Whether we like it or not, work is a large part of everyday life. Sometimes because of our busy and demanding schedules, it’s easy to let our health fall to the wayside. But our well-being is intricately tied to our habits, not only at home, but especially at work. Manual laborers, such as those in the construction industry, are incredibly hardworking and experience very intense and stressful work environments. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research states that the rate at which health deteriorates with age is faster in manual occupations than in non-manual occupations. So, it’s important to keep these health tips in mind to stay healthy and avoid burnout on the job.
Being awake for more than 17 hours cognitively equates to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05. And when you’re awake for more than that, it increases to 0.1. At that point, you might as well be drunk. That lack of sleep affects motor skills, your ability to make sound decisions, and decreases productivity. So make sure you’re going to bed at a reasonable hour and shutting off electronic devices an hour or two ahead of that.
Our overall well-being relies heavily on the foods we do or don’t consume. Poor planning and busy schedules can lead to quick trips to fast food restaurants or skipped meals altogether. This can result in loss in productivity, detrimental effects to long-term health, and low energy levels. A report by the International Labor Organization states that two-thirds of the American population are overweight and the annual economic cost of obesity to businesses costs about $12.7 billion annually. Fueling your body with proper nutrients can combat all these things. Try to prepare lunch ahead of time and bring it with you, packing fruits, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, high-fiber and high-protein foods.
Not only is food an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but staying properly hydrated is as well. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day is recommended. For those performing manual labor, even more is suggested, especially because most workers are typically working in extreme weather environments and end up sweating more than others.
Construction work and manual labor already has you constantly on the move. But exercising regularly and properly will strengthen the right muscles to prevent injuries. Bending, lifting, and climbing can put tremendous stress on the body. Being in shape is the best way to avoid additional strain. Plus, exercise releases endorphins that give you energy, increase productivity, sharpen your focus, and add to the longevity of your life. If you can’t get to the gym, then take the stairs when the opportunity presents itself. Or park far away from your destination to get a few more steps in.
As already stated, construction work requires you to move your body on a regular basis. A lot of this movement comes in the form of repetitive tasks such as swinging a hammer, hauling heavy loads, pulling wire, laying brick, and painting. These rhythmic movements can cause stress injuries and muscle damage to your knees, shoulders, back, and more over time. Plus, one wrong move can have lasting effects. Make sure you’re performing these tasks properly and taking frequent breaks.
Take A Break
Speaking of breaks, it’s important to stop work and rest occasionally. It’s not healthy to be on the move for all 8+ hours of your workday. Stand up, take walks, and clear your head for a few minutes once every hour or two to prevent burnout. Stretching is also a great practice during break time. Many construction companies implement Stretch & Flex programs to get workers warmed up and ready for the day. Stretching improves posture, energizes your body, and improves circulation. It’s not a bad idea to keep it going throughout the day.
Use Vacation Time
An important part of staying healthy at work is to get your mind off work occasionally. Take advantage of the time off your company allows. Get away. Relax. Recharge. Stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health so be sure to minimize it by taking a vacation every once in a while.
Pay attention to your body
It’s important to not ignore your body’s aches and pains. If you’re uncomfortable, there could be something wrong and avoiding the problem could make the situation worse. Speak with a doctor or other health professional about what you’re feeling and how to treat your symptoms. Preventative measures will benefit you in the long run.
Mental health is just as important
Experiencing depression, stress, and anxiety is just as unhealthy as physical ailments. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that construction workers have the highest rate of male suicide among American workers. Be sure to talk to someone about your feelings. Sometimes just talking through your struggles is enough to release the mental load you may be carrying. Other times, deeper measures can be taken to help.
Not surprisingly, having a healthy personal life will contribute to a healthy work life. Maintain positive relationships with friends and family, spend time on your favorite hobbies, and focus on the positive aspects of life. When things fall into place in your personal life, it’s easier for them to fall into place while at work.
This should be a no-brainer in construction. Hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, etc. are essential components to keeping you safe and healthy at work. Avoid preventable accidents by wearing the proper personal protective equipment needed on site. Additionally, keep your body safe and healthy by investing in other gear such as sunscreen, breathable clothing, a winter coat, sweat bands, and hats.