With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country and most Americans and others around the world being told to stay at home, many companies have implemented remote working strategies for their employees to continue conducting business and operations. For many people, this will be a huge adjustment. Many don't have an "office" set-up at home or are sharing their space with a spouse also working remotely. In addition to the physical hurdles, others find it very stressful to get work done from home due to distractions, children at home while not in school, feelings of isolation, and other mental factors at play. These physical and psychological difficulties can feel daunting and affect your health and well being, but fear not.
As someone who has worked from home for almost ten years, I have firsthand knowledge of how easy it is to fall into bad habits if you are not careful. However, if you focus on putting a few good habits into place, you can create a healthy working environment that will help you get through this unprecedented time.
This tip is an incredibly important habit for your mental health. With the flexibility that remote work lends itself to, it is very easy to fall into bad habits if a structured schedule is not created. This can include; waking up at the same time each morning, getting out of your pajamas, getting ready for your day in the same way you would be for going into an office, and ending your day at an appropriate hour to allow for proper rest. Scheduling in breaks away from your computer throughout the day is also very important to get your body moving and giving your mind a reprieve. Keeping this schedule will help keep you in "work mode" during the day while working from home and prevent the sluggish feeling that can result from working from bed or at all hours of the night and day.
Just because you are working from home and not at an office where other people's germs are circulating, it is still very important for your health to disinfect your work area at least once a day to remove anything you may have come in contact with. This combined with washing your hands often will help to keep you healthy and ensure you aren’t moving germs around from one device to another. That being said, washing electronics is not as easy as washing your hands. You will need to make sure you check the manual for each device to see what is appropriate to use for cleaning. If you cannot find information on a specific item, there are wipes designed to be used on electronics that can safely clean most devices. Along with wiping down your desk and chair, electronics that should be cleaned include; keyboard, mouse, phones, tablet, and wearable devices.
Now, this is a habit that I will admit is a "do as I say not as I do." I often find it difficult when I am in a groove to stop and stand up every 30 minutes. However, this is very important for your health. For one, it helps to reduce sedentary behavior. If you are sitting for many hours a day without getting up to stretch and walk around, it can lead to feeling sluggish and can lead to a more sedentary pattern in your lifestyle. Along with lifestyle patterns, sitting for too long can slow metabolism leading to less energy burned, weight gain, and risk for other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A great way to help get you in this habit is to set an alarm on your phone for every 30 minutes. Each time it goes off, stand up, do a few jumping jacks or stretch your back and legs for a few minutes and then get back to the task at hand. It is also a good idea to set aside time in your day for longer breaks to get exercise and simply get your eyes off your computer. It is all about planning and goes back to creating a structured day while working from home to ensure success.
This habit goes back to structuring your day to include enough sleep at night and proper nutrition during the day. Regardless of how you prefer to structure your meals throughout the day, try to avoid falling into the trap of snacking all day at your computer. This is easy to do since your kitchen is usually a few steps away and probably filled with all of your favorite quarantine snacks you have stocked up on. Our diet plays a significant role in both our mental and physical health, so maintaining a proper diet is key. Set aside times in your day for your meals and stick to that. Snacking is inevitable, but if you are eating proper meals, snacking will be decreased. This goes for hydration as well. Set a goal for the number of ounces you want to consume each day and keep a water bottle at your desk to sip on throughout your workday. When it comes to sleep, maintaining a good sleep schedule and getting an adequate number of hours plays a crucial role in every aspect of your health. Too little or too much sleep can have equally harmful effects on the body and health. To achieve this, try setting wake times and a goal bedtime to ensure the proper amount of sleep. Sleep is necessary for brain growth and development, cell repair, and improving the immune system to help stave off infections. Mentally, sleep helps cognitive abilities, including creativity, decision making, focus, and learning abilities. Of all of the tips, I would say ensuring you are getting the right amount of sleep is the most important tip with regards to maintaining both mental and physical health while working from home.
Working from home can pose a lot of new challenges, especially in the current environment we are facing. Some people are working in shared small spaces at home with their spouse, others have the whole family at home while the kids are trying to attempt distance learning for the first time, and others are feeling isolated while working from home by themselves for the first time. It is essential to give yourself time to adjust to this new normal and accept that this can be a difficult transition. It is ok to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or downright frustrated with the situation at hand. Putting together a game plan to get through this time is important to help curb those feelings and promote mental health.
For many people, working from home may feel like a dream come true; no commutes, working from the comfort of their home and getting more family time. However, to others, this can be very difficult. Working remote can be troublesome - even if you are embracing this new lifestyle, do not let the distractions and bad habits sneak up on you. Be careful - Be aware - Be mindful. Practicing awareness alongside the tips outlined above will help keep you on the right path. Also, please remember to be patient with yourself – not just others. We are all in this together.