For those of us who are new to learning or working from home, it’s been almost ten months now. At the start of the lockdowns there were many pieces of advice shared with suggestions about adjusting to work from home, including setting up your workstation, having the perfect zoom background and keeping regular office hours – but have you been letting things slide the longer you stay home? With lockdown restrictions escalating here in Toronto, it looks like many of you will be working from home for at least the next several weeks & months.
For your continued good health, here are three bad working from home habits that we recommond you avoid.
#1 Stop working from your Couch or Bed
If you haven’t already invested in a proper work station, or most importantly, a proper chair, then you may find yourself looking for alternate places to sit by mid-day due to back or neck pain. Or perhaps you’re guilty of putting on a mindless TV show in the background while you answer emails, and move over to the couch where you can watch with one eye. Or you need to escape to your bedroom to have some quiet during a conference call and get comfy with your pets so you hang out on your bed, working away on your laptop.
Sounds like the work from home life of your dreams, right?
It may be enjoyable, but it’s not great for your productivity or for your posture. To avoid build up of neck and back pain, try to create a setup that allows you to raise the top of the screen to the level of your eyes. This may require small investment in an external monitor or an external keyboard.
Find Ways to Separate Work and Home life
Your bedroom should be reserved for relaxation and sleep to promote a healthy sleep environment. If you start using it for work you’ll associate your bedroom with the activities and stress of working and it will be harder for you to relax and unwind there. The best practice is to set up a dedicated work area in your home so that you can either be in or out of your workplace. If you don’t have enough room to dedicate a space and are working from a desk or table in a common area, then putting your work things away at the end of the day can create the same separation of your home and work environments.
If you do find yourself having to relocate to your bedroom or the couch temporarily, then take a few minutes to set up your work area so that it doesn’t strain your body. Add a lumbar pillow so your back is in a neutral position, and raise your laptop using pillows or a lap desk so that it is at eye level and you don’t need to strain your neck to see the screen.
If you still experience back pain after working in your home office, wherever it may be, consider making your kitchen counter a standing desk for a short period of time. This can make a big difference for your body. And don’t forget to stretch!
#2 Not eating or hydrating properly
It can be great and also not great to have your kitchen right in your workspace. You might feel guilty about taking time out of your work day to go into your kitchen and prepare lunch or a snack, but remember that your at-work schedule had those breaks built in as well. If you were in the habit of taking a walk to a nearby coffee shop during your day, then transition that to taking a walk around the block before making yourself another cup of coffee or tea.
Schedule some time on the weekend or in the evening to prepare some healthy snacks such as premade containers of cut veggies and dip, or a variety of fruits you can have for snacks rather than rustling through your pantry for the salty, crunchy snacks. It’s great to plan your lunches as well – having it packed in advance makes it much easier to grab a healthy choice rather than reach for a take out menu.
Do your best to stick to a schedule – having set times for a morning and afternoon snack and lunch make it easier to avoid potentially skipping meals and getting too hungry or from wandering into the kitchen and grazing after each meeting. While you probably DO need a break from your workstation, you probably don’t need a snack each time you get up! Instead, refill your water glass and take a quick walk around the home or go up and down your stairs a couple of times to get your blood circulating.
Read more great tips on healthy eating while working from home in this dietitian article.
#3 Skipping or not having an Exercise Routine
Another change we’ve experienced is to our exercise routines. Perhaps you used to have a gym in your workplace, or you used to stop on your way to or from work to get a workout in. Now most gyms are closed or have reduced hours and your formerly good habits have been dropped.
When you’re working from home, especially with a partner or kids, it can be hard to carve out self-care time as you transition directly from work into your home role without a break. It’s important to remember that the household doesn’t run itself, and you need to take care of you if all the other tasks are going to get done!
Find ways to move throughout the day
The easiest way to incorporate more movement into your day is to make it part of a routine. Set a timer every 60 – 90 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around. You can do a quick 7 minute HIIT workout or take a walk around the block and that brief break for some activity will boost both your mental and physical wellness, as well as make you more focused and productive when you return to work.
Look for other opportunities to sneak in activity throughout your day. You can walk or do some light stretching during a conference call if you have a headset or speakerphone, or stand to work for a portion of your day.
Involve others in your efforts to be more active! Choose a short workout video you can do together or virtually, or challenge friends or coworkers to see who can get the most steps on their fitness tracker.
What changes have you made to your routine now that you are working from home? Share them with us in the comments – we’d love to learn more!
Written by: Dr. Kevin Ho, DC