Hydration at Work

In the UK 60% of the population drink just one glass or less of water a day, while only 1 in 250 of us are drinking enough water to function to our full potential.

Every one of us is made up of water, broken down our muscle mass consists of 75% water; our bones; 22%, while our blood is 83% water, and our brain consists of a staggering 90% water. To function properly and remain healthy we need to be hydrated. In return, we will benefit in both our personal and professional life.

Heightened mental alertness

Dehydration is, simply, what happens when the body loses more water than it takes in. By being as little as 2% under hydrated, cognitive ability, memory retention, mathematical skills, visual perception and reasoning, all diminish as an effect. Simply, even the slightest loss of water leads to poor mental alertness and negatively impacts productivity in the work place. So while lack of water leads to a reduction in awareness, problems with focus, and poor short-term memory, as well as other negative symptoms, a properly hydrated body and brain are able to function clearly, quickly, and perform to their full ability.

A more energy-efficient brain

According to a study conducted at King’s College London, as well as causing weakened mental alertness, dehydration also forces the brain to worker harder to achieve the same results. The study tested dehydrated teenagers against their hydrated counterparts, and found that the under hydrated subjects showed heightened activity in the brain’s frontal-parietal region during a problem solving task. Yet, despite that surge of brainpower, there was no improvement in brain performance. The concluding evidence; tasks literally seem harder. The dehydrated brain uses a greater source of energy to accomplish the same tasks.

A less fatigued workforce

As well as a reduced cognitive ability, at the price of an overworking brain, dehydration, even the smallest amount, can cause increased tiredness and fatigue. Lowered mental alertness and heightened fatigue do not bode well for a healthy and productive work day. A 2015 survey of 300 GPs found that one in five GP visits for tiredness often had dehydration as the root cause. While, only four per cent of the doctors surveyed said they believed patients were aware of how much water they should be drinking daily.

A happier workforce

When blood cells lose more water than they gain the result is fatigue, sluggishness, confusion and irritability. Dehydration in more extreme cases can lead to anxiety, tension and even depression. As well as drinking more water, small breaks throughout the workday also aid mood improvement. In fact, a small 15 second break every ten minutes when you’re staring at a screen for hours, can reduce fatigue by 50%. That could fit a slurp of water in at your desk.

While, according to another survey, 59% of people claim more breaks would actually improve their work happiness. That’s a lot of evidence that a break to hydrate throughout the workday could improve employee job satisfaction as well as improve productivity.

Relieved muscles and joints

Along with those mood and energy deficits, poor hydration can cause muscle and joint discomfort. The hydration you receive when you drink the amount of water your body needs helps lubricate and cushion joints. While, in a study of workers suffering forearm, wrist, and hand discomfort, taking a break for five minutes once every hour eliminated the pain. We suggest taking a short break to hydrate at the water machine once an hour to maximise comfort as well as energy and creativity. Although five minutes isn’t a huge amount of time, it should allow you to top up your water levels, give you a chance to rest your eyes, and stand and stretch. The simply action of reaching upwards drives oxygen to the brain and helps you feel more alert. While, a twenty-second break to rest your eyes can relive eye strain symptoms – try shifting your gaze 20 ft. away.

Less absenteeism

Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration and a reason many employees take days off work. A dehydrated brain with low levels of water in the brain tissue causes shrinkage and the brain begins to pull away from the skull. As a result, pain receptors surrounding the brain are triggered, resulting in a headache. A lack of water also causes your blood volume to drop which, as a result lowers the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. As well as improving general health and preventing headaches, staying hydrated can even prevent more serious illnesses such as colon cancer. Less sick days are better for the business as well as the employees’ health, workload and stress levels.

Hydration literally improves every region of your body and mind. From mental processing, to joints and muscles, and even preventing serious illness – water is essential to living a healthy fuller life. A healthy workforce is a less absent one and also a happier and more productive one.

WATER COOLER LOCATION

Where should you locate your Water Cooler?

Drinking sufficient water is critical for our health and maintaining good performance on the job. Water coolers are one of the simplest and most cost-effective methods of ensuring that employees have access to the water they need. For optimal benefits from the cooler, there are two approaches when it comes to finding the right place to put it.

The first is the practical approach: studies show that people will drink more water when the cooler is visible and close at hand. On average, for every group of 10 employees there should be a cooler nearby that is easily accessible. Proximity plays a vital role in reminding people to drink water regularly.

The second method is the strategic approach. Organisation development and business consultants all point to the benefits of maintaining direct human interactions when working in the Internet-age. Work modes today find many people travelling, and most of us rely on email and voice-mail. As a result, employees can feel cut-off from the organization and loose the benefits of spontaneous meetings and face-to-face communications. Office designers are putting increased emphasis on casual meeting areas that encourage people to stop and chat, exchange ideas, and collaborate face to face in an inviting, comfortable environment. The water cooler has become the focal point of such areas, fostering increased levels of collaboration in organizations.

By combining the practical and strategic methods, companies can optimize the benefits that the water cooler can bring to a company, improving the well-being of individual employees, and enhancing the company's productivity as a whole.

PRODUCTIVITY ENHANCERS

  • Invite a colleague to meet you at the water cooler and solve an issue together.
  • Create a spontaneous meeting in the lounge area with someone who often travels.
  • Say “Hello” to someone you don't know. Meeting colleagues and exchanging ideas builds mutual understanding and increases cooperation across the organisation.
  • Have an informal meeting with a well-known customer or partner in the lounge as an alternative to a meeting room.
  • Encourage corridor conversations by the water coolers with elbow height tables, small white boards and pads and pencils readily available to facilitate discussions.

TIPS

  • Work with notebook PCs in lounge areas from time to time as an alternative to using office zones.
  • Give yourself a professional pause that's a real productivity boost by drinking water and doing some quick exercises to refresh your body and your mind.
  • Celebrate a business success with a get-together in the lounge area and contribute to building the company culture.