[Podcast] Healthy and sustainable homeworking habits

profile picture of Sheila Pinion
Health Content Editor at Bupa UK
14 March 2023
Next review due March 2026

Since the COVID pandemic began, working from home and hybrid working has increased. Many of our working habits have changed, but that has an impact on both our health and the environment we live in. So how can we cultivate more healthy, sustainable homeworking habits?

In this episode of our sustainability podcast series, guest speaker Clare McMahon, Head of Sustainability at Bupa, and Rex Fan, Lead Behavioural Insights Advisor at Bupa, share some key tips about sustainable homeworking. Listen to the full episode below or read on to find out more.

What is sustainability?

Sustainable practices aim to use resources more conservatively, so that we can protect our environment for future generations. One of the key goals of sustainability is to reduce the effects of climate change. This is something we can all contribute to by adopting sustainable habits.

How is working from home sustainable?

Because of flexible working patterns, many of us are spending more time at home than before. There are some benefits to this – for example, commuting isn’t necessary if you work from home. This can save you money on commuting costs, as well as help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Some people find that flexible working improves their work-life balance, and they can make their work environment more suitable for their needs. It’s also a more inclusive way of working because individuals with different needs can follow a way of working that suits them best.

Is home working sustainable for everyone?

While there are some advantages to working from home, there are other factors to consider. Although you might spend less money on transport, you might find your utility bills have increased because you’re at home more often.

Not commuting helps to reduce your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint measures how much greenhouse gases your actions, such as travelling, or eating meat create. But your energy use at home also has a carbon footprint. This footprint varies, depending on where your energy comes from, but using more energy at home can increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Working from home can also change the way you structure your day. For example, you might find you move less if you don’t have to walk to a meeting or to catch a bus. And without regular communication with your colleagues, you might feel isolated. Given these differences in lifestyle and habits when working from home, it’s important to think about your physical and mental health when you work remotely.

How can I be more sustainable at home?

Many sustainability tips relate to reducing waste and saving energy. There are several ways you can do this at home. And as we head into the winter months, you could take some extra steps to keep your home warm.

  • If you find you’re heating your home more often than usual, even adjusting your thermostat by one degree can save money. You could also think about which rooms you heat. If you’re only working in one room, consider heating only the room you’re using and close doors between rooms to reduce drafts. It’s good to take breaks from work and to move around; even better, this can help keep you warm.
  • Consider installing insulation or curtains across external doors to minimise cold drafts. You could also consider switching to a green energy supplier.
  • You can save energy by boiling only as much water as you need for each hot drink. You could also make a pot of tea or thermos flask, which reduces the number of times you need to boil the kettle.
  • Taking less time in the shower will reduce the amount of hot water you use. If you have an immersion heater, you can set it to heat water only when you need it. And if your energy tariff is cheaper overnight, you could also use the immersion heater overnight so that hot water is ready for the morning.

You can save energy and be more sustainable with your work habits, too. We've listed some ways you can do this here.

  • When using your computer, you can save energy and reduce strain on your eyes if you lower the brightness of your screen. Check your energy settings on your computer – you can also optimise these to save energy.
  • Rather than putting devices in sleep mode, turn off your computer and monitor (if you use one) at the end of the day. Turn off lights and screens when you leave the room, and don’t leave devices charging for longer than necessary.
  • You might find that you’re using less paper than you did in the office, which is better for the environment. But if you do print at home, consider buying recyclable materials, such as paper and printer cartridges.
  • Although sending emails might seem more environmentally friendly than printing on paper, emails also have a carbon footprint. Consider sending shorter emails, reducing the size of your attachments, and deleting old emails you no longer need.
  • If you’re working from home, it’s likely that you’ll create more waste there than usual. Try to recycle as much as you can. Recycling reduces landfill waste and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, too.

What can I do to stay healthy at home?

Sustainable habits can help improve your wellbeing too. Bupa’s Head of Mental Wellbeing, Naomi Humber, agrees and believes there are steps you can take to look after your physical and mental health while working remotely. If you work from home, make sure you tell your manager of any risks to your physical or mental health and safety. Even when you work remotely, your employer is responsible for your wellbeing.

Here, Naomi suggests some things you could do to stay healthy while working away from the office.

  • Try to create a boundary between work time and leisure time. It’s important to make a distinction, particularly when your home is your office, to help you avoid burnout. You could do this by taking a short walk before or after work, instead of a commute. And by switching off your computer at the end of the day, you’ll save energy and give yourself a mental break.
  • Remember to take regular breaks and to talk to people – for example, calling a friend at lunchtime. If you spend much of your day alone or communicating online, it can be easy to lose track of time. Working from home alone can also contribute to feelings of isolation and depression.
  • Try to optimise your working conditions. If you can create some dedicated space for work, this can help you focus but also separate work from home. Consider your posture while you work at your computer – this will help reduce physical discomfort, as well as taking regular breaks. You could also have a walking meeting, if you can find a suitable place to do so.
  • Why not use your commute time to fit in some physical activity instead? Exercise is good for your physical and mental wellbeing, but working from home during lockdown meant that many of us became more sedentary. During your lunch break, you could try doing an online workout or going for a run. If you feel tense, some chair yoga and gentle stretches might help.
  • Making your diet more sustainable is not only good for the planet, but also your health. If you aren’t grabbing lunch on the go, you won’t use as much single-use plastic. And batch cooking can help reduce your energy use by cooking a few meals at the same time. But you should also consider where your food has come from. If you buy locally sourced food, that’s also better for the environment because it’s not had to travel as far to get to you. And if you’re able to make more of your meals at home, you could plan your meals in advance to reduce food waste.

There are several ways you can introduce healthier, more sustainable habits into everyday life. Why not see what works best for you? You can also listen to our other podcasts in this series on changing behaviours to be more sustainable and how to turn eco-anxiety into positive action

At Bupa, we're supporting the health of our planet. We've committed to a wide range of ambitious sustainability measures - partly because it's the right thing to do, but also because we know that the environment is closely linked to our physical and mental health.

profile picture of Sheila Pinion
Sheila Pinion (she/her)
Health Content Editor at Bupa UK



Clare McMahon, Head of Sustainability at Bupa, Rex Fan, Lead Behavioural Insights Advisor at Bupa and Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa.

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