7 Work Habits That Are Making You Sick

They might seem trivial, but these habits could lead to sick days.


In Pictures: 7 Work Habits That Are Making You Sick


4. Your choice to skip breakfast. You might not feel hungry for breakfast if you work a sunrise shift. Or perhaps your mad dash to make the morning meeting just doesn't leave time for bacon and eggs. Whatever your reason for skipping breakfast, Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian and food and nutrition expert, urges you to change your ways. "By skipping breakfast, you're basically telling your body, 'let's not be able to focus and concentrate, and let's not have energy.'" she says. "Food gives you the calories to boost your energy, and it boosts your blood sugar. You need breakfast to give you that boost after fasting all night. Not doing so compromises your ability to focus and be productive."

[In Pictures: What a "Power" Breakfast Really Looks Like.]

You don't have to get that first meal in right when you wake up, though. Scritchfield suggests you eat sometime within two hours of rising. "Or you could decide to eat a piece of fruit first thing, and then wait until you get in the office to have something else," she says.

Skipping the morning meal could also lead to an afternoon binge. "It sets you up to get hungry, to overeat at lunch, and then to get more tired during the second half of the day," says Scritchfield, who also blogs about nutritional practices at the site Rebeccathinks.com. "It could also lead you to race to the vending machine, where there are poor food choices." 

5. Your out-of-the-office lunches. Picking up lunch on-the-go is a nutritional land mine, where choices range from posh and pricey to cheap and carbohydrate-filled. More often that not, you have no idea about the nutrition facts of the food you've grabbed. "The cheaper food is the faster, easier option, and it tends to be loaded with processed carbs," says Scritchfield. Not only are those types of meals fattening, but they'll also zap you of energy.

Your safest, most affordable option would be packing a healthy lunch at home. But if you're going to eat on the run, Scritchfield suggests looking for places that serve minimally processed food. "The energy-producing foods are going to be very rich in vitamins and minerals. You're going to need to meet your veggie targets. If half of your plate isn't vegetables, then you don't have enough," she explains. "Also eat fruits, beans, and lean proteins like fish. And stick to the whole grains for carbohydrates, so try having sweet potatoes, quinoa, or wheat."

6. Your at-your-desk snacking. So you start with a balanced breakfast and take a noon-day break to enjoy a pre-packed and healthy lunch. But you choose to munch on your goodies while sitting in your cubicle. This could cause two problems. One, there are the little crumbs and germs that will miss your mouth and hit the desk and keyboard, and two, you'll be eating amidst days-old crumbs and germs that had previously missed your mouth and hit the desk and keyboard. Gross.

A recent study by the paper products and cleaning solutions company Kimberly-Clark Professional found that computer keyboards are one of the dirtiest spots in a workplace; they're crawling with a molecule known as ATP that is found in most living organisms and which can lead to illness if found in excess. If you want to keep germ ingestion to a minimum, try eating away from your desk as often as possible. If you do snack while sitting, be sure to disinfect your keyboard and the surrounding area both before and after eating.

[Quiz: How Dingy Is Your Workplace?]

7. Your posture. Your deadline is looming and the pressure is mounting, so of course your shoulders are slumping. Practicing poor office ergonomics (in other words, failing to sit properly at your office desk) could lead to muscle strain and fatigue. And forgetting to take breaks from sitting all day could cause poor circulation. "I tell people to think about how they feel after a long car ride," says Dan MacLeod, a professional ergonomist. "Your muscles are achy, you're exhausted, you're wiped out. That's because you've been sitting so long. So you've got to get up and move around. There is no correct posture for an eight-hour work day."