How does working from home affect your health?
You might find that your daily habits and working patterns change, depending on the environment you work in.
For example, if you work from home, you won’t have the natural routine of an office environment. It might be tempting to work from your sofa, rather than from a desk. Or you might start working soon after you wake up, since you don’t have to commute.
When you work from home, it can also affect your work-life balance. It might give you the flexibility you need to arrange childcare or healthcare appointments and save you time on commuting. But when your home is also your office, you might find it hard to separate work and home responsibilities.
Keeping a healthy work-life balance is important to looking after yourself. It can mean, you:
- meet deadlines at work and still have free time to enjoy socialising or hobbies
- eat and sleep well
- don’t worry about work when you’re not working
Thinking about how you work while at home can help you keep this balance. And focusing on your mental and physical health is an important part of this.
How to look after your health while working from home?
There are many steps you can take to look after your physical and mental wellbeing while you work remotely. Here are some of my top tips.
1. Stay motivated
One of the main things you might struggle with when working remotely is staying motivated. We all go through highs and lows throughout the day, but working from home can give you more flexibility to schedule your tasks accordingly. By scheduling tasks around your productive hours, you might find you work more efficiently and stay motivated.
Keeping a routine can also make it easier to mentally get into ‘work’ mode when you work from home.
Everybody is different, and that relates to your working habits too. For example, if you naturally wake up early, you might find that you’re most productive in the mornings. If that’s the case, you could try to block off time in your calendar so it doesn’t get taken up by meetings.
2. Sort out your setup
Your posture while working should be comfortable and sustainable, as shown in this image. Your seat should be close to your desk or table, and your feet fully on the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows at a 90-degree angle just above the table top.
While it might be more comfortable to work from the sofa in the short-term, this provides little support. Ideally, you should try to work from a table or desk that’s at elbow height and use a chair that supports your lower back.
The top of your laptop screen or monitor should be level with your eyes. Adjustments like these will help you have good posture. You could also try some stretches while sitting at your computer to reduce aches and pains.
3. Take breaks
Even with a comfortable setup, it’s still good to take time away from your computer. Try to take short, regular breaks to stretch your legs and to give your eyes a rest from the screen.
If you can schedule meetings to end a few minutes early, this can give you a chance to take a break. Taking breaks can also improve your mood and productivity levels. You could even schedule them into your calendar, so you’re prompted by reminders.
You might find the Pomodoro technique useful. This technique encourages regular breaks between short periods of focus, which can help you structure your time.
4. Keep active
Exercise is good for your physical and mental health, and you should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. Although that may sound like a lot, if you incorporate half an hour of exercise into each work day, you’ll meet that goal.
Working from home might give you some more flexibility around when you can exercise. Perhaps you could go for a swim or a jog before work, instead of commuting?
5. Eat well
As well as being active, eating a healthy balanced diet can help keep you well. But it can be hard to eat healthily when there’s so much choice within reach. You may be tempted to grab something quick from the fridge or graze on snacks from the cupboard while you work.
Try to prepare a healthy lunch and keep snacks away from your work area, if you can, as this might lead to mindless eating.
6. Stay connected
Working from home often means working alone. And while that may help you focus and increase your productivity, you might miss the social connection of having colleagues around you. These social connections can prevent you from feeling lonely or isolated.
Although going for a coffee together may not be feasible, you could schedule a ‘virtual’ coffee with a colleague instead. Or if you’re tired of video calls, your video conferencing software might have an instant messaging function you could use to chat to colleagues.
7. Maintain boundaries
While you’re working from home, it’s important to create a distinction between your work and your free time. This can help to prevent burnout.
Setting boundaries can help you switch off from work, and a routine can help you get into ‘work mode’. For example, you could turn your laptop off at the end of the day or wear work clothes during work hours.
Going for a short walk before and after work can also help create the structure of a working day. You could try practicing mindfulness, which can help you be more aware of your feelings and your surroundings.