I'm not going to lie to you: working in an office building all day can be a soul-sucking experience, depending on your environment. Even if you love your job and what you're doing, sitting in a freezing room with the same people five times a week can be a major bummer. It gets boring fast, and usually, there's no end in sight. Yikes. The good news is that there are ways you can improve an office job — you just have to put a little bit of effort into it, and then you can make your work day so much better. Seriously!
I started working an office job a little over five years ago. Before that, I was a waitress for seven years. As anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows, being a waitress means working in a hectic, fast-paced environment where you are constantly on your feet and moving around. Working an office job is the opposite of that, and it was hard for me to adjust to the change for a while. I went from eight-hour shifts on my feet to eight-hour days in a chair. I constantly felt antsy and bored, even sitting in the middle of bustling New York City.
After the last five years, though, I've come up with a bunch of tricks to make my office job more enjoyable. Yes, the fact that I love my job makes this a little bit easier for me, but I think anyone would feel a happiness boost if they tried at least a few of these tips. If you're going to spend a big majority of your life sitting at a desk, you might as well try to make it better than it is, right? Right. Let's shift our perspective together, and focus on these tips for making your office work day so much better. Good luck!
1. Get to work 20 minutes earlier than normal.
You probably read that and went, "WTF? Why would I get to work earlier than normal to improve my day?" Hear me out! Getting to work even just 20 minutes earlier than you're supposed to can really change your day. The extra time before your coworkers come in gives you a few moments to relax after your commute — in silence. The extra time lets you get yourself together in peace, and get a head start on what you're doing. I started doing this about three years ago, and haven't looked back. Getting in a little earlier makes me feel so much more relaxed than getting in right on time or a few minutes late. It really does make a big difference.
2. Bring food with you.
Most office buildings give you a little kitchen with at least a fridge and a microwave. Depending on how fancy your office is, you might have more — I've been to very chic offices in NYC where they have literally everything you could want in a dream kitchen. Regardless of how fancy your office kitchen is, the existence of a kitchen means you can — and should — bring your own food. Here are three reasons why: 1.) Not having to go out and find lunch in a busy environment makes lunch time less stressful. 2.) It saves you money, which should be making you happy. 3.) You'll be bringing something you know you like, which is way better than ordering a salad that tastes terrible.
3. Schedule breaks throughout the day.
When working in an office, it's easy to get into the routine of sitting in front of your computer for eight hours straight, without even breaking for lunch. I get that, and some days are so busy that you don't have an option. However, you should always try to schedule little breaks throughout the day. Set an alarm on your phone for every two to three hours, and give yourself 10 to 15 minutes to just chill. I suggest getting away from your computer and walking around. Walk to the kitchen, go talk to a coworker, go outside. Whenever I have time in the nice weather, I give myself a few moments to walk around the blocks near my office. Sometimes it's nice to just get away for a few.
4. Invest in something to help your back.
It's no secret that computers and desks are ruining our posture. OK, that's a little dramatic, but it's kind of true. Staring down at a computer screen can hurt your neck and back, and sitting in an uncomfortable chair can hurt everything. But you have options! Working on a laptop? Get a laptop riser so that it's eye-level. Do your wrists or hands hurt when typing? Get a foam cushion to lean on. Does your back hurt from your chair? Get a back support cushion or a foot rest. Some companies will even buy these things for you if you ask. Get this one from Amazon for less than $15.
5. Leave a cozy blanket in the office.
Office jobs are notoriously freezing, because the temperatures are set based on the needs of a middle-aged man. Cool. I strongly advise bringing a cozy blanket, a big scarf, or a sweatshirt, and leaving it at your desk. You can even buy a mouse pad that acts as a glove so your hands don't get too cold.
6. Buy cute office supplies.
I realize that sounds silly and materialistic, but trust me on this one. Making your desk look cute can be a big happiness boost. There are so many options out there it's ridiculous. Decorate your desk the same way you would decorate your bedroom — you probably spend the same amount of time in both! I love getting cute signs, water bottles, pens, notepads, and coffee mugs to make my space seem more homey and "me." Buy this Kate Spade set from Papyrus for $39.95.
7. Put up at least one picture of loved ones.
Frame a photo of you and bae, or you and your family, or you and your besties, and put it on your desk. When you feel burnt out, look at it and smile. I put up a string of photobooth photos with all of my best friends taken at a wedding. It never fails to make me feel happier.
8. Get yourself an air plant.
Air plants are ~*~very trendy~*~ right now, and they're also great for your work day: some studies even say that plants at your desk can make you feel happier and be more productive. If you're lucky enough to sit by a window, get yourself a real plant that you can take care of. If you aren't near sunlight and you're like me and can't keep plants alive, get an air plant. Buy these from Etsy for only about $6.
9. Stop ignoring your emails.
I get a whole bunch of emails in one day, and some days, it's really easy to ignore them. When I'm busy and a publicist is emailing me something ridiculous that I don't want to deal with, it's easy to pretend I just never got it. But ignoring emails is rude, and on top of that, is going to end up costing you more work time than if you just responded right away. Answer your emails when you get them rather than waiting. It will make you feel more productive.
10. Make a to-do list to check off throughout the day.
The first thing I do when I get to work in the morning is make a to-do list. As I complete each item, I check it off. It's very satisfying and makes me feel productive. It also helps me remember everything I need to do, because it's easy to forget as new things pop up throughout the day. To-do lists might sound lame to some people, but trust me: they will make your day feel much more productive, which makes you feel good.
11. Make your commute more enjoyable.
A good work day starts with a good commute. Download music that makes you happy, and blast it on your way in to the office (in your car, or via headphones on public transportation). Not into that idea? Download audiotapes of books — this is especially helpful if you have a long drive to work. If you're taking public transportation, I suggest also bringing a sweater to keep you warm.
12. Keep your desk organized.
This sounds obvious, but it's really so incredibly easy to let your desk get super messy. It's hard to feel good about your day and yourself when you're sitting in a cluttered desk area. Buy cute office supplies to keep your desk looking nice and staying organized.
13. Make sure you take your vacation time.
I know way too many people who don't use their vacation time, and honestly, that's no way to live. We have vacation days for a reason — we need them to stay sane. I don't care if you have no money and nowhere to go. Have a staycation! Just don't let those days go to waste. Having some time off to look forward to makes any day in the office more manageable.
14. Talk to your coworkers.
The biggest reason I enjoy going into an office every day is because I am lucky enough to have incredible coworkers. I work with a lot of females who are badass, hilarious, and make every day better for me. We joke around together all day long and make each other laugh so much. Even when we're not joking, I know I can talk to them about anything. I understand you don't have control over who you work with, and maybe your coworkers suck. Or maybe, you're not giving them a chance! Just find at least one person you work with to make your office buddy. Trust me.
15. Drink water.
There are two benefits to drinking water throughout the day: one, it makes you pee a lot, so you're forced to get up and walk to the bathroom (since sitting all day might be slowly killing us, this is good). Two, water is vital for survival, so no big deal or anything, but you need it.
16. Have a treat close by.
I stock my desk with snacks every week. There is always something in there, whether it's candy, chocolates, cookies, or healthier snack options. Keep treats by your desk for those days you need a pick-me-up.
17. Carry a great bag that makes your life easier.
I see a lot of women go into work in NYC carrying small bags, and I truly do not understand how. A great bag that holds a lot and keeps it organized is so important. I suggest a bag like this Jemma one, which was created just for working women. It's a stylish leather handbag that also easily holds a laptop, has a separate spot for your phone, pens, and lip gloss, and more room for whatever else you need. I know this sounds like a weird tip, but as someone who consistently looks like a bag lady, I can tell you that a bag that carries everything is so helpful.
18. Sit by a window if possible.
I know that not everyone has the ability to choose where they sit, but if you do, sit by a window. Being near natural light is so much better than sitting under fluorescent lights. I recently switched to sitting next to a window, and it is truly wonderful.