How to Stay Healthy While Working From Home

Work from home

Over the last six months the world as we know it has been completely turned on its head.

COVID-19 has impacted upon our way of life in a way that no one could have predicted – and as a result, people have been struggling.

One area where people are having really a hard time sits around their ability to work from home.

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would have liked to work from home, I would have said “yes” without a second thought.

I mean, not having to waste time in the car or on public transport, no longer having do food prep on Sunday so my meals are sorted for the week, and not having to get out of my PJs for weeks at a time… that’s the dream, right?

How naive I was…

I did not count on the fact that when I started working from home, the line between work and leisure would blur beyond recognition. That my routine would go out the window, and that my mental and physical health would decline as a result.

And I know I was not alone – which is why I put together an article outlining what you can do about it.

How quarantine has changed how we work from home

Home office

Over the last 6 months working from home has become the rule, rather than the exception.

In fact, at the start of 2020, it was estimated that about 20% of the American workforce worked from home. While this number is a little higher than most people would have thought, it was an accurate representation of how technology has impacted the workplace over the last decade.

But now?

Well, as of June 2020, approximately 50% of employees are working from home – which means that over one third of the entire national workforce has gone from commuting to work, to never leaving the house (Brynjolfsson, 2020).

While this is a positive in that it has allowed people to continue working in what are pretty dire circumstances, it has also come with some associated negatives.

People appear to be less productive when working from home, and more likely to experience musculoskeletal issues like back and neck pain (Moretti, 2020). Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that people working at home during quarantine experience declines in their mental health and physical activity levels (Toniolo-Barrios, 2020; Dwyer, 2020).

Related Article: How to Set Health Goals After COVID-19

Tips for working from home

Taking all of this into consideration, we wanted to outline some key tips that you can implement into your routine to make sure your health remains high during these trying times.

As simple as each of these are, they can make a world of difference.

Office Placement

Getting your home office set up in a decent location should be your first point of call.

First and foremost, you want a room that has access to windows and natural light. It is well established that exposure to sunlight can cause vast improvement in mood, while staving off declines in mental health.

This is key if you want to stay happy while working from home.

Secondly, you want to pay attention to how you set up your office.  The way in which your monitor and screen is organised can have a serious impact upon your posture, which can contribute to back and neck pain.

Some general tips include:

  • Having your screen set to eye height. This might mean investing in a USB keyboard and mouse and setting up your laptop on a stack of books.
  • Making sure that you have a chair with goog back support and arm rests.
  • Having your desk set to a height so that your forearms are parallel to the ground when you type

Get started on the right foot and make sure you set your office up right.

Getting in your steps

woman walking

Physical activity truly is a cure all.

Doing as little as 30 minutes of light aerobic activity per day has been shown to contribute to vast improvements in physical and mental health. However, during the pandemic, finding the motivation to get outside and train has been difficult to say the least.

One way to get around this is to take your phone and video meetings during a walk.

While walking meetings may not always be the easiest option, with new note taking apps and the ability to record what people are saying, it should not pose too much of an issue.

Related Article: The Most Basic, But Effective Home Gym

Nutrition

Being at home all the time can make it notably more difficult to meal prep.

Rather than putting together 2-3 healthy meals per day, you can quickly find yourself snacking all the time, and rarely eating anything decent at all. Given the intimate relationship between what you eat and your physical and mental wellbeing, it should come as no surprise that this is far from ideal.

I like to try and adhere to the following tips when I am working from home:

  • Eat 3 meals per day that contain both a protein source and a handful of vegetables
  • Limit snacks to fruits and nuts
  • Try and avoid drinking anything that contains calories

If you stick to these tips, you can be assured you are getting in the nutrients you need to function at a high level each day.

Exercise

woman stretching and looking at a view of the mountains

Lastly, one of the most important healthy habits you can take up is resistance based exercise. With evidence to suggest it can improve metabolic and cardiovascular health while staving off osteoporosis and sarcopenia, it is a no brainer.

Moreover, it can also have an extremely positive effect on pain and posture.

But being stuck at home during quarantine can seriously limit your access to resistance training equipment. This not only makes getting in some making resistance based exercise harder, but also limits your exercise selection to things you can do without equipment, which can feel restrictive.

With that in mind, I would encourage you to try and get in 20-30 minutes of bodyweight exercises each day.

This does not have to be complex. In fact, simply hitting 3-4 large exercises that focus on your abdominals and glutes can go a long way to improve posture, preventing lower back pain, and keeping your healthy in the process.

Some of the best at home exercises include:

  • Lower body: Hip lifts (single leg and double leg), squats, split squats, lunges, single leg deadlifts.
  • Upper body: push ups, chin ups, bench rows.
  • Abdominals: planks, reverse crunches, dead bugs, side planks, Russian twists.

With this in mind, a great at home workout would be to choose three or four of the above exercises and perform them in a circuit for 20-30 minutes. You could then alternate exercises daily to keep it interesting.

If you are unsure how to stay active while working from home, this would be a great place to start.

Take Home Message

Over the last six months working from home has become increasingly common. While it has helped us continue to earn an income in an extremely challenging time, it has also come with some downsides.

However, if you stick to the wellness tips listed in this article, you can keep yourself healthy and happy while you work from home – no matter how long it lasts.

References

Brynjolfsson, Erik, et al. COVID-19 and remote work: an early look at US data. No. w27344. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2020.

Moretti, Antimo, et al. “Characterization of Home Working Population during COVID-19 Emergency: A Cross-Sectional Analysis.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17.17 (2020): 6284.

Toniolo-Barrios, Mariana, and Leyland Pitt. “Mindfulness and the challenges of working from home in times of crisis.” Business Horizons (2020).

Dwyer, Michael John, et al. “Physical activity: Benefits and challenges during the COVID‐19 pandemic.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 30.7 (2020): 1291.

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