Many of us have spent our working lives wishing that we could stay at home. The thought of rolling out of bed into the shower and onto your sofa, to work and watch your favourite series on Netflix at the same time is pretty inviting, isn’t it? Add in the fact you can take breaks whenever you want, not have to queue up for the coffee machine, and don’t have to face that long, grubby commute home on public transport. Working from home seems like the dream.
And then 2020 came along and turned everything completely upside down.
Now, we are being encouraged by the government to work from home. Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Okay, so the slogan has changed a couple of times since then, but working from home is happening more often than ever now. But is working from home all it is cracked up to be?
Many people are realising that actually, remote working is not quite the joy that they thought it would be. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. It can be much more difficult to get motivated, it can be very isolating – and it can also take its toll on both your mental and physical health. It turns out the grass isn’t quite so green on the other side.
Here, we are going to look at how you can keep your physical and mental health in check while working from home, so that when – if – you return to the office, you will be in robust health rather than having people ask ‘well, what on earth happened to you?’. Let’s take a look.
Set up your workday
When you are working from home, you can go one of two ways. Some people find it so much more difficult to get motivated, so do the bare minimum. Others find it difficult to switch off and end up working all the hours that they can, often for little reward. The key here is to strike a balance between your home life and your work life, and the best way to do this is to have a workday. Aim to have a distinct start and finish time – just as you would if you were in the office – and try not to work outside these hours. That goes for checking your emails on your phone, too. If your boss knows that you could be available in the middle of the night, they may well expect you to be available in the middle of the night.
You may want to think about the time that you usually spend commuting to do things like housework, so that it does not eat into your work time or your leisure time.
Set up a workspace
Following on from the previous point, having a distinct workspace can create a much stronger line between home and work. Ideally, this would be a room away from all the hustle and bustle of the house, where you are not likely to be disturbed during working hours and can spread out and access everything that you need to do your job. However, in many family homes, this is just not feasible. The next best step is to use a corner of your bedroom or dining room and have a desk – anything other than sitting balancing your laptop on your knee on the sofa while your toddler watches Peppa Pig!
This not only protects your productivity levels and gets you into a better mental mindframe fro work, but it also helps you to maintain better posture. Think carefully about the height of your desk chair and ensure it is supportive and comfortable to reduce neck and back problems. Some people are even now using standing desks!
Make time for fresh air and exercise
Many of us rely on our daily commute for exercise and fresh air, whether it is the journey itself or a pit stop at the gym on the way to and from work. When we do not have to do that journey anymore, our exercise routines can be thrown entirely out of the window. However, for both of your physical and mental health, it is important that you find the time and space in your day to get some exercise in and take a few deep breaths of fresh air.
It might be that you take the dog for a long walk every lunchtime, or take the kids for a game of football in the park in the evening. Gyms and leisure centres are open again, so perhaps factor in the time to hit there for an hour away from your home and desk.
Those workers who shun the exercise increase the likelihood of becoming obese, devloping heart problems, deeo vein thrombosis and have poorer mental health. Exercise releases endorphins – the feel good hormone that gives you a natural high that can help you to push through the stresses of the day.
Keep up with health check ups
The health care system is a little mixed up at the moment, but in most areas, most routine checkups and appointments are still going ahead. It is important that you do not skip important appointments such as dental checkups and sight checkups, particularly if you are staring at a computer screen all day. If you do find that your eyesight has deteriorated since being at home, you can find a huge range of stylish glasses from www.eyeglasses.com. These will not only look great, but help you to see better too.
If you do feel like your mental health is deteriorating at any point, is essential to seek help. Some people find it easier to talk to a close friend or family member to begin with and that simply by opening up and talking about it can make an enormous difference. For others, medication and treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is needed to get them back on a more even track.
This also goes for physical symptoms. If you find any lumps or feel unwell, it is still important to make sure you get them checked out at your doctors, or at the very least speak to a pharmacist who may be able to give you more advice. The world may be focussed on COVID-19 at the moment, but it does not mean that other illnesses and conditions that need treating have ceased to exist.
Eat and drink properly
When in an office, you might have prepared a healthy lunch to take with you the next door and drank plenty of water. When you are at home, that bag of crisps in the cupboard or that packet of biscuits might look just that little more tempting. Try not to deviate from eating at proper meal times and prepare healthy, balanced meals. If necessary, make a packed lunch as you did before to take into your home office. If you do feel the need to snack, make sure you have a box of things like carrot or cucumber sticks to pick at, rather than heading for the biscuit tin.
Remember you are at work
If you keep popping into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and grab a biscuit or two, it might be tempting just to put that washing load on, or to just mop the kitchen floor. Then you end up doing half an hour of housework or chores and have eaten into your work time. Leave those jobs until later, or, as we suggested earlier on, use your normal commuting time to do these tasks.
Get dressed every day
Many of us joke that working from home allows us to wear our scruffy tracksuit bottoms, or even worse, our pyjamas. Some people get around Zoom business calls by dressing up their top half, because no one can see your bottom half. However, many people find that not getting dressed properly can affect their mindset and their productivity levels. Try getting up and getting dressed every day. No one is saying you need to wear full business attire, but something that makes you feel like you have actually got up and got dressed can make the world of difference.
Make sure you take time to socialise
Finally, remember to speak to people. Working from home can be very isolating, and if you live alone, there could be days where you go without speaking to another human being. It is only then you realise you miss those chats over the water cooler or photocopier. Ok, so current guidance means it is more difficult to meet up with someone outside of your household, but even a video chat can make you realise that you are not alone.