10 tips for staying healthy while working from home

March 01, 2021

10 tips for staying healthy while working from home

In this article:

  • How to balance your workday when you have a home-office
  • The importance of rituals, nutrition, and taking breaks
  • Workspace ergonomics

A well-balanced workday

Work is at home - home is at work - my headspace is stuck somewhere in between. Commuting was by far my least favorite part of my job, but I think I took it for granted as part of the workday ritual. It was a clear marker to get into or out of work mode, and now I clearly lack a healthy work-life balance. Here are some ideas on how to prioritize your mental health and keep work at work and home at home, even if geographically they're in the same place.

  • Set physical boundaries: This might not be possible for everyone, but sometimes our brains and bodies need to be reminded that certain areas of the house are for work, and the rest are for relaxation. Even if it's the dining room or bedroom, try to close that designated work environment off from the rest of your house, to contain your work to one space. Sometimes creating a barrier using a large plant or even hanging up a curtain to physically mark the work zone can be useful. Use what you have available if you’re short on space.
  • Set business hours: Maybe it's the collective energy of the office around you, or it's just wanting to get your work done quickly so you can go home. But many of us have much stricter working schedules while we're in the office. Try to replicate those hours while at home so you can reap the benefits and extra time from cutting out your commute! Rise and shine at the same time every day and try to cut work off at a designated hour. I like to set a timer for "no funny business work", like 45 minutes of pure work and no breaks to play with my cat, look for a snack, or pick up my phone. You can use the timer on your phone, or if that's too tempting, try using an egg timer. This is sometimes referred to as the Pomodoro Technique and has been proven to increase productivity for most people who try it.
  • Give yourself a lunch break: Give yourself a proper lunch break. Set a time for it, plan your meal, and when the time comes, close the laptop! Instead of surrounding yourself with guilty pleasure foods, leave them in the kitchen. Add a scoop of collagen to your coffee or water to make you feel satisfied until lunchtime comes. This will help to prevent overeating or undereating. Allow yourself to have a healthy meal, free of distractions. If you're feeling snackish throughout the day, it's always a good idea to keep a water bottle, some hummus and veggies, or other healthy snacks within reach. Don't use snacking as an excuse to cut time out of your lunch break.
  • Change out of your PJs: Just like your daily commute signals your brain that it's time for work, so does getting dressed. You don't have to commit to stiff jeans or slacks all day (and definitely not heels), but try to make getting dressed a part of your morning ritual. This will contribute to self-expression and creating a better work-life balance. Workout clothes are okay too; they might help get you in the mindset to get up and get moving! As acclaimed writer Elizabeth Gilbert has said of what has allowed her to work from home for so many years: “Get up, make your bed, get dressed.”
  • Get moving: Not only does exercising help us manage our stress levels, give us a boost of energy, and fight against heart disease (among other things), it can also be a wonderful physical demarcation for the start or end of your workday. Try getting some fresh air on a nice outdoor walk or jog. A yoga session during your lunch break or after your last meeting could refresh you. Take the liberty of pacing around the house during phone calls. Try and remove all or nothing thinking when it comes to exercise. Fifteen minutes is better than no minutes, and consistency is key. A little bit of movement each day adds up.

Workspace ergonomics

  • Use a standing desk: Remember the awkwardly high, kitchen table-meets-desk I mentioned? You can transform it into an ergonomically healthy, habit-building, standing desk! There are many different "add ons" that you can use to raise your desk surface so that you can stand while working. Studies have shown that sitting for large portions of the day increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and early death. In addition to reducing your risk for these diseases, it can also help relieve back pain and encourage a more active lifestyle. Pro-tip: Start with short intervals of just 20 minutes of standing work, then sit for an hour, stand for 20, and so on and so forth. Slowly increase until you feel comfortable standing for up to 2 hours.
  • Give your eyes a break: Blue light makes us restless and getting too much of it can damage our eyes and skin. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at the computer screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something else 20 feet away. This is a great little exercise to strengthen our eyes and give us some mental clarity after a much-needed screen break.
  • Don't sit horizontally: This means no more working from bed! We know this is tempting on rainy days, but it can be tough on your back and cause numbness. Wherever you're sitting, try not to let your feet dangle off the chair. Instead, use a small footrest so that your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor and your hips are slightly higher than your knees. It might seem stiff at first, but your back will thank you when it's time to lay down and go to bed.
  • Avoid hunching: Hunching over your laptop is okay for online shopping and Facebook stalking, but doing this for 40 hours every week will really start to add up. Instead, place your monitor so that your eye line is level with the address bar of your web browser. If you don’t want to invest in a stand, grab a hard-cover, coffee table book to give it a boost.
  • Take it easy: This is your space, your home, and your time. Make the most out of it by allowing yourself little graces that you might not get at the office. Get up and really stretch, diffuse your favorite oils, turn on that podcast, or eat the stinky lunch you were always too afraid to take into work. Remote workers need to be self-disciplined in order to get everything done. That doesn't mean you have to make your remote workspace cold or rigid. Some of our favorite home-office embellishments are: plants, oil diffusers, cozy slippers, a nice hand cream, dimmer lamps, peg boards for photos or visual inspiration, and even a stress ball to reach for when those zoom meetings become too overwhelming. Get creative!

Getting back into the office might not be in your near future (thank you, Coronavirus!), but your wellness doesn't need to be put on the back burner. Make the most out of your new WFH life and take care of yourself. All that is needed is a little stretching and some creative "redecorating"!

Summary Points

  • Try to close the designated work environment off from the rest of your house, to contain your work to one space
  • Just like your daily commute signals your brain that it's time for work, so does getting dressed
  • Some fresh air on a nice outdoor walk or jog, or a yoga session during your lunch break or after your last meeting could refresh you
  • For every 20 minutes you spend looking at the computer screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something else 20 feet away
  • Remote workers need to be self-disciplined in order to get everything done, but that doesn't mean you have to make your remote workspace cold or rigid

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