This pandemic has led to a lot of us working from home. A transition that will likely stick around for many of us even when workplaces open up. There are definite benefits to working from home (no commute, greater flexibility, shaving less) but there are also a number of downsides, which can affect your health. This applies equally whether you’re studying, retired or any other situation in which you’re spending more time at home.
Not surprisingly, we’re less active now than before the pandemic. However, many people have managed to get back to their pre-pandemic exercise levels. Meaning it’s actually reductions in light, or incidental activity causing the downward trend. This is the type of activity you get without knowing it. Most of it comes when you’re outside the house. It could be from shopping, running errands or during work. Even if your job requires a lot of sitting, you were likely doing some activity whether it was walking to/from your car or bus, getting up for that coffee or going to the printer.
It’s not only changes in physical activity, nutrition habits have also changed. For some, the closing of restaurants has led to a healthier diet, while others report more junk food and snacking. And between 20% to 30% of people have gained weight.
With the pandemic continuing for months and likely to be around for much longer, developing healthy habits while working from home can go a long way.
Limit Video Calls
Stock for Zoom has gone up more than 2.5-fold since February. And why not? Without being able to meet in person, Zoom, and other video conferencing software is the next best option. Even meetings that would usually be a teleconference pre-pandemic have now turned to video calls. That means you’re focusing on your computer screen more than ever. And video calls tend to require more attention than in-person meetings. This can lead to what’s called Zoom fatigue. To fight it, switch to telephone calls when you can. Many video conferencing apps also allow for a phone-in option so you don’t need to use your computer.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
When working from home, you may be tempted to stay up late and sleep in on mornings you don’t have meetings. Don’t. Aim for consistent sleep and wake times to achieve between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Your body has a natural circadian rhythm based on consistent sleep patterns. Altering this can lead to poor sleep and reduce your energy and productivity. While consistent sleep patterns can keep you refreshed all day long.
Apart from sleeping, sitting is the number one activity most of us do. When working from home, you’re probably doing it more. Even if you commuted by car, you still had to walk to and from the car. The problem with sitting for long periods is it shuts your engine down resulting in fats and sugar to circulate in your blood. Get up every 20–30 minutes and walk around. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, that helps. You can set an alarm on your phone, use a time-out app for your computer or drink more water (leading to more nature breaks).
In addition to taking frequent breaks from sitting, being active and getting exercise is important. To do that, you need to book it into your schedule and stick to it. Make sure you give yourself breaks while working and be active during those breaks. If you have phone calls, use a wireless headset and move around your home while talking. I find doing simple household chores (putting away the laundry or dishes) switches it up from sitting. It also keeps me more focused on the call rather than being at my desk and getting distracted with other work on my computer.
Separate Work from the Rest of Your Life
With work and home being in the same place, it’s easy for one to intrude on the other. This can be counter-productive to both. Set up both a time and physical barrier between work and non-work time. If you can, work in a separate room. If you can’t, put your work and computer away when the work day is done. Out of sight, out of mind, is what you want to achieve to give yourself a mental break. And include some sort of transition activity when you finish work, such as exercise, connecting with family or friends, or reading a book. Any sort of activity that requires you to be present in the moment and not let you wander back to your work activities.
With working from home you have the fridge and pantry right there, making it tempting to snack. It’s not uncommon for people working from home to continually eat throughout the day. Stick to discrete meals and limit snacking. Ensuring you have sufficient protein with each meal will help fight off hunger later on. And if you don’t want to be tempted by eating a certain food, don’t have it in the house.
Have a Good Home Office Set-up
Working at the kitchen table may be okay in the short term. But if you plan to continue to work from home, you need a set-up that’s functional and comfortable. Otherwise you could end up tiring out from joint and muscle fatigue. First, figure out what equipment you need. Computer, desk, webcam, headphones? Check to see if your employer will cover office supplies. A headset for phone/video calls is great to keep you from holding a phone and better quality than using the computer’s built-in set-up. Things such as proper desk height, an adjustable office chair, sufficient lighting and a high quality monitor are all key to an ideal office setting to reduce strain injuries.
With these simple tweaks, working from home can be a comfortable, enjoyable and healthy experience.
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