Monthly Archives: June 2008

Fix Your Quasimodo Slouch: Tips for Correcting Poor Posture at Work

We’ve been taught the importance of good posture since we were little, but how many people actually took that information to heart? According to a study released by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is the most common cause of work-related disabilities in the United States. The study also shows that back pain is the leading reason for job absenteeism. More workers than ever before are spending long hours behind a desk and on a computer. Strains from poor posture while working will cause little aches and pains here and there, and over time, they add up to serious problems.

To help you correct your posture and dramatically improve the way your back feels at the end of a day in the office, try these tips below.

Adjust your monitor
Almost all problems with posture begin with tension around your neck and head. Begin by correcting your posture at the top, or all other methods will be ineffective. Try sitting down comfortably at your desk in a relaxed position with your eyes closed. Turn toward your computer screen, and then open your eyes. Where your eyes land is the ideal position for the center of your computer screen, because this position is the most natural, so adjust your screen accordingly.

Kick back at work
“Sit up straight.” Many have heard this admonition growing up, but as it turns out, your parents may have been giving out bad advice. A recent study by the Radiological Society of North America shows that the best position for your back is actually a reclined 135 degree position, not an upright 90 degree position. The reclined position calls for both feet to be planted on the floor with a relaxed 135 degree recline to remove pressure from the spinal disks in the lower back.

Don’t get stuck
To avoid being in one position all day and cause your muscles to stagnate, take quick breaks to adjust yourself and stretch. Try changing how you sit for certain tasks. For example, sit back in a relaxed position when you’re reading, but sit up toward the front of your seat when you’re writing. Lean back from your computer to adjust your neck around regularly to help prevent tension build up. Also, it’s good to stand up periodically while you work.

Keep your feet planted
When sitting behind your desk, keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees slightly apart. By sitting with one leg under you or crossing your legs, you are twisting your spine, and putting pressure on your knees and hips. Doing so will give you bad posture, compress your lower back and cause aches and pain in your body.

You can prevent back pain and injury and good posture is one of your best defenses.

Are you conscious of your posture at work? Are aches and pains causing you more trouble than before? Try these simple adjustments today, and see if you notice the difference.

5 Tips for a Safer Commute

Every five seconds, a car crash occurs, and many of these accidents happen while employees are on the job, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of work-related injuries, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). They are also the leading cause of death and injury across all age groups, OSHA says.

To protect yourself from dangers on the road, check out these five driving safety tips.

1. Avoid distractions.
When you’re distracted while you drive, your risk of having an accident increases dramatically. About 80% of car accidents occur due to some form of distraction, according to the NSC. Distractions can come from a variety of sources, including other passengers, radios or iPods, talking or texting on mobile phones, applying makeup, eating, and more. Though it can be tempting to multi-task, it’s important to focus on driving when you’re behind the wheel because for every mile you drive, you make about 200 decisions, OSHA says. Taking your eye off the road even for a split second increases your risk of an accident, so make sure driving is your one and only concern when you’re behind the wheel.

2. Get more sleep.
You might be asking yourself what sleep has to do with driving. Well, when it comes to safety on the road, it can be everything. Americans are chronically tired, and the effects of fatigue show up in more than just the faces of unrested workers. Drowsy driving accounts for over 100,000 crashes each year and at least 1,550 deaths. So if you find yourself driving to work tired each morning, try an earlier bed time. Turning up the radio or rolling down the window for fresh air won’t effectively combat the threats of drowsy driving.

3. Buckle up.
It may seem like obvious advice, but experts say that using your seatbelt each time you drive – no matter how far or near your destination – is the single best way to reduce the risk of death and serious injury in the car. In fact, the proper use of seatbelts saves 12,000 lives and prevents 325,000 injuries each year, according to OSHA. Plus, it’s the law in most states. So, protect yourself and everyone in your vehicle by making sure all belts are buckled before you start the car.

4. Leave your rage off the road.
Aggressive driving does more than just annoy the people around you. The behaviors associated with road rage, including excessive speeding, tailgating, running stop signs and lights, and more, greatly increase the threat of an accident. Though you may be in a hurry to get where you’re going and other drivers may do things to annoy you or slow you down, you won’t get to your destination any faster if you end up in a wreck. So, keep your road rage in check and enjoy the benefits of less stress and a safer commute. Even if you’re not prone to road rage, in a tense commute, it’s difficult to deal with crazy drivers around you. Instead of letting your frustrations materialize into risky driving behaviors, be a kind driver and avoid conflict with drivers around you.

5. Drive defensively.
No matter how safe a driver you are, many of the risks on the road involve other drivers. Always pay attention to the cars near you as well as to the traffic and road signs so that you can make the best defensive decisions on your drive. Pay careful attention each time you get behind the wheel, even if you’re driving a route so familiar you feel you could navigate it blindfolded. You never know when unexpected changes in the road or threats from other drivers around will appear, so always be on the alert. If a dangerous situation arises, remember that your safety is more important than it is to get where you’re going in record time. Don’t be afraid to slow down, pull off the road or contact the authorities if the need arises.

Being safe on the road is important not just for your own well-being, but for those around you as well. Make sure you’re safe on the road by using these tips.

Do you suffer from road rage or find yourself driving on little sleep often? Are you always talking on the phone while driving or getting annoyed at drivers who text on behind the wheel? Share your driving safety stories with us in the comments section. And don’t forget to vote in our poll to tell us where you stand on the issue of safety.

Want more driving safety tips? Check out these resources.
Driving Defensively
Night Driving
Accident Reporting

3 Reasons to Own Up to Your Mistakes

You’ve probably made a mistake at work, because we’re all human, and mistakes happen, whether big or small. But how you deal with your blooper moment can set you apart from others. Here are three reasons why you should admit your mistakes at work.

You’ll be better off. When you own up to your mistake, you can learn from it, put it behind you, and then move on. Telling the truth about your error will show others that you’re mature and professional, and they’ll view you as trustworthy. Taking responsibility for your actions is better than beating yourself up, or trying to cover up a mistake.

You can fix the mistake. If you make a mistake and admit it, you can create a plan with the help from others to figure out how you can correct it. Someone else may have made a similar error in the past and be able to guide you through a solution. Even though you made a mistake, admitting it and seeking counsel on how to correct it will show that you’re willing to do what it takes to ensure the same mistake won’t happen again.

Avoiding conflict only makes things worse. When you avoid conflict, lie about a mistake, or blame it on someone else, it can come back 10 times worse. Chances are, someone will find out what happened, and then you’ll have to face the consequences of escalating what may have been a small issue in addition to making the mistake itself to begin with. Consequences for covering up a mistake could be as harsh as getting fired, depending on the severity of the situation.

After making a mistake, your first impulse may be to forget it in hopes that it’ll go away. But the right choice is to admit your error, learn from your mistake, and take steps to change your process, behavior, or attitude.

3 Financial Tips to Prepare for a Layoff

According to a recent poll by The New York Times and CBS News, nearly three in 10 Americans believe that they or someone in their household might lose their job in the next 12 months. With the economy seeming to stall, businesses are cutting back their hiring practices and increasing their layoffs. Recent reports released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm that monitors layoff activity each month, show that U.S. companies gave pink slips to 103,522 people in May – the highest number of layoffs in two years.

If you’re concerned that you might be asked to leave the company, there are some things that you can do to prepare yourself financially in case of a layoff. Follow these tips below to weather the job loss until you can find a new job.

Build an emergency fund. Try and put as much cash as possible into a savings account. You can do this by stopping your 401(k) payments and having your employers give you the money instead of putting it directly into your retirement fund. If you have to withdraw money from this account later, it could cost you up to 10% in penalty charges as well as income tax payments. You can also lower the tax withholding on your paychecks. Your taxable gross income is likely to be lower even if you’re only out of a job for a few months. Also, start paying only the minimum payment on your credit cards, and put back the excess amount that you would normally pay into your savings account. When you start working again, go back to aggressively paying off your accounts.

Make a budget. Hopefully you have already established a budget, but if you haven’t then now’s the time to create one. Once you have a budget, make sure you cut back on all unnecessary items or charges. For example, if you have five cell phones, one for each member of your family, cut it down to two. Believe it or not, we did survive before cell phones were invented. Also, try carpooling to cut down on gas expenses, eat out less, and conserve on electricity all while putting the money you save into your emergency fund.

Apply for credit. Some experts suggest establishing lines of credit to help in case of an emergency and only in an emergency. Try getting a home equity line of credit. This isn’t a loan but it allows you to use your house as collateral in case you need some extra money. You can’t get this if you don’t have a job, so apply for it before you’re laid off. If you decide that lines of credit are your best option – be cautious. Only open enough accounts that aren’t going to put you in extreme debt in case you find yourself having to borrow more money than you thought. This can be a tricky backup plan, but if you play it safe and use it only as a lifeline, you should be able to bounce back without any lasting marks.

Layoffs can be scary but by preparing yourself ahead of time with these tips, you can make it through the tough times. Be conscious of your spending and be proactive in your savings – don’t wait until you’re laid off to start preparing.

Are you in fear of losing your job? What tips would you offer to help others prepare for a layoff?

Just How Safe Are You?

It’s national safety month during June, so now’s a great time to start thinking about how to be safe – both at home and at work. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about safety? Is it simply knowing how to be prepared in case of an emergency? Or is it understanding how to prevent an injury?

If you check out the National Safety Council (NSC) website, you’ll see that when it comes to safety, there is no one answer. Safety issues range from driving safely to disaster preparedness to slips and falls and beyond. Plus, safety issues vary and broaden over time, and the same safety guidelines for home may also apply at work.

You might be wondering why safety matters to you. Well, according to the most recent NSC report on U.S. injuries, over 26 million people experienced disabling injuries in 2006, and the cost of all classes of injuries that year was $652.1 billion. To help you protect yourself from the physical and financial toll of an injury, this series will provide safety tips you can use on the road, in the office, or out in the heat this summer.

Want more? Check out these 3 First Aid Tips for the Workplace, and be sure to check back for the rest of this series. Have a safety at work question? Leave it in the comments below.

Emotions in the Workplace: How to Control Your Emotions at the Office

Many people face challenges of dealing with their emotions in the workplace. Even though stress caused by a frustrating boss or technical difficulties can disrupt your ability to do your job, it’s important to keep your reactions professional. Though it can be tricky, here are a few ideas to help you control your emotions at work.

Identify what upsets you.
Hot buttons are issues or experiences that elicit a strong emotional reaction. Taking time to recognize your hot buttons will help prepare you to handle these situations when they arise. Though you may not be able to change how you feel, you can control how you’ll react by knowing what it is that sets you off.

Create a course of action.
After identifying your hot buttons so you can control your reactions, it’s important to create a strategy to deal with your feelings. This may include talking to your supervisor or writing down your thoughts to help smooth interpersonal frustrations.

Listen to music.
Simply listening to music can be a soothing way to calm your overwhelming emotions. Slip on some headphones and listen to music, and ask others around you to not disturb you when you have them on. Also, be sure to have the audio turned down low, and limit the time you have your headphones on in case a co-worker or supervisor needs to talk to you.

Reflect on yourself.
By taking personal responsibility to change yourself when you feel a surge of emotions at work, you’re displaying maturity and professionalism. As you reflect on your continual efforts to improve how you handle your emotions, try embracing a new perspective and changing your attitude overall.

Everyone experiences emotions including frustration, anger, and worry at the workplace, but it’s important to manage your emotions and keep your reactions professional. Have you ever let your emotions get the better of you? Have you found any other helpful tricks to control your emotions?

3 Tips to Stay Cool at Work this Summer

With the summer heat upon us, you may be tempted to pull out your summer attire of T-shirts and jean shorts for the office simply to stay cool. But it’s important to keep your work attire appropriate, even during the hot summer months. So, while you’re avoiding the summer’s top fashion faux pas, here are a few alternatives to help you stay cool and comfortable at work.

Drink plenty of water. Keeping your body replenished will help you regulate your body temperature and keep you from overheating. Drink plenty of liquids, especially water, to keep your body hydrated, but avoid too much caffeine because it can dehydrate you.

Turn on a fan. If you work in an office, bring a small, portable fan and face it toward you to push away the heat and create a cool breeze. Your co-workers may appreciate the air flow, too, but if they don’t, use a non-oscillating fan. You can also try using a handheld mister or battery-operated fan if you work outdoors or don’t have access to an electrical outlet.

Wear lighter fabrics. Just because you shouldn’t wear tank tops and flip flops to the office doesn’t mean you can’t make summer wardrobe selections. Choose light-colored fabrics if you’re outdoors in the heat to reflect more of the sun. And, if you work indoors, choose light-weight fabrics that breathe and won’t trap the heat next to your body, such as cotton or linen.

Using these tips will help you keep cool while maintaining your professional image at work during the long, hot summer days.