The ultimate guide to staying healthy when working from home

As COVID-19 continues to spread, more and more people are turning to working from home in a bid to reduce infection rates. The message from the Government is clear: If you can work from home, do so. However, with employees set to be working remotely for a prolonged period of time, how do you remain active and healthy?

There are a lot of benefits associated with working from home. No commute, no dress code, no manager breathing down your neck, and greater flexibility to name a few. It might sound like living the dream, but working from home also comes with temptations and can be lonely, particularly if doing so for a long period of time. It’s not uncommon to gain weight and struggle mentally, especially during the transition phase from office life to home life.

Remaining fit and healthy, in both the mind and body, while working from home can be a challenge. Not only do you have to contend with a host of new distractions (remember that day binging Netflix when you were meant to be working hard?), but you also need to practice discipline and self-motivation. Here’s our guide on making sure your acclimatisation to working from home is a healthy one.

1. Start the day as you mean to go on

There’s no doubt about it, one of the biggest perks of working from home is lounging in comfy jogging bottoms all day instead of dressing up to be presentable. However, if you’re finding yourself struggling to get off the sofa and in your PJs still by the evening, that isn’t a good life choice. It’s fun for a few days but quickly results in being lethargic. Known as ‘enclothed cognition’, research has found the way you think is impacted by the way you dress. Long-term, it’s important to start the day as you would normally. Shower, get changed into proper clothes (it doesn’t have to be smart, but at least get out of your PJs), and eat breakfast as normal.

You’ll find you get a quick burst of productivity by doing so, rather than getting up 1 minute before work starts, not showering until later in the day (or at all…) and skipping breakfast in favour of unhealthy snacks.

Vivi tip: Start your day as you normally would. A shower will freshen you, breakfast will fuel you and putting on proper clothes will promote productivity. Try listening to an informative podcast or read something relevant to start the day with a positive mindset.

2. Set up a proper work environment

Your working space is going to be where you will be spending a vast amount of time. While some might have an office at home, others might be confined to the TV. Regardless, there are some things you can do to make your work environment more productive and healthy.

Firstly, working on the sofa isn’t the way forward. Set up a desk (or table) and chair to create mental associations with work and improve your posture. An ergonomic set up is important as you don’t want to come out of your working from home spell with back or neck pain. Hunching over a laptop on the sofa all day is a one-way ticket to the physio. Try a standing desk for short periods of time if you don’t think you are being active enough.

Secondly, when it comes to your actual work set up, try to keep it as normal to your office set up as possible. If you have a desktop screen, use it. Keep your laptop or screen in level with your eyes to reduce neck strain, and invest in a keyboard and mouse if you don’t have one. Additionally, don’t forget about airflow. ‘Huh?’, you might be thinking? Airing your working space is an important part of the work environment. You don’t want to be stuck in a stuffy, hot room. Crack open a window.

Vivi tip: If you don’t have a desktop screen/monitor, try a laptop stand to raise the positioning of your laptop screen to eye level.

3. Schedule regular breaks

Sitting around all day is one of the biggest mistakes made by home workers. I’ve been there… Chilling on the sofa, TV on in the background, laptop on my knees, not moving for hours upon hours. Before I knew it, I had back pain, a headache and was generally feeling seriously unproductive.

Set a reminder to keep active every hour, even if it’s simply standing up and making a cup of tea or coffee. These short breaks give your body a chance to stretch, boosts blood flow and help your posture, as well as breaks up the monotony of sitting in one place for too long.

Vivi tip: Use a re-occurring timer or chrome add-in to set hourly reminders to get up and walk about. If you’re using Slack for work communication, you can also set up automatic reminders to yourself to move about. Use your scheduled breaks to get some fresh air if possible.

4. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine

The benefits of exercise are well documented. After working from home a few days, you’ve probably noticed you aren’t hitting the same step count as you normally do. The best way to counter this is to build exercise into your daily routine. The good news is there are plenty of home workouts readily available, making self-isolation exercise easy. It does, however, require a level of discipline to get into the route

See your lunchtime as an opportunity to get some fresh air – either go for a run or go for a walk. Trust me, the exercise will help clear your head, boost your metabolism, release ‘happy’ endorphins, and so on. Think of how you can use your original commute time effectively – maybe build exercise into that? I’m a firm believer that exercise needs to be a priority in working from home routines, particularly if you are struggling mentally. If it isn’t, make it one.

If you want to exercise indoors, then turn to YouTube or a workout app, such as Auro, to help you stay fit. Additionally, if you have at-home gym equipment then there’s no excuse to not be using it. The point is, physical inactivity is a dangerous downward spiral. Make sure you remain active. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – say you will go for a run or exercise, rather than I might. Don’t let doubt or a way out creep in.

Vivi tip: Make sure you manage the expectations of your whereabouts. I tell colleagues / bosses if I’m going for a run during the day so they know either not to phone me or not be surprised if I’m heavily panting when they do. If you are good in the mornings, why not start the day with an early run to get the heart rate pumping? My personal favourite is a short run (around 25-30 minutes) for my daily dose of cardio, followed by a resistance band workout including sets of squats, lunges, bicep curls, chest presses and various ab exercises. There are also numerous phone apps worth trying that provide things like 30-day fitness challenges at home, for all abilities.

5. Create a healthy daily routine

It’s not uncommon for your daily routine to completely go out of the window, including eating times, waking up and more. Create a flexible routine that you stick to. For example, set an alarm as usual. Have a set time for dinner to signal your brain the working day is over and it’s now time to unwind, and stick to normal working hours.

To start with, try writing a daily to-do list to improve productivity. I’ve had colleagues who favour spending 10 minutes a day writing in a dairy their objectives. Whatever it is, find what works for you. It’s too easy to lack the normal working structure at home, resulting in a loss of focus and motivation. That can result in pushing work back and missing deadlines, which inevitably leads to stress.

Your productivity levels will vary throughout the day, which is normal. And while your standard 9-5 might be gone, your new-found flexibility will help you tackle the most important tasks you have at a time that suits you best.

Vivi tip: Use a tool such as Todoist to create daily lists for what you want to get done. Todoist is free and is an easy online productivity checker. You’ll have to lose the 9-5 mentality to an extent when working from home. So going for a run at 10am if you don’t have a meeting scheduled should be seen as normal, as long as you’re managing your diary and managing expectations. Create a routine that works for you.

6. Don’t forget to eat properly

One of the biggest temptations when working from home is unnecessary snacking. Whether it is boredom or availability, snacking on treats throughout the day is only going to end one way. It’s really important to keep your body feeling good by eating properly. That means proper meal times and healthy, home-cooked food. This doesn’t have to be expensive, check out our blog on eating healthy on a budget.

If your kitchen is packed full of treats, earn them by exercising and remember, everything in moderation. Try and eat more wholemeal foods – a simple swap is white carbs for wholemeal carbs. With the time saved on commuting, why not spend that time having better breakfasts? And lunches? And dinners? Design a menu you actually want to eat rather than one that is the quickest to prepare…

Vivi tip: Keep your cravings at bay by buying more wholemeal foods, fresh fruit and vegetables. But reward yourself when you have earnt it. A reward system is important. Want to watch an episode of something and have that sugary treat? Make yourself earn them, either by work or exercise or both.

7. Communicate regularly with colleagues and friends

It’s easy to hide when working from home. But there are plenty of communications tools such as Zoom, Skype and Slack to keep in touch with colleagues. And mobile devices make communicating with friends really easy, particularly during this self-isolation period. Regular communication is vital to avoid loneliness.

Use the digital tools you have at your disposal to keep communicating, book in regular catch-ups with your team, respond to instant chat messages and socialise virtually with friends. Don’t be afraid to confide your feelings to your colleagues and friends. They are likely going through the same thing. Working from home can be incredibly lonely and has been linked to increased anxiety, so lean on others and don’t bottle any negative feelings in.

If you feel isolated and disconnected, especially if you usually thrive off social interactions in the office, work on improving your online communications to negate these feelings. If you need a laugh, memes and GIFs can help get you through the day! Check out this blog on how to maintain your mental health when working from home.

Vivi tip: Hold daily video catch-ups with your whole team so everyone knows who’s doing what each day. Try and make your working day as transparent as possible. If you are a manager, put an emphasis on team wellbeing.

8. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

While you need to make sure you are being productive and accountable at work, don’t let your home life suffer. Working from home can often lead to working hours bleeding into personal time. Try not to let it. Additionally, avoid overworking on weekends. Spend that time doing things you enjoy, being active, spending time with loved ones and friends, and so on. Your mind needs time to recharge.

Falling into unhealthy habits can make the home working transition a lot harder than it needs to be. There needs to be a clear separator between work and personal life. The same applies to sleeping, which promotes a healthy lifestyle. Irregular sleep patterns increase the risk of metabolic disorders, while sleep deprivation is known to lead to a number of health issues. Especially in the midst of a global health pandemic, getting more than 7 hours of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your immune system.

As with the start of the day, ending the day is just as important. Firstly, you need to ensure you properly clock off from work. Secondly, you need to avoid the temptation of a late night playing video games or watching TV and make sure you still get a proper night sleep. You might be working from home, but it’s still a school night!

Vivi tip: Set up boundaries for yourself and don’t be tempted to continually check emails throughout the night. Take a lunch break and make time for friends and family. Do not prioritise work over general life. The two go hand-in-hand.

Finally, work hard and smart, and enjoy it!

Remember, working long hours isn’t working smart. Be productive and enjoy yourself. Working from home, particularly during these uncertain times, can be extremely difficult but follow these steps to ensure your health isn’t something that suffers.

So, if Coronavirus has you stuck in social isolation working from home, make it a positive, productive and healthy experience.

Eating right is a key part of staying healthy when working from home. Try our nutrition box for the best nutritional products delivered to your door each month.

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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