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7 Ways to Make Your Office Healthier

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    Bring the Outdoors Inside

    Surprise! Your office furniture can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the chemicals used during manufacturing, which pollute the air you breathe. Yikes! Adding a plant to your office can reduce indoor air pollution, says B.C. "Bill" Wolverton, PhD, a retired NASA scientist, researcher, and author of Plants: Why You Can't Live Without Them. VOCs are destroyed by the plant's leaves and broken down by tiny organisms living on and around the root system. "Plants also give off negative ions, which provide us with a euphoric feeling of well-being," says Wolverton. Don't choose just any garden-variety greenery—Wolverton suggests the peace lily, rubber plant, and golden pothos.

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    Look the Other Way

    Staring at a computer screen all day can easily cause eyes to feel strained, tired, and extra dry. And experts say the culprit could be more than just all those spreadsheets. It's called "computer vision syndrome," and it's exactly what it sounds like: the discomfort your eyes experience when you stare at a screen for too long, says Mark Rosenfield, PhD, of SUNY College of Optometry. This problem is by no means a rare occurrence. In fact, a study co-authored by Rosenfield surveying computer users in New York City found that 40 percent of subjects complained of tired eyes at least half the time. You can alleviate CVS symptoms by practicing what Rosenfield calls the 20:20:20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for a period of 20 seconds.

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    Adjust Your Ergonomics

    Do your wrists, forearms, or elbows hurt? You're definitely not alone. According to David Rempel, MD, an ergonomics specialist at UC Berkeley's Bioengineering Department, wrist, forearm, and elbow discomfort rank among the most common complaints from frequent computer users. Two culprits could be a traditional computer mouse and keyboard, which don't lend themselves to natural positions. "The joints should be in a neutral or more central position," says Rempel. He recommends purchasing Logitec's Marble Mouse and any split, gabled keyboard with adjustable angles so your joints are not in extreme postures or angles.

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    Be a Strategic Printer

    Photocopiers release particles that can cause upper airway inflammation and other problems, which can be especially concerning for those with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. Work with digital files when possible, and be strategic about what and how often you print. When it comes time to print 10 copies of your monthly report, aim for the print-and-wait approach, says Peter Gaines, PhD, a professor at UMass Lowell's Biological Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Biotechnology Program. "If a worker allows the project to finish and waits approximately one hour [to gather the prints], the particle concentrations should have sufficiently dropped." Seem unrealistic? Gaines says even 30 minutes is better than nothing.

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    Clean Your Keyboard

    Take some time every week to give your keyboard a good wipe-down. University of Arizona and Kimberly-Clark research found keyboards to be one of the grimiest surfaces in the office, third only to sink faucets and microwave door handles. That's another reason to head out for lunch instead of crumbing up your keyboard even more.

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    Marry Your Coworker

    OK, you don't have to actually walk down the aisle with your cubicle neighbor. But finding a designated work spouse or office bestie who acts as your confidant, buddy, and professional other-half can have many benefits. According to Gallup research, employees who have best friends at work have increased levels of well-being, and even are less likely to get injured.

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    Display Personal Photos

    A Stanford University study found that subjects in deep romantic relationships experienced reduced levels of pain when shown photographs of their partners. A framed photo of your significant other or of close friends and family could be just the pick-me-up you need when you feel buried in work come midafternoon.