Working from home inherently has some perks that can help reduce stress. Rush hour? What’s that? Figuring out your wardrobe for the day? Who cares what you’re wearing! Temperature in the office not to your liking? Now you have complete control! With so many benefits, it is easy to overlook possible pitfalls that can negatively impact your physical and mental health.
With so many people having to switch rapidly to remote work over the last few weeks, it is important to foster healthy work habits from the beginning. A recent study by Stanford University found that people who worked remotely were 13% more productive than their counterparts who worked in a “traditional office.” While that increase in productivity is a boon to your employer, it is important to not sacrifice your health to achieve it. The distractions of coworkers stopping by your desk or you needing to get up to go to the printer down the hall do not exist when you are working from home. Even though we frequently view these types of interruptions as nuisances, they can also act as unconscious prompts for you to look away from your computer, physically move out of your seat, and interact with others.
The following tips are designed to help you consciously make better choices while you are working from home.
1. Mind Your Posture
In many offices, people ask for expensive ergonomic chairs to help them reduce back pain, yet when they start working from home, ergonomics go out the window. Often people will sit hunched over their computers with their chins down and shoulders slumped. Staying in that position over time can lead to back and neck pain as well as feelings of stress and depression.
Take a cue from your mother’s command to you during childhood, “Sit up straight!” Pay attention to your posture. Sitting up straight can strengthen your core, improve your mood, and reduce neck and back pain both in the short and long term.
After you improve your posture sitting at your computer, you will want to take a few minutes to also stretch. Stretching not only helps your posture but is a great way to also improve your range of motion and relieve stress. You don’t need to be a yogi to stretch daily. There are easy things anyone can do from the comfort of their own seat. If you are not sure what kind of stretches to start doing, check out this article in Healthline.com called Stretches to Do at Work Every Day. It will take you through multiple easy stretches you can do as soon as you finish reading this article.
3. Look Away
Staring at your computer screen for hours and hours each day uninterrupted can be detrimental to your overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic you can increase your risk of death by 50% being in front of a screen for more than four hours a day. With frightening statics like that, how can you not look away?! WebMD recommends you “follow the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes or so and look at something around 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. If they feel dry, try some eye drops.”
4. Take a Walk
In a traditional office, most people will get up several times a day to talk to a colleague, grab coffee, or use the bathroom. While working from home you still may get coffee or use the bathroom, but chances are the distance to do those tasks is much shorter. Remote workers tend to sit for longer periods than their office counterparts because they don’t have the same distractions that would normally get them out of their seats. This is why it is so important to get up and take a walk.
The American Heart Association recommends walking 30 minutes per day at least five days per week to help reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. To help facilitate that recommendation, take your dog for a walk, take a lunch break and go for a half hour walk, or just take a mental health break and walk to clear your head. Studies have shown that walking can combat a negative mood, reduce anxiety and depression. Walking can also help you when you have a problem at work that leaves you stumped. Getting up and physically moving can release the endorphins you need to help you overcome those mental blocks.
5. Socially Interact
One of the top reasons people feel uncomfortable with remote work is because they feel isolated from their peers. Introverts tend to excel from the onset working remotely because they tend to prefer planned meetings, smaller group or one-on-one interactions. Extroverts gain energy from social interactions, and the inherent nature of remote work physically separates them from their co-workers. This can make their transition to remote work more difficult at the onset. That said, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, as humans we all crave social interaction. Therefore, it is important to make time to see other people while you are working remotely. Plan activities to help facilitate social interactions. Some examples include:
- Meet a friend for lunch
- Work from a local café or “WeWork” type of space
- Make plans to go walking with a friend
- Join a social club
How much or how little you decide to interact with others is up to you, but don’t underestimate the importance of making that time to be in contact with others.
NOTE: As of the publishing of this article, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus. To help facilitate a safe version of this tip, use free tools like FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype to virtually connect with others. For example, if you are in a wine club, start a Zoom with your members, grab a glass of wine from your personal collection, and chat together. You will be surprised how much that interaction can help break up your day and recharge your batteries.
Remote work has many benefits for employers and employees, but when employees neglect their mental and physical health because of bad habits learned while working remotely, no one wins. Use these tips to combat bad habits BEFORE they start. The sooner you start instituting these tips into your daily routine, the sooner you will begin to feel fit physically and mentally.
If you are interested in getting help to transition your organization into a remote workplace or to receive assistance choosing and/or implementing new technology, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.