“Eating at your desk is a bad idea,” advises Janice Green, president of the Jamaica Occupational Health and Safety Professionals Association (JOHSPA) and occupational health and safety officer at The Jamaica National Group.
Mrs Green is concerned about employees who habitually eat lunch at their desk as doing is detrimental to their health.
“Extended sitting at your desk will affect your physical and mental health. The average person spends eight hours a day at work. Except for the occasional bathroom break, many persons do not move from their workstation,” she said.
“The one-hour lunch period is an ideal time to get up and move about. Eat your lunch in the lunchroom or at the restaurant you purchased it. This gives you the opportunity to socialise with colleagues and allows you to get to know them better, which in turn, helps to build camaraderie and better working relationships.”
She further pointed out that, contrary to what many employees believe, less work is actually accomplished sitting at one’s desk all day without taking those necessary occasional breaks.
“Getting up from your workstation provides the opportunity to stretch and exercise, thereby increasing blood flow and oxygen levels and this improves one’s cognitive performance.”
“Furthermore, eating at your workstation attracts insects. Strong-smelling food in an enclosed area can also be a turn off for other employees,” she added.
Mrs Green emphasised that breaking a bad habit is often not achievable overnight.
“Start with eating away from your desk for two days of the week and then progressively increase the days until you no longer eat at your desk. Get your colleagues to be part of the new habit, and it will be easier for everyone, as there would be someone else to hold you accountable,” she advised.
Delena Jones readily relates to eating at her desk at work. Despite working with her organisation for the past 12 years, she has never eaten in the lunchroom.
“When I eat at my desk, I can complete two or three tasks during the time,” she explained.
Delena, who has a flexible lunch time, said that once in a while she skips having lunch when she is having a very hectic day.
“Sometimes I have up to three meetings for the day which makes it difficult to have lunch,” she disclosed.
She is aware that prolonged sitting at her desk can be harmful to her health. She arrives at work by 7:30 a.m. and leaves by 4:30 p.m. She also admits that she does not get up frequently, although she wears a smart watch which gives her an alert to stand, when it senses that she has been sitting continuously for an hour.
Mrs Green supports the use of Smart Personal Protective Equipment, such as a cell phone or watch to monitor one’s fatigue and alertness levels, so as to be able to determine when one should take a break. Smart technology is one of the new trends in occupational health and safety, and developers have been working on safety gears, which have sensors designed to monitor one’s health.
She appeals to employees to use the technology at their disposal to manage their health and wellness, because preventing ill health is easier and cheaper than trying to correct a bad health situation.
“Your health is your responsibility, take control and good care of it,” she urges.
Takese Foga, Director for Health Promotion and Education in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, appeals to employees to make a conscious effort to incorporate physical activity during the workday.
“Physical activity has many benefits. It burns fat, and thereby helps to maintain a healthy weight. It also reduces stress, improves mental health, increases concentration, strengthens muscles and bones and helps to prevent and control diseases,” she said.
Taking “stretch breaks” during meetings and at one’s desk. Use the stairs instead of the elevator and walk to co-workers instead of calling on the phone, were some of the suggestions made by Ms. Foga.
She further pointed out that The Ministry’s Jamaica Moves Campaign, which was launched in 2017, is one strategy being used to combat growing incidences of non-communicable diseases by promoting physical activity and healthy eating, as well as, annual and age-appropriate health checks.
According to The Lancet Journal, physical inactivity causes 12.8 percent of all-cause mortality in Jamaica. It contributes to 13 per cent of breast cancer, 14 per cent of colon cancer, eight per cent of coronary heart disease and ten per cent of Type Two diabetes.