Times are changing! Working from home and flexible work schedules have become the “new normal.” According to Flexjobs, roughly 5 million Americans work remotely and that number is growing rapidly. In most cases, employers are reaping the benefits from these employees.
More recently, remote work has been in the headlines. With increasing concern around the spread of COVID-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus, many companies are urging their employees to work from home.
While this shift to more flexible work environments has many upsides, it also presents a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to the health of your employees, and may require a little adjusting. The lack of a clean-cut schedule, work/life balance, or a proper office space forcing us to work in ergonomically flawed stations, can all sabotage an employee’s best intentions.
To arm your workforce, we’ve put together our Top 7 Tips for working healthfully at home.
1. Designate your “office” space.
If you don’t already have an “office space” in your home that’s designated solely for work, it’s important to carve out a space. Working from your bed or couch is thought to interfere psychologically with our other associations to those places and can lead to distraction and lack of work/life balance. A simple desk and chair helps us keep work and personal life separate. If you already have a home office, consider making some minor design tweaks – de-clutter, give it a contemporary and inviting update, and try to make it a soothing environment. A little thoughtful Feng Shui helps us feel in harmony with our space.
2. Invest in a good chair.
Your designated workspace is where you’ll be spending most of your time throughout the day making it of utmost importance to ensure that your chair comfortable and supportive. Bad posture can cause you pain and discomfort making you irritable and less focused. Good back support will help you stay comfortable and on task. Consider adding a standing desk to the mix to give your back a break (you can purchase a standing desk, but even a counter-top works!). Standing gets the blood flowing to your muscles and joints and can improve energy levels and mood. New studies show it can even reduce weight gain and lower your risk of heart disease.
3. Get up and move every hour.
The health benefits of staying active throughout the day are endless. Our bodies were simply not designed to sit for 8 or 9 hours a day. An easy way to incorporate activity into your workday is to stand up once an hour and move. We all need a brain break. Try to take a 10 to 15-minute break once an hour – you could stretch, make a snack, get the mail, walk the dog, or simply sit outside for much needed vitamin D (most of us don’t get enough). Hit your local coffee shop for some face-to-face interaction with other people. The point is, a little fresh air does us wonders and moving throughout the day helps our physical and mental state.
4. Set a schedule and stick to it.
When we’re working from our homes, it can be tempting to wake up late and work odd hours. But, our bodies have natural Circadian Rhythms, regulated by our hormones, and it benefits both our mental health and the quality of our work by trying to honor those. We’re all familiar with how much diet and a good night sleep can positively affect us – we have more energy, our moods are better, and we have more focus. All of these factors play into our ability to be productive. Try setting a schedule as if you were going into the office – getting up at a set time, getting fully dressed, fueling your body, and using that burst of energy to kick off your day on the right foot. Then, stick to those hours.
5. Differentiate work time from personal time.
Maintain a healthy work/life balance by logging your time and setting limits. Track your hours and keep yourself accountable, just like you would in an office setting. Try not to let those work hours bleed into your personal life and vice versa. It won’t do you any favors to be the workaholic who skips a night’s sleep or works over the weekend instead of having quality time with family and friends. If your personal life is in one time zone, and your work life in another, this can be trickier, but it makes it all the more important to set a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
6. Stock up on healthy snacks and meals and stay hydrated.
When life gets busy, we tend to develop bad habits around food. We often pick less healthy options that we can consume faster – convenience over nutrition. When working from home, it can be easy to wander the kitchen in search of snacks, especially if we know it’s packed with treats. Do your mind and body a favor by stocking the fridge with fruits and veggies, and the pantry with gluten-free, whole food options. We want to stay far away from foods that spike our blood sugar, making us feel lethargic, and instead opt for healthy fats and proteins that give us energy. Make sure you’re getting enough fluids! Make a conscious effort to refill your water bottle every hour for proper hydration.
7. Make time for social engagement.
In the absence of face-to-face contact with co-workers, it’s all the more pertinent to create opportunities to engage with others. In the digital age, it’s easy to hole ourselves up and miss out on any interpersonal contact during our workdays. Human beings are social creatures by nature and believe it or not, we need friendships for our health. Maintaining healthy relationships actually promotes satisfaction in our brains, which in turn, helps us do our best work. Use the video tool to communicate with your co-workers and peers when possible.
What are your best tips for working from home?