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Tips to stay healthy, physically and mentally

With many people working from home now and the weeks have turned to months, it’s important to make sure the habits you are forming help maintain physical and mental well-being.

The advantages of this arrangement are obvious; a one-minute commute, a more relaxed environment, and every day being “wear your pajamas to work” day. However, the easy kitchen access, lack of social interaction, and working in places meant for relaxing can sabotage the best intentions for healthy living.

Getting your work done is important for businesses, but staying healthy is just as crucial for at-home workers. This means ensuring your work space is ergonomic, your schedule is well thought-out, and that you have created boundaries between work and personal life.

Consider these ideas and tips to stay productive, healthy, and sane as you adjust to working from home.

Your day

Stick with a routine. Humans are creatures of habit—and that’s partly because routine helps us mentally and physically prepare for things. Whether it’s having a cup of coffee every morning, doing some morning stretches or taking your dog on a walk, creating a morning routine can greatly help you get ready for the workday at home.

“Go” to work. Set an alarm clock, eat breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed as if you were actually going into work. You don’t have to put on a suit or tie, but you’ll need to treat the day like any other day at the office, minus the office. Determine regular working hours and factor in breaks and meal times.

Establish a work schedule and stick to it. Working designated hours, and then stopping when those hours are up will give your brain time to work and time to rest. While working remotely does mean you have added flexibility with your personal life schedule, it’s best to stick to a schedule where you can be productive, get your work done, and call it a day when work hours are over.

Taking breaks. Just like any working environment, giving yourself breaks is incredibly important to let your brain and body relax. Take a 15-minute walk, go make some lunch (and resist the temptation to eat in your work area), or call someone you know to check in with them.

Your office

Create a workspace. Set up an area in your house to use solely as a workspace, if possible. Sitting down in a designated workspace sends a clear signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. Stay away from your designated workspace when you’re not working and try not to blend work and personal time by working in bed or on the sofa.

Desk and chairs. Invest in a comfortable, ergonomic chair that will keep you properly aligned throughout the day. If that’s not possible or available, use a dining table and straight back chair. The couch and other super-soft seating may seem easy and appealing, but they can make you slouch and signal to your brain it’s time to relax.

While most of us have some control over our desk at work, you get free rein over your work area now, so create a soothing environment. Make it a place you want to be. Buy an inexpensive scent diffuser or put scented candles nearby. Make sure your desk is in a place where you enjoy the view, whether it’s outside or near artwork you love.

Your physical health

Once you have a dedicated place to work at home, make sure it’s set up ergonomically by following these tips:

  • Your monitor should be at about eye level in order to prevent neck strain.
  • Hips and knees should be slightly more open than 90 degrees.
  • Upper arms should be relaxed and vertical from shoulders to elbows.
  • Wrists should be flat and straight.
  • To prevent glare and eye strain, position screen(s) perpendicular to windows.
  • Connect a keyboard and monitor to your laptop if possible, to avoid slouching, straining your eyes, and looking down.
  • Get up and take a walk: even a 20-minute walk once or twice a day, especially when you’re feeling frazzled or indecisive, can be very beneficial.

Plan ahead for lunch and breaks. With the kitchen so close to your work area, make sure you plan ahead. It can be easy to wander into the kitchen any time when you know it’s packed with treats, so a lunch and break schedules can help. This will prevent you from working to the point of hunger and then scrambling to decide what to eat. Also, keep your kitchen stocked with healthy meals and snacks so you can choose foods that boost memory and help with concentration; treats like dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate juice, blueberries, or walnuts. If you have healthy snacks like fruits and cut-up vegetables available, it’s easier to avoid the temptation of processed food and sugary drinks.

Your mental health

Set goals. Write out a daily and weekly to-do list so that you will feel better-prepared knowing what’s ahead and having some sort of game plan for tackling it. And, as mentioned earlier, a set schedule with goals in mind helps you know when to log off, shut down, and stop working.

Stay connected. Working from home can sometimes be isolating; many of us are accustomed to chatting with coworkers at lunch or on breaks. Utilize available tools to check in with your friends and co-workers. While email and texting are fine, nothing replaces the feeling of seeing someone, so schedule video calls when possible. Many people have access to Google Meets through GSuite, but there are free video conferencing tools available as well. Virtual connections will never replace the importance of face-to-face interaction, but it can help make you feel less isolated and in a void.

The bottom line

Working from home during this time may not be what you planned, but you can make the most of it and be productive and satisfied at the end of every day. It takes time to get used to this, so give yourself permission to adjust to your new work life, and remember to pat yourself on the back for everything you’ve accomplished so far.

Stay well. Stay safe.

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