• Raveena Birring

Staying Healthy While Working From Home

No one could have predicted that some of us would be here, heading into our ninth month of working from home. We may be feeling burnout and pandemic fatigue, but there are still many opportunities to work on perfecting our work-from-home routines. There are two facets to staying healthy while working remotely – physical health and mental health. Here are some tips and tricks in both areas that you can still implement now, it’s never too late for improvement!


Physical Health


Ergonomics

1. Stop using that old dining room chair and get a supportive office chair! A key point to consider is lumbar support – ensure that the front of the seat does not hit the back of your knees and that your feet touch the ground.

2. Ensure your screen is at eye level. If using a laptop, get a riser, an external keyboard and a mouse to ensure you can sit in the correct position. Use your mouse with a straight wrist, not on an angle. If you have the ability to invest in a standing desk that can adjust heights, even better! There are great options available at Costco and Staples.

3. Pick one workstation in your home – don’t move from the dining room to the kitchen to the hallway. Once you have your ergonomic setup – stick with it! This will also help your mind adjust to the routine and know that it’s time to work when you sit down at that spot each morning.

4. Maintain a “tidy desk” policy, even at home. Depending on where your workstation is, you may be able to see it during “non-work” hours and seeing a mess can cause additional stress and thoughts about work when you should be relaxing. Keep it neat and tidy so you can start each day fresh.

5. Eye health is a major part of our physical health – to avoid eye fatigue that can lead to further problems down the road, be sure to take breaks away from your screen using the 20/20/20 technique – every 20 minutes, take your eyes off the screen for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away.


Movement

1. Use your extended health benefits! Schedule regular chiropractor, massage, or acupuncture every month to prevent and maintain good health rather than waiting until a problem arises. Remember, the end of the year gets booked up fast due to everyone trying to use up their benefits – so get booked in now!

2. Take a 5-10 minute break every hour to stand up and stretch and walk around. A great tip is to take calls standing or walking to get some movement in your workday. You could also set a timer to remind yourself to get up and stretch.

3. Exercise! 30 minutes of movement each day can make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing – whether you take a walk, going on a run, doing a home workout with a YouTube video, gardening, dancing, or even cleaning the house! Anything that gets your heart rate up for 30 minutes will do the trick.


Body

1. Stay on top of vitamins – this is more important now than ever. Vitamin C and zinc and other immunity-boosting vitamins are crucial to keeping your immune system strong. Drinks lots and lots of water and eat healthily. A great tip to ensure your eating habits are not slipping while working from home is to continue meal prepping lunches. This forces you to eat what you already prepared for yourself saves time and also avoids ordering takeout or snacking all day.

2. Don’t work and eat. Take the lunch break to eat your lunch at a table/couch away from your workstation!

3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule – go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to keep your circadian rhythm in check.

4. Instead of a 20-minute “coffee and scroll-on-your-phone” break, take a 20-minute power nap! This can make all the difference for your afternoon productivity.


Sitting at Work Infographic: Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)




Mental Health

1. Change out of your pyjamas every morning – even if you change into sweatpants or another pair of pyjamas! Just be sure to not start working in the same clothes you slept in. Changing signals to your brain that your day is starting, and you will feel more productive and ready to work.

2. Create a “morning commute” to transition yourself from waking up to starting work – don’t walk straight from the bed to the coffee pot to the laptop. Instead, add in a morning activity such as: taking a shower, reading a book, sitting outside to eat breakfast, exercising, yoga or meditation. You can also do what you would normally do during your commute – listen to a podcast or some music and just sip on your coffee!

3. Take breaks. This is important for both physical and mental health. On a regular day at the office, you probably spend at least an hour chatting on your way in and out, during the lunch break, going to grab a coffee with a co-worker, and at the water-cooler. So, make sure you build these breaks into your routine by setting a timer or alarm to - sit on your patio, go watch a 20 minute TV show, read a book, or take a walk around the block.

4. Set your start time and end time. Just like you have a morning commute, create an evening commute – closing your laptop, tidying your space, refilling a water bottle, getting ideas ready for dinner, etc.

5. Have virtual coffee breaks with co-workers to keep up with the social aspect of work that we are missing out on by being at home. Also, stay connected with friends and family outside of work in a safe way such as Facetime, Zoom, or socially distanced walks together.

6. Limit the time you spend watching the news/media – this can increase anxiety and stress. If seeing the news is unavoidable, try reading a piece of good news for each negative story you read to help keep a positive mindset in this time of crisis.

7. Start a new hobby to distract you – it sometimes feels strange to have an extra hour or two back once we take out the commute time, so pick up a hobby you’ve been neglecting. For example, I started using that time to paint and play the piano again!

8. Show empathy to your colleagues and reach out to others to have conversations about the times we are living through. Lately, it seems that most people avoid talking about it as it feels “normal”, but it is important to remember that we are all living through this together.

9. Journal about your feelings – this allows you to get out things you don’t want to say aloud to anyone else and is much more liberating than keeping those thoughts in your mind

10. Check your EAP and extended health plan for mental health resources that your employer may be providing for free.

Resources:

Great resources for tips on ergonomics:




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