When people think of developers, many people picture a person spending hours and hours, in a dimly lit room with a wall of computer monitors, writing code that will change the future. It’s true, there is no doubt that source code –– and us developers that write it –– have a massive impact on technology and our society. But at what cost?
Every day we pass on our wealth of knowledge that protects information, saves lives, and does much, much more. But at times, we can’t help but wonder what we might give up to pass on this gift.
Wellness is one thing that we often overlook in the pursuit of shipping great products. “Wellness,” many of us don’t even know what that means or how to do it; we never learned that there are little changes we could make to our day to day life to drastically improve our physical and emotional health. But there are!
Because of this, we wanted to put together a list of wellness tips for hard-working developers, so that we can not only write amazing code now, but for years to come.
1. Set up a winning desk setup
We sit at our desks a lot, so we might as well set it up in a way that allows us to be well and do our best work. There are two simple places to start with desk design. First, have your chair at a height where you can sit with your feet flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90-degree angle, and your thighs running parallel to the ground. Second, raise (or lower) the top of your screen so it is at your eye level, as a result, you will be looking down at your work, slightly. There are other wellness tips like these that are worth checking out while designing your winning desk set up, check out this article from CNET for more.
2. Block out time to exercise
Just as important as scheduling a coding block or meeting with other team members on a project is making time to exercise. We’ve been told about exercising our whole lives but why is it important for developers? In reality, it’s important for everyone, but it may be especially important for developers, who spend much of their time sitting, and whose job demands a lot of brainpower.
Find something that you like, if you’re not interested in yoga, jogging, or weight lifting, there are TONS of alternative offerings these days that could get you hooked on exercise (my favorite is Adult P.E.).
Past the benefits for your body, it’s great for your brain too. Heidi Godman shares in this Harvard Medical School letter that “exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills,” and that it also “improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
3. Block out time for stretching too!
As important as exercise is, stretching and other forms of releasing tension in our muscles can have a massive impact on our wellness. Have you tried foam rolling? It’s certainly had a big impact on my body’s health, from just a few minutes a day, rolling around on a large foam cylinder.
Also, just setting some time aside to do those five stretches you remember from high school P.E. class can have a considerable positive impact (like these 6 stretches from RealSimple.com).
*Bonus tip! Lose the socks and shoes and roll your foot around on a lacrosse ball to release muscles aches in your feet and resulting aches in other parts of your body
4. Spend time away from screens
As a developer, this can be really tough. Our world is in front of screens –– from work to connecting with others, to veg out time. We really have to make a conscious effort to spend time away from screens. But it can be done! Instead of pinging a ton of messages back and forth with someone, connect with a coworker in person or give them a call. It’ll give your eyes a break from the screen and may help you make a connection with someone in your office.
You can also do things like printing out documents you have to read instead of reading them on your computer; if spending time in front of your screen is unavoidable, you can cut down your screen’s contrast with apps like f.lux or these funky computer reading glasses.
5. Change up your work environment
We fall into routines. It can be tempting, to day after day, sit in the same place, drink the same vanilla iced coffee and get stuck in all the same ways. This is why it’s important to change up where we work. If you work from home, have at least two places you can work from, preferably not in the room you sleep in, that you can rotate through. If you work from an office, take a break from working at your desk –– try out a common space, a meeting room, or a local coffee shop.
Natural light can have a big impact on your mood. Find places to work that have at least some access to natural light. If you can’t, therapy lamps have helped me in offices with no windows and during the winter.
6. Be conscious of your diet
This is a tricky one. When we’re buried in work, it can be tempting to grab something easy, something nearby that tastes good and will make us feel good in that moment. This can often look like soda pop and Twizzlers. There is OF COURSE a time for soda pop and Twizzlers, but it can’t ALWAYS be the time for soda pop and Twizzlers –– we have to be conscious of the impact of what we are eating.
Did you know there are foods which research has linked to more brainpower? We might need that extra brainpower for some of our toughest problems, so check out leafy vegetables, fatty fish, berries and some of the other foods mentioned in this article. It can also be tempting to get sucked down the caffeine-wormhole, chugging coffee and Five-hour Energy to get through a long coding sprint. There is certainly a place for caffeine in our lives, we just have to be conscious of how much we are using, as there are some side effects of using it too much.
There you have it, five wellness tips for hard-working developers. No need to dive into all of these at once, just think about how you can slowly start incorporating some parts of the above into your day to day life. As you make small changes, be aware of how it impacts your well-being and your work. You might find certain exercise or foods or desk setups to have a considerable, positive impact on your life, you might find others don’t –– both are okay.
Best of luck in your pursuit of wellness!