people in an office environment

WellNYS in the Workplace

Over 50 ideas on how to engage in healthy behaviors in the NYS workplace.

Tips for WellNYS in the Workplace

Practice Random Acts of Kindness in the Workplace 

Since we spend so much time in our workplaces, it’s a good place and opportunity to practice this Monthly Challenge. Here are some ways to spread kindness in the workplace:

  • A very simple and kind gesture is to offer help. Jump in when you see someone doing a big job on their own; it will be truly appreciated.
  • Any work day is a great day to surprise a co-worker with a cup of tea or coffee. If they ask why, say "just because."


Can You Stand on One Foot?

As you age, your body’s ability to balance declines and how fast that happens depends whether you do physical activity on a regular basis or are sedentary. Here is an easy move to try; balance on one leg for up to 30 seconds then switch legs. This can easily be done anywhere.


During the Workday Spend More Time Moving and Less Time Sitting
Do This
Not That
Stand or pace when talking on the phone Sit when talking on the phone
Take the stairs Take the elevator
Set your phone alarm to signal when to get up Sit all day without taking breaks
Fidget while on the phone Sit still while on the phone


Dealing With and Changing the Negative Energy From Others

Is Debbie Downer one of your co-workers? This fictional character refers to someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them. When someone challenges everything you say or a co-worker points out the negative aspects of everything, it may feel like these comments are aimed at you and you may feel depleted when you finally get away from them. There are ways to deal with these conversations and change the energy to something more optimistic. Focus on the positive experiences happening, and express gratitude. Try the opposite approach with Debbie Downer by being friendly and providing compliments; this person may change their approach.


Substitute a Piece of Fruit for a Sugary Snack During the Work Day

Here are three ways to add more fruit to your work day:

  • Get rid of the junk food stashed in your desk, locker, or work area, and stock up on healthy snacks, such as dried fruit. This will help you beat that two o'clock slump.
  • When packing your lunch today, put in three pieces of fruit, for example, an apple, orange and banana.
  • Keep fruit out in plain sight so you will be more likely to choose it over a sugary snack.


Fruit of the Week Basket

Every Monday bring in apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapefruit, or other fruit. Send an email to your co-workers and invite them to have a piece.


Healthy Reminders
  • Put up a sign next to your work area, desk, or cubicle, such as:
  • Make healthy choices today.
  • Stand up and move at the beginning of every hour.
  • What are you doing to stay healthy today?
  • What fruit will you choose today?
  • What time are you exercising today?


Unplug on Your Break Today

When you take a morning, lunch, or afternoon break, unplug completely. Leave your phone off and go a tech-free zone where there are no smart phones, tablets, or computers. A few moments away from technology can give you a few moments for reflection or meditation.


Stay Home When You Are Sick

If you have any symptoms of illness, or are not feeling well, stay home. Everyone who is well in your workplace wants to stay that way.


Start a Gratitude Journal and Write About the Things and People for Whom you are Grateful

This challenge can be done anywhere and at any time. It involves self-discovery and moments of being humble about every part of your life. A gratitude journal can be a new notebook, a page in your existing calendar, a scratch pad in your desk or your purse, or leather bound book. The key to whatever you use is to go back to the same place and add to your gratitude list everyday.


Make a List

Many of us have a "to-do" list every day. It may include tasks that need to be completed today, or projects that need your attention. Along with your "to-do" list, start a gratitude list. Think about what you are grateful for - family, friends, job, and home may be on your list. Think of other things, such as your health, or a co-worker or supervisor who challenges you on a daily basis.


Appreciation for Your Work

Every day you wake up and head to work in your chosen profession. Whatever position that is, you probably took time to go to school, or to get licensed, or spent hours of time studying, or took a test to get the job. Remember the very first day you started that position? Remember the excitement, the nerves, and also the possibilities of what that job would bring you? Take a moment to write down who helped you along the way, who retired before you, who inspired you, and who you see every day that assists you with your work. Jot these names down in your gratitude journal, and give each person a moment of appreciation for the ways they have supported and aided your career.


Today is Going to be a Healthy Day

Start the day by getting up 30 minutes earlier to go for a walk or engage in stretches in your bedroom. Tell your family, "Have a great day!" Drink some water and have a healthy breakfast before your coffee or tea. Pack a healthy lunch such as a salad with chicken and light dressing, or a whole grain pita with lots of vegetables and dressing, a piece of fruit, or package of almonds. Park a distance away from the door at work, and enjoy the walk to the door. Fill your water bottle and drink from it all day. Get in the habit of standing whenever you speak on the phone, or get up every 30 minutes to stretch and walk around. Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Ask a co-worker what is going well at work? Have your healthy snack a few hours after you begin your work day. You have the ability to keep your stress in check all day long. Go for a walk during your breaks, or just sit outside and enjoy nature. Take everything in stride today; make it your goal to keep your stress level in check. When it's time to head home, make a mental note of everything that went really well today and what you did to engage in healthy behaviors.


Just Say No to Candy

At Halloween time, the stores are teeming with candy. This is the time many co-workers tend to place candy dishes on their desks and around the workplace. Instead of having a candy bowl in your work area where you most likely will be tempted, keep a fruit bowl or sugar free candy on your desk so you can reach there if you are in need of something sweet.


Purchase Healthy Breakfasts for Your Entire Work Week, All in One Shopping Trip

On the day before your work week begins, go grocery shopping and choose one breakfast for each work day. Healthy options include Greek yogurt, fruit, hard boiled eggs, whole grain bread with peanut butter, oatmeal, whole grain cereal, or breakfast bars.


Sit … Stand … Sit … Stand …Sit … Stand

Instead of simply sitting in your chair, use sitting time as an opportunity to move your body. Instead of completely sitting down the first time, let your buttocks touch the chair, then, stand up again. Do it again, and again, and again until you’ve done it 10 times. You’ve just completed a set of squats right at your desk. Try it; you may start a new trend in your workplace.



Do you reach for a cup of coffee as soon as you get to work in the morning? How many hours did you sleep last night? Many people may say, "Not enough." The average number of hours of sleep an adult needs is between seven and a half and eight hours. So, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, go to bed 30 minutes earlier than you did last night. Thirty more minutes can make a noticeable difference the next day.


Desk Trinkets Can Assist with Managing Stress

Keeping a few trinkets on your desk to fiddle with when you feel a rise in stress can be helpful. A Slinky®, putty, magnetic sculptures, bendable figures, and squeeze balls can be something to do with your hands if you are experiencing a stressful moment.


Need a Stress Break?

If your stress level is a 10 out of 10, how do you handle stress in the workplace? Here’s an idea, think of the funniest person in your office. This would be a person who makes you laugh, and makes you feel good when you speak to them. When you are feeling more stress than usual, see if this person is available to take a break or take a walk. Instead of focusing on why your stress is at a 10, allow yourself a brief, light, and amusing distraction.


Make Water Your Beverage of Choice Three Times Each Day

What do you drink at work? Do you reach for soda, or sweetened ice tea, or coffee? Bring in a bottle of water, and alternate sips of water with the other beverage.


Accessorize Your Water

Instead of just drinking plain water, accessorize it by adding wedges of lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange, or herbs such as mint, basil, or rosemary. Drink your water in a water goblet, a coffee cup, or consider purchasing a new water bottle. You may also want to have a list of water recipes so you can change up your water each time.


Here are Two Stress Reducing Ideas to Try on Your Next Ten Minute Break:
  • Take a walk outdoors and find something in nature that catches your eye. It may be the clouds drifting across the sky or a bird nesting in a tree. Let go of what was happening that caused you stress and devote a few moments to being mindful of the beauty in nature.
  • It’s time for a visual vacation. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and recall your favorite vacation spot. Imagine the restaurants you would like to eat in, the activities you would like do, and where you would stay. What is the weather like? How does your mind and body feel when you are on this vacation?


Have a “Fruit and Veggie Swap” Day

A swap is simple; people give whatever surplus home-grown produce they don’t need, in exchange for whatever they can use from someone else’s surplus. In August, it’s common to have a garden overflowing with vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. Choose a day to have the “Fruit and Veggie Swap” in your workplace. Advertise it with a sign announcing the date, location, and time. Encourage employees to bring in what they have and take what they need.


What Is on Your Summer Want-To-Do List?

As the summer days come to a close, what haven’t you done that you were daydreaming of doing back when it was 15 degrees outside? Here are a few ideas: swimming at a lake, hiking a local peak, running in a 5K, kayaking, going to a new beach, visiting or camping at a NYS park, and going to a local county fair. Have you taken any time off this summer? Is it time to put in for a couple of days of annual leave so you can relax and come back to work refreshed?


Get Up 10 Minutes Early to Take a Walk, Do Yoga Poses, or Stretch

Start your work day with one activity, or all three. There are several advantages to getting your workout completed first thing in the morning: the sun is up early at this time of year; it’s usually the coolest time of the day; and you’ll have more time later because you’ve already worked out. Do it for 21 days to complete the Monthly Challenge and to earn a certificate.


Have You Adopted a Healthy Habit?

Have you lost weight or participated in a running or walking event? Do you feel healthier and want to shout it out loud? Log onto the WellNYS Everyday website and click on the yellow portal in the middle of the page that says “I Did It!” More than 40 NYS employees and family members have shared inspiring success stories about themselves and others in the workplace.


Do You Skip Your Break or Work Through Lunch? 

If you are one of these folks, stand up! Now, take a walk - outside if you can. Breathe the fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, observe the world around you, and just listen to what is happening outside. Look up at the clouds as they move across the sky. Just taking a short walk can energize you, clear your head, and lower your stress level. It only takes five or ten minutes to feel better.


Here are Three Ideas for a Homemade Light Lunch that Will Energize You Throughout the Day
  • You can’t go wrong with PB & J. Make it on whole wheat bread and use all natural jam and peanut butter to make it a healthier, low cholesterol option.
  • Use leftover chicken to make homemade chicken salad. Add onions, celery, grapes, slivered almonds, and low fat mayonnaise.
  • Load up a whole wheat wrap with veggies like spinach, peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Add a few slices of lean deli turkey and use hummus as a spread instead of mayonnaise.
  • On the side, have a piece of fresh or dried fruit, a small salad, or low fat Greek yogurt to go with your healthy lunch from home.


As the Weather Warms Up, the Need to Hydrate Becomes Extremely Important

At work, drink chilled water every 20-30 minutes to energize you and to replace fluids lost through perspiration.


Notice the Effects of Exercise 

Physical activity helps build muscle, reduce fat, strengthen the lungs and heart, reduce stress, and energize our bodies. Reflect on how physical activity during the day is improving your body and your mental health. Keep a log of your progress. The next time you consider skipping a workout, take out your list and remember how good physical activity makes you feel.


Don't Be a Waiter

You've probably been in the elevator at work and overheard someone mention how many years, months, weeks, and days until they retire. A waiter is someone who is always focused on their next accomplishment, their next vacation, or their retirement date. They wait for tomorrow to happen, in anticipation of being happy then. If you find yourself being a waiter, practice being in the “now”, by being mindful of what is happening in your environment at the moment. If you stop being a waiter, you will create more energy in your life today, and this day, at this time, is really what matters.


Just Breathe 

One of the easiest and most powerful ways to manage stress is to simply take a deep breath. With your eyes open or closed, draw a breath that fills your lungs and belly with air; then pause, and slowly let all of the air escape. Repeat this five times. You can do this anywhere, so if you feel your stress level rising, breathe deep.


Go Nuts

Just a handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or even pumpkin seeds provide a boost of energy and a serving of healthy fat. Nuts (and seeds) are a handy snack and easy to keep in your car, desk, locker, purse, or bag.


Participate in a Community Walk or Run

To find out about events in other communities, click on the WellNYS Everyday Physical Activities Around New York State - Running and Walking web page.


Walking Map from Your Workplace

Check out the NYS Workplace Walking Maps on the WellNYS Everyday home page. If your workplace is not already listed, consider being the first to map a route around the grounds of your workplace. It’s easy; just click on, put in your address, and map out a half mile trail, or a loop around the nearest block. 


Move - Move - Move

Did you ever notice the more you sit in a chair the more tired you feel?  Your body is looking for energy and the best way to get it is to move.  To celebrate National Employee Health and Fitness Month, this month, try moving at your work station: circle your hips, march, walk or jog in place, bend your knees, flex your ankles, or swing your arms around.  Any activity is better for your health than sitting still with your hands on your keyboard or in your lap. 


Can You Spare 20 Minutes During the Workday for Meditation?

Spend 20 minutes in meditation, quiet reflection, or writing in a journal. When your day is filled with ringing phones and work that requires concentration, try to make time for a quiet break. There is a quote by Buddha Grove that states, "If you are too busy to meditate, it's time to meditate." On most days, breaks are spent talking on the phone, drinking coffee, and chatting with co-workers. Instead of remaining amidst the commotion, find a quiet place to close your eyes and sit in meditation or jot down your thoughts in quiet reflection. During a longer lunch break, take a walking meditation, or simply go outside, sit next to a tree, and reflect on something for which you are grateful.


Fidgeting While Working

Fidgeting may be defined as restless movement in the dictionary, but it’s a great way to fight being sedentary. Instead of sitting still, fidget while you are sitting. Tap your foot, flex your ankles, squeeze your abdominals, or put the rollers on your chair to good use by rolling the chair back and forth and from side to side frequently during the day. For an easy way to work your waist, keep your feet in one place and move your knees to the right, then to the left. Do this for a few minutes each hour.


Extra Pair of Sneakers

The best place to store an extra pair of sneakers is under your desk, in your work locker, or even in your car. This way, you will always be prepared to go for a swift walk or a short jog.


Deskfast, it’s the New Breakfast

Many of us find that weekday mornings are hectic and sometimes we skimp on breakfast. Instead of stopping at the local coffee shop or fast food place, make time to pop into a grocery store and stock up on a week’s worth of healthy nonperishable staples for deskfast. A few good suggestions are packets of dried fruit, small boxes of cereal, granola bars, instant oatmeal, cereal bars, and trail mix. If you are prepared, you will be less likely to grab something unhealthy at a drive-thru.


Share Healthy Snacks in the Workplace

In many workplaces, co-workers like to bring in food to share. Choose a Healthy Snack, consider bringing in healthy snacks to share. Some ideas include a bunch of bananas, or a bag of apples, oranges, carrots, or pretzels. Ask your co-workers if they would like to be involved and each of you can pick a week to bring in the healthy snacks. If you have four people participating, you would each only need to bring in the healthy snack once per month. Not only will you be eating healthy, so will the people around you.


Is Sitting the New Smoking? 

Based on new research, it appears that the amount of time spent on the couch or in a chair may increase your risk of developing heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even premature death. In fact, Marc Hamilton, a leading researcher on inactivity physiology, suggests that sitting is "the new smoking." James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and researcher, says obese people sit an average of two-and-a-half hours more every day than thinner people. When you sit for long periods of time, your body goes into "storage mode" and can even make your bottom bigger. Sitting in front of the TV isn't the only health concern. Any prolonged sitting, such as behind a desk or the steering wheel, can be harmful. The solution requires less sitting and more overall activity. While you're working, you might try a standing desk or holding walking meetings with colleagues. Less intrusive options include taking frequent standing breaks, stretching, walking for a bit every 90 minutes, standing while talking on the phone, and making a habit of taking the stairs. Source: Mayo Clinic


Join a Water Club

Many folks chip in to purchase bottled water in the workplace. The clear, cold water is appealing and encourages people to drink more water. You can also add some fruity flavors like lemon, lime, orange, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, or a combination of a few. How about trying strawberry-mango, cucumber-lime-basil, rosemary-orange, ginger-lemon-mint-cucumber, cherry-lime, or watermelon-basil? It’s a great idea to just bring a pitcher to work, fill it with cold water, add the fruit or herbs, and let it sit for a few hours.


Take a "Thank You" Walk in the Middle of the Work Day

Take a simple 10-minute walk each day and quietly think about what you are thankful for. This will set the foundation for a positive day. For example, "I am thankful for my job, my family, the sun shining in my face..." Expressing gratitude can bring a sense of well-being to your busy work day and lessen the stress you feel. Source:


What Time are You Engaging in Physical Activity Today? 

Typically, your schedule dictates what happens in the course of a day. A standing Monday morning staff meeting, carpooling obligations, your child’s sporting events, or weekly grocery shopping are examples of activities you commit to doing. You have a better chance of engaging in physical activity if you commit to building it into your daily schedule. Putting physical activity on your calendar, setting a reminder alarm on your cell phone, or just including another person in your exercise routine, will increase the likelihood that you will establish a healthy habit.


Take the Stairs

Taking a walk during the work day can be difficult when it’s snowy or icy, but you can head for the stairwell for your daily dose of physical activity. At many worksites, stairs are readily available.

Here are some tips for taking the stairs:

  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • When traveling up, lean slightly forward, hold the handrail and make sure your entire foot steps on the stair.
  • When traveling down, hold onto the handrail, and be careful where you place your feet.
  • Take the restroom challenge. Take the stairs to the rest room on another floor.
  • If you’re traveling fewer than three floors, make it a habit to always take the stairs.
  • Think about taking the stairs every time you wait for the elevator.
  • Get off the elevator two floors before your floor and take the stairs to your floor.
  • Promote the mid-morning and mid-afternoon stair challenge; encourage coworkers to walk the stairs on a 10-minute break.


Soup Please

Everyone has to eat during the workday. On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, schedule days on which co-workers bring in a crockpot of soup. There are many healthy soups such as minestrone, chicken noodle, lentil, French onion, turkey chili, or clam chowder. A crockpot of soup can serve a large number of your co-workers.


Make a List of Five People You are Grateful to Have in Your Workplace, and You Tell Them You Are

The workplace is the perfect environment in which to give people praise. Thank your boss for approving your much-needed time off. Thank your project team for taking the lead on a difficult task. Or simply thank the person next to you for their contribution to your work. We spend much of our day together, and gratitude and praise go a long way toward boosting morale.


Keep a Bottle of Water with You During the Workday

How long has it been since you had a sip of water? Has it been 2 minutes, 25 minutes or a couple of hours? Water is the only beverage your body needs and craves. To encourage your co-workers to drink water with you, choose a time in the day to clink your water bottles and say "Cheers... here’s to your health!"


Have a Healthy Salad Luncheon with Your Coworkers

Create a list of items on a salad bar and have everyone bring in one ingredient and their favorite healthy salad dressing. So if 5 people participate and bring in lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and croutons, the salad will have 5 ingredients, 10 people, then 10 ingredients.


Create a Healthy Food Table

Encourage coworkers to bring in fruit, vegetables, nuts or low fat snacks such as pretzels or hot air popped corn.


Ask a Coworker to Go for a Walk Every Wednesday

Instead of discussing what is happening at work, decide on a theme before you start walking such as; favorite restaurants in the area, favorite vacation spot in the winter or favorite all time movie. It will take away the stress of the work day and give your mind a break from focusing on what is happening in your work environment.


Try a Mindful Break

Everyone needs a break from work, but many times we take a break and do something that creates more stress. Find a quiet place and just close your eyes and listen to yourself breathe. Count 10 deep breaths with your eyes closed and just tell yourself to relax.


Choose Thankful Instead of Stressful

Emotional wellness is just as important as physical wellness. Take some time during the day and ask yourself what you are thankful for. Write out a list or say out loud or just think about it. You’ll be thankful you did.