The year was 2020, a year that saw everything change. Working remotely from home was not a novel concept at this time, but with the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, it became the new normal.
At the time of writing this, we are closing in on the end of 2021, and working at home is being used as an option to reduce the spread of coronavirus. For many people, this is a blessing – you can look after kids or pets, reduce travel and food costs, as well as saving a lot of time normally spent travelling.
These changes could lead to an improvement in work life balance, however, there are dangers and pitfalls to be aware of – we need to make sure we maintain self-care practices when working from home to stay healthy and productive.
IMPORTANCE OF TAKING CARE OF YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
Most of us may find that working from home means we are less active – though it may not feel that way. Travelling to work naturally involves a fair amount of movement, as does getting ourselves back home. This lack of travel means we are in the same environment from the start to the end of the day, which is likely to impact mental health over a prolonged period of time.
There is also the problem of maintaining productivity. At home there are distractions (and responsibilities) that simply aren’t in the workplace. Therefore, methods are needed to minimise the impacts of distractions to make sure you get your work done!
Working from home does give a great opportunity to ensure you are eating a balanced diet in order to stay productive, and sane! Don’t forget that working from home means less face time with colleagues, and as we are social creatures, this can negatively impact your mental wellbeing.
You will need to put the effort into these areas you can control to give yourself the best chance of managing your life well while working from home – so let’s talk about care tips to help you do this!
SELF CARE TIPS
Getting into a routine is a good place to start when working from home. Our circadian rhythm (the wake – sleep cycle) is a natural routine that our body exhibits due to the day and night cycle, and disrupting this can negatively impact our health, so keeping your sleep schedule the same everyday helps to keep you in this rhythm.
A well crafted routine will help you maximise the efficiency of your day, and reduce the chances of feeling overwhelmed. Construct your morning routine to be busy and aim to get lots done before your lunch break – you’ll hit the middle of the day feeling good, setting you up for a strong start to the afternoon.
Make sure to schedule in your break times too! This breaks up the work day into short, manageable segments; this should help you stay focused in your work periods, maintaining productivity, Regular breaks from the computer screen helps to reduce eye strain, and using ‘body English’ – recruiting other parts of our body – to compensate only results in discomfort, back pain and, potentially, repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Use the break times to do something specific instead of just milling around – if you don’t use your break time for something, you won’t feel like you had much of a break! Get outside, get some natural light on your skin and breathe the fresh air!
Having a routine is important for anyone at home with you, so they know when to give you plenty of space to let you get work done, and when to approach you if they need to.
Make sure to include a healthy breakfast in your morning routine to give you plenty of energy, avoid snacking on junk food, and be strict when it comes to making yourself drinks – I’m talking teas and coffees, here. It can be all-too easy to sit down to start work to then justify stopping to go and make a cuppa. As coffee is a diuretic, having too much may result in you spending more time in the toilet than getting work done…
Try to eat healthy food while you’re working: arm yourself with an assortment of healthy snacks, such as wholegrains and fruit, and plenty of water to keep you fed and hydrated throughout the day. A healthy, reasonably sized lunch should be eaten to avoid post-feast drowsiness – a major productivity killer. Junk food can encourage a sugar crash, so I’d recommend staying away from sugary food and treats like chocolate if you want to make the most out of your day.
Unless it’s dark chocolate, in which case: eat it! Not only is it rich in fibre, nutrients, good fatty acids and antioxidants; one study showed that participants who ate cocoa rich in flavanol for 5 days showed improved blood flow to the brain. You can also find the stimulants caffeine and theobromine in cocoa, which may explain the short-term brain boost.
Having a room in which to work can help separate the feeling of the home environment and a work environment, so for those who can set up a home office, it is well worth doing so. If you can set boundaries in this way, it marks a clear delineation between when you should be in work mode and when you aren’t. Much better than sitting down to work at the kitchen table!
Getting outside during the work day is likely to be beneficial – there is much evidence that illustrates time spent in nature is great for our mental wellbeing. If you are feeling particularly stressed, unproductive or sour, then taking a walk in nature can help to reduce those feelings, and it is good to know that if there isn’t much in the way of local greenery, then the exercise alone can help to reduce feelings of stress, as well as help to clear the head.
Use your breaks as an opportunity to change your environment and when you sit back down to work, you should do so feeling refreshed, with less overall stress. Regular breaks will help you maintain good posture when you are sitting down for a long period of time, too – failure to do this will result in postural issues and pain.
As social creatures, a lack of social interactions can have quite a strong impact on us. Loneliness is a risk factor for all-cause mortality – that means it’s a risk factor for all forms of death. This may be the extreme, but it demonstrates how a decline in social interactions can cause a decline in health.
If you work as part of a team or a small company, then check in with your colleagues! A text to check they are ok will help them feel valued, and a phone call to discuss a work related issue may still give that social interaction lacking in the ‘working from home’ paradigm.
Be wary about getting involved on social media sites – it’s easy to get distracted and spend a fair amount of time doing nothing, and exposure to a lot of the sensationalising apparent in our mainstream media outlets does little to help your situation. Limit browsing time to your lunch break, and utilise other breaks in your day to engage in some of these other activities to keep your day exciting and passing quickly!
- Bad Habits
The freedom of working from home may allow you to get away with a few bad habits, ones that weren’t possible in a work environment. This could be taking breaks far too frequently, resulting in insufficient work being done. Scheduled breaks should help prevent this from happening,
Those breaks could be cigarette breaks, in which case you could be smoking more than usual, which is bad for your health, but also conditions you to smoke regularly to get your brain to focus. Using an e-cigarette or vape device might be a less harmful option if you need a regular hit of nicotine.
Working from home can be a double edged sword, if you aren’t careful. It should save you money, give you more time and freedom, and allow you to be healthier in your daily life. The catch is that you need to be organised and disciplined for it to work well.
Spending time crafting a daily routine that works well for you, that encourages you to make good use of your day, will benefit more than just your work: it could revolutionise your life, if you’re willing to put the effort in.
If there is one tip that belongs in the top position, it is making that daily routine. Schedule your breaks, and many of these other tips will happen naturally.
What are you waiting for? Get planning!