During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans were lucky enough to safely work from home. Now, with vaccination rates rising and case rates declining, many workplaces are returning to their offices.

There’s a lot of stress involved in that transition. Returning to commuting, communicating in-person, getting dressed every day—it can cause a lot of anxiety, and raise even more questions. A big question on many minds is health-related, as so many things in the past 2 years have been.

In an office, you’re more exposed to germs and bacteria than you might be in your home where you have total control over your environment. Even with vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or the flu, simple colds or other viruses can spread quickly in workplaces. Keeping yourself safe and healthy is a high priority, but there are ways to maintain your strong immune system even when working in an office again.

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet (even at work)

    Our immune system depends on regular nourishment to stay strong. If you’re deficient in certain nutrients, your body could become more susceptible to illness. Make sure you’re eating lots of whole foods, especially fruits and veggies. There can be a lot of lunchtime temptation in workplaces, so try packing a lunch to avoid the urge to grab something fast and unhealthy.

  2. Prioritize your work-life balance 

    Chronic and/or high stress can take a toll on our immune systems. Often, overwhelming work requirements or working long hours can result in getting sick more often. To avoid these pitfalls, work on maintaining a focus on your own well-being rather than focusing solely on your professional needs. Practice mindfulness techniques, like meditation or journaling. Spend lots of time with your family and friends, and try to be outdoors whenever possible.

  3. Less coffee, more water

    One of the things most people might actually miss about their office? Unlimited free coffee. With a seemingly endless supply of caffeine, it can be difficult to resist just another cup. Too much coffee, however, can lead to stress and dehydration. Instead of one more cup of java, opt for water. Try keeping only a glass of water on your desk to build the habit. Hydration helps strengthen our immune systems by supporting the production of lymph, which fights infections.

  4. Get your move on

    Regular exercise is another powerful way to maintain our immune system’s strength. When you get your body moving, you promote blood circulation which in turn allows your immune system’s cells to more easily make their way throughout your entire body. If you can, try walking or biking to work instead of driving. If that’s not an option, try finding time before or after the work day to get a short workout in—even if it’s just a long walk or an at-home fitness class.

  5. Clean your desk (and your hands!)

    Even at home, germs and bacteria collect easily on the things we touch. That risk multiplies in an office space where you’re exposed to more people everyday. When it comes to the things you handle regularly—whether it’s the keyboard on your computer or the pens on your desk—make sure you’re keeping everything clean. (Follow our healthy cleaning tips!) Make sure you’re washing your hands often too! Whether you’re going to the restroom or refilling your water bottle, your hands come into contact with thousands of surfaces. Use soap and water (not hand sanitizer) to thoroughly wash those hands.