Hands Typing on a Laptop Sitting on Modern Desk Pad in Dove, Surrounded by Modern Desk Collection in Dove

Between commuting to or from work and actual working time, the typical US employee will spend an average 90,000 hours or one-third of their life on the job. The Leatherology team knows from personal experiences that deadlines, due dates, doctor appointments, performance reviews, grocery shopping, team meetings, and daycare pickups can make the day-to-day feel chaotic. However, we are sharing seven tips for equipment adjustments and time management skills that worked for us so you can create healthy habits to reduce your stress and increase your productivity in the workplace.

How Do I Find a Better Work-Life Balance?

The right work-life balance has plenty of positive benefits including better sleep, higher levels of overall contentment, and feeling empowered in your decisions at home and in your career. A good schedule supported by planning, an organized workspace, routine breaks, and calming techniques will help you with workplace stress management.

 

The juggling act of finding work-life balance can be stressful and it can hurt your efficiency at work. According to the mental health nonprofit, Mental Health America (MHA), “Survey responses from more than 11,300 U.S. employees across 17 industries in 2021 showed 71% of respondents found it difficult to concentrate at work, compared to 65% in 2020 and 46% in 2018."

 

Despite many companies investing in programs that focus on stress management and burnout prevention, the MHA also reports that “employees may have become desensitized or adjusted to an increased level of sustained stress and unease over the past two years.” The following tips are meant to shake up that acceptance of stress and anxiety as part of your daily routine and develop the skills needed to boost confidence in your own abilities.

Tip #1 Adjust Your Computer Brightness or Add a Blue Filter

Have you ever reached the end of a work week and could barely keep your eyes open? Or had dry eyes, possibly coupled with a headache? These are signs of digital eyestrain or fatigue. When you spend 40 hours viewing a computer and another 10-20 hours or more scrolling through your phone, the blue light from those screens paired with bad lighting in your environment or bad posture may irritate your eyes, interrupt your sleep patterns, and make it difficult to focus.

 

There are several ways to ease or prevent eye fatigue by ensuring you have the right contrast. You can adjust the brightness of your screen to a lower or higher setting in the display control panel. You can also use “dark mode” on many software programs and web browsers to reverse the contrast to dark backgrounds and light text.

 

Another mode you might be able to use to create contrast while easing up on blue light is called “night mode” or “night shift”. This mode is often a simple switch located in the display settings of newer computers that alter the color temperature of your screen. For visual work that requires color accuracy, the warm colors used by night mode can be set on a schedule to activate only when you need them.

 

In addition to dark and night modes, people who wear glasses, as many of our team members do, might find relief from adding a blue light filter to their prescription eyewear. A coating is added to your lenses to block blue light and cut down on glare from your computer screen. For those of us who don’t wear glasses or prefer contacts, there is also the option to purchase computer reading glasses with the blue filter built-in for this specific purpose.

Tip #2 Use an Ergonomic Chair or Keyboard for Better Posture

At home or in the office, we know you have a favorite desk chair. Since we spend a lot of the workday sitting down, we’re happy to report that the chairs at our office are a good start to a comfortable sit. An ergonomic office chair will support your spinal column, allowing you to listen to your mother and do your back a favor by sitting up straight.

 

The best ergonomic desk chairs offers excellent back support and are adjustable so the height of your chair can be lowered or raised to allow enough space for your legs to fit under your desk with some room to spare. Good chair posture means your feet are flat and your thighs are parallel or level to the floor. Adjustable armrests are a nice feature where you can rest your forearms with your shoulders back and relaxed. As a bonus, everyone loves a rolling desk chair to maneuver around the office.

 

Alternatives to the standard desk chair include exercise balls, various types of rolling stools, kneeling desk chairs, and under-desk stationary bikes, each with their own pros and cons.

 

Since the most movements during office hours involve just your hands and wrists, invest in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse pad. Some ergonomic keyboards have a curved design to allow your wrist a place to rest and place your fingers in the perfect positions for typing. Special padded mats as keyboard rests and mouse pads also give your wrists a break.

 

To keep your movements to a minimum and reduce the strain on your arms, you should place any items you use frequently—phone, pens, sticky notes, stapler—within arm’s reach and any secondary monitor at arm’s length and at or slightly below eye level.

Tip #3 Take Periodic Breaks and Remember to Stretch

Many meetings, to-do lists, and tasks means a lot of decisions to make, and it can be overwhelming. The easiest way to prevent decision fatigue is simply to take a break. Experts have stated that, at most, the average person can only truly concentrate for about 90 minutes. After that, your energy, memory, motivation, creativity, and attention span start to fade.

 

The frequency and length of your break can vary dependent on your work style and the current task. You should schedule to take a break at least every 75-90 minutes. Desktime, an app that tracks productivity, suggests a very specific formula of 17-minute break for every 52 minutes of concentration. While the Pomodoro Technique involves short five-minute breaks for every 25 minutes, and after four cycles of short break/longer focus, you can reward yourself with a long 30-minute break.

 

Make sure your break is an intentional use of time. Plan to do things that reset and relax your mind, whether it means taking a quick walk, working on a sudoku puzzle book, stretching, or sharing a good laugh with a friend. If you have been staring at a computer screen for the last hour, then the last thing you should do is stare at the smaller screen on your phone or tablet. That excludes mindlessly scrolling through social media, fog eating aka snacking when you are bored, or even shopping. Save those activities for when you get off work.

 

Even the best ergonomic desk chairs can’t eliminate the need for a good stretch. We are big fans of yoga on the Leatherology team, but even if you don’t have room for a downward dog at your office, you can still get up and touch your toes. Sitting still for long periods of time can decrease blood flow so it is important to leave your seat during your break and move your legs, feet, arms, and back.

 

Try stretching your arms out to the sides and then in front of you to link your fingers together, forwards and backwards, to ease some tension out of your neck and shoulders. Cross one arm straight over your chest like you are reaching for your opposite shoulder while bending your non-stretching arm up to hold it in place and reverse to stretch your bent arm. Or reach back with one arm at a time, behind your head, to touch the top of your back.

 

Don’t forget to give your torso a twist from side to side to loosen up your spinal column. If you can’t get up to do these stretches, you can still stretch your arms and twist your torso. Then try raising and lowering your legs, rotating your ankles, or curling and uncurling your toes while seated.

Tip #4 Switch to a Standing Desk

The best stretch to combat long periods of sitting down at a desk is to simply stand up at your desk. The health benefits of using a standing desk include potentially reducing blood sugar levels and back pain, preventing weight gain or heart disease, and improving your mood and productivity. A good standing desk allows you to stand at full height, keeping your display monitor at eye level and your forearms evenly perpendicular to just below chest height for easy access your keyboard.  

 

Ideally, the standing desk for your home office should be adjustable and convertible, so you can set it to your height and it can be lowered to a standard desk position for when you need to sit. If you work in an office with a module or interconnected cubicle style setup, use a smaller desktop stand as another way to achieve a standing desk configuration while using a regular desk as the base.

 

A manual standing desk may use a lever or pull method to convert, which can be heavy or awkward to switch back depending on how many items are on the desk. You can make the switch easier by selecting an electric version of a standing desk that uses a motor and will not strain your arms.

 

A full standing desk tends to be narrow in width but lengthy. To make your desk feel less utilitarian, try our Extra Long Modern Desk Pad with its smooth yet scratch and water-resistant leather for a durable and impressive look.

 

Another unusual but beneficial standing desk is the desk treadmill. For those of us with good coordination, a desk attached to a treadmill would allow you to get your exercise in for the day while also meeting your deadlines.

Tip #5 Change Your Office Space

Another way to make your desk more productive is to leave it behind. Sometimes you need a new environment to make progress at work. If you are able, change spaces by leaving your current workspace entirely or switching rooms or areas at home or in the office throughout the day for a different pace.

 

First, you need to decide what are the most important desk items you need to take with you. Items like your laptop, charger, notebook or planner and pen, and any important papers, or in our case leather samples and styles, are a good place to start.

 

We love our Modern Desk Collection because we designed it to be the most versatile and easily portable way to carry and create your office in any space and work from anywhere. The thin shape and simple lines of our popular Modern Mouse Pad are hallmarks of the collection. Our Modern Desk Pad in any size is slim and flexible enough to easily roll up and carry in your tote or work bag. Both our Modern Valet Trays and Modern Pencil Cups are made to unsnap and flatten to take up less room.

 

It is easy to mix and match pieces from our scratch and water-resistant collection to create an impressive desk for your dedicated office or transition to just a mouse pad for work mode at your favorite local coffee shop.

Tip #6 Honor Your Starting and Stopping Times

It can be tempting to work just a little longer on a task to make it feel more complete. However, it is also easy to get sucked into working 12 hours a day and not realizing how much that takes a toll on your health and focus. Maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting boundaries. That means choosing reasonable start and stop times for every work day and sticking to them.

 

Consider how long you spend on daily tasks, such as answering emails or in meetings, and plan your day accordingly. Schedule start and stop times for each task and do your best to keep to them. Also take note of tasks that take longer than anticipated or you plan to spend a lot of time on. If you consider your main job responsibilities, time sensitivity, and importance of the task, that should determine how much time you should or can devote to each task.

 

Also consider your personal work style. Even if you are not able to work at your preferred time, like from 5am to 1pm for an early riser or 4pm to midnight for a night owl, you can adjust to get the most work done during your most energetic time periods. A morning person might be more effective tackling their most difficult or detail-oriented task in morning while those who prefer a later start can hit their optimal work mode in the afternoon.

 

It is okay to start a little earlier than usual if you plan to also end your work day a little sooner. Vice versa, if prior commitments like doctor’s appointments delay the start to your day, you can choose to work a little longer or cut your lunch break a little short to make up that time. If you are missing more than 90 minutes of work, consider using a vacation day instead to account for the time and lower your own anxiety about missing work.

 

Furthermore, we cannot emphasize enough to use your sick time and vacation days. In 2018, 55% of Americans did not use all of their PTO or paid time off. Instead, we leave an average of 6.5 days unused each year. It is understandable if those vacation days rollover but a break from work is also essential to preventing job burnout and recharging your mind when you return to work. Also, you should use your sick days; an illness will not allow you to concentrate on work while your body fights to get well.

 

We respect that our team members have families and commitments outside of Leatherology and that requires a little flexibility for work environments and schedules. Our amazing team works together to help each other find the rhythm and balance that is beneficial for everyone while also accomplishing our goals. We discovered during the pandemic that our hybrid schedule, several days in office and several days remote, actually enabled our team to become even more productive and adaptable.

Tip #7 Plan Ahead to Stay On Task and On Time

Our final tip is like an extension of tip #6 to aid in time management. To keep track of all those starting and stopping times, meetings, deadlines, grocery lists, and anything else that needs doing, we recommend you use a planner.

 

You can claim to have a good memory but for complicated tasks with multiple steps, occurrences, or input from other people, it is best to write the key points down. Just like taking notes, by writing down the facts and any thoughts on the matter, you can stay focused on the task at hand and always know what is coming next.

 

We offer two types of planners for organization. Our annual 2023 Planner is the more structured, yearly planner complete with set dates and spaces for each week throughout the year. However, our Open Dated Planner offers more control over your calendar with blank monthly and weekly spaces so you can decide when and how to use your planner. Undated planners are more like agenda books, you can choose to use them only when your life is at its busiest or perhaps to organize your calendar in a different format than the standard planner would allow.

Honorable Mention: Practice Meditation at Work

One of the activities you can choose to do during your breaks to reduce stress at work is meditation. Mediation comes in many forms, from quiet stillness of traditional practices to the active movement of Tai Chi. For mediation at work, you can try heading to a quiet space outside or in your car to close your eyes and collect your thoughts.

 

During overwhelming moments, try box breathing or square breathing. This meditative breathing technique involves a repetitive count. Basically, you pick a time, usually between 4 and 10 seconds, to slowly inhale and exhale. Using the 4-count as an example, inhale slowly for four seconds and then hold your breath for four seconds. Next, exhale for four seconds and hold your breath for another count of four. Repeat this inhale-hold-exhale-hold for three to four cycles until you feel your calm return.

 

A more active mediation approach could be going for a walk around your office building or making use of the office treadmill. Center and slow your mind down by paying close attention to the details of the physical activity rather than what is next on your to-do list.

 

We hope you will use these tips on time and stress management and invest in desk accessories and furniture for your work or home office to have a more productive day and create better work-life balance. Life is stressful but work, at least, doesn’t have to be.