency to bend your own boundaries.

Create a Supportive Workspace

People who work from home may be especially prone to neglecting their well‑being at work, Parker says, because the lines are blurred between work and rest. In fact, some research suggests that exclusively working from home may be linked to worsened mental health.

Parker recommends ensuring your workspace is conducive to physical comfort, like using a standing desk or an ergonomic chair, and also provides a sense of separation. “You should have a designated office area for work. Establish a boundary that indicates work versus home,” Parker says.

You could designate a room in your home as an office, turn a corner of your living room into a work-from-home nook, or work from your kitchen table and stash all your supplies, laptop included, out of sight at the end of the day.

You can also try brightening your work area with a plant or two. Research suggests that they may help reduce physiological and psychological stress. Adding some photos and trinkets that are meaningful to you is also a great way to infuse your personality and a sense of comfort into your workspace.

Eat Well

Making healthy food choices often seems harder when we're working under a deadline or pressed for time, especially when the office vending machine makes grab-and-go grazing on snack food so convenient. Prepping healthy options the night before to bring into work allows you to put a little more thought into how you’re fueling your mind and body.

“Try throwing some fruits and veggies into the lunch you pack for work, which will give you energy to keep you going through the day,” Levison says. If this feels like a lot of effort, the American Heart Association recommends having dinner leftovers as lunch.

The results of a Spanish study suggest that eating a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fresh vegetables and fruits, may have a positive impact on well‑being, and having a well-balanced meal while at work could make the difference between a blah day and leaving the office feeling more fulfilled.

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