The pillars for optimal health remain the same, whether you're working from home or going to the office. However, often the lack of structure that some people experience when working from home make it difficult to maintain some of those health-promoting habits.
This is especially the case if a relatively fast transition was made between working from an office to working from home, a situation many people have experienced in 2020. [Find out more about how to transition to working from home in "8 Tips to Successfully Transition to Working Remotely During the COVID-19 Pandemic"].
Habits form the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Whilst these may have been established within a particular workplace environment, they might need to be revisited in a home environment.
A workplace environment has been specifically set up with job roles in mind. Workplaces with a strong culture of worksite wellness may have also played an integral role in helping employees to solidify healthy habits. When an employee starts working from home they will need to take a proactive role in scheduling new actions or activities that will help them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy habits are formed from repeated positive actions. Here are 7 tips to stay healthy when working from home.
1. Set up your home-based workspace with ergonomics in mind
Ergonomics is an important consideration for any working environment. A home office setup that has been designed with ergonomics in mind will help minimize physical stress on the body and decrease the potential for injury. As well, it will help improve comfort, productivity, and overall health.
Considerations include chair and desk setup, ergonomic aids such as a separate keyboard and mouse, and other aspects of the environment, such as lighting and room temperature. [Find out more about home office ergonomics in "4 Ways to Improve the Ergonomics of Your Home Office"].
2. Take regular breaks
Regular rest breaks are a crucial part of a healthy approach to working from home. They help reduce stress levels and increase performance by enabling physical and mental resources to be replenished.
To achieve this, breaks need to include more than simply stopping to refuel over lunch. Breaks should include other methods that help the worker to feel rejuvenated. Examples include getting some movement in with a short walk or enjoying a 10-minute meditation in a different environment to relax the mind. A timer on a laptop or smartphone could be set as a reminder to take a short break each hour.[Find out more about the importance of taking breaks in "Breaks During Work are Necessary for Employee Well-being and Work Performance"].
3. Have nourishing meals and snacks available
Humans are creatures of habit and those who have recently transitioned to working from home may experience challenges with maintaining healthy eating habits. The possibility of a fridge and cupboard full of food that is not as readily available in the office could lead to increased instances of "mindless" eating.
The first step is to plan for healthy eating at home. Start with a shopping list that considers any change to food requirements when working from home. Make sure the list includes plenty of fresh whole foods that are easy to prepare quickly. While the proximity to your kitchen may mean you have more flexibility when it comes to the types of meals or snacks you enjoy during the workday, it is still beneficial to plan advance, or even meal prep for days you know your schedule will be busy.
4. Set up a fitness plan that fits with a working-from-home lifestyle
When employees switch from a workplace to a home office environment, exercise habits will need to be reassessed. Whilst a previous fitness plan may have involved attending a fitness center in close proximity to the workplace, that might no longer be practical.
There is a wide array of workout options that can be done anywhere, with little to no equipment. These options can offer a good starting point for consideration, as they enable the person to exercise in or around the home environment, or anywhere else they choose to.
Workout apps and online workout classes provide endless options for general programs suited to all skill levels and interests. Another option may be getting a qualified fitness trainer to design a personalized training program.
Factors such as when the exercise will be done and how it will be spaced out during the week also need to be considered so that the training plan is a good fit for the person's working-from-home lifestyle.
5. Maintain a designated office space
Although it may be tempting to take a laptop to the sofa or bedroom when you have the flexibility, it is best to keep the home office space to a designated area. This helps to keep work and leisure areas separate. It reduces the likelihood of poor posture and other effects of working in a space that hasn't been ergonomically designed and helps to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
6. Stick to a schedule
Working from home offers the opportunity for more flexibility with working hours. It's important to be mindful that this doesn't turn into an erratic approach that leads to the need to fill in the productivity gaps with unplanned late nights and weekend work.
Working from home can certainly be done on a different schedule, and this can be determined based on a person's preferences and home life situation. Without the need to travel to and from a place or work, there is also the potential to enjoy the associated time-saving benefits.
Enjoy the flexibility of working from home, and still ensure that health and wellness habits can be maintained. Once an appropriate schedule is determined, aim to stick with it. Keeping to a well-designed schedule will allow for appropriate rest and rejuvenation while also maintaining productivity.
7. Have a support system in place
In the transition to working from home, an important support system could have diminished. Regular face-to-face communication and social interactions with others in the workplace and other workplace-related settings (e.g. the coffee shop or gym near a workplace) are likely to have been greatly reduced.
It's important to consider the change that has occurred with social interactions during the switch to working from home. A lack of social interaction and human connection has the potential to adversely affect a person's mental health, with some personality types likely to be affected more than others.
Video chats can offer an alternative method to bounce ideas, frustrations, and wins off colleagues who understand the specific tasks and job role at hand. Other appropriate opportunities to connect with friends, family, and colleagues should also be considered as part of a plan to maintain healthy social interactions.
A healthy worker is a happy, productive worker
Staying healthy while working from home doesn't need to be difficult. It simply requires a few different considerations that enable healthy habits to be established or continued within this environment.