The 7 Healthy Habits for remote Workers

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Working from home involves more than shifting locations. It entails a whole-world shift. There’s no commute to and from work, there are multi-purpose work spaces, new types of ‘co-workers’ to deal with, a lack of structure and often significant feelings of isolation.

“Remember, the environment has changed, but the work hasn’t.”

Here are 7 Health Habits you can adopt to stay healthy while working remotely:

  1. Adopt the work mindset – we are what we think

The absence of the commute to and from work along with the loss of visibility can impact the sense of accountability and performance of at-home workers. In addition, the lack of distinction between work and home life can also affect daily behaviours that impact on performance and productivity. Adopting a work-mindset begins with committing to structure. 

Remember, the environment has changed, but the work hasn’t.

In the morning, get ready to ‘go’ to work. Wake at the normal time with your work-day morning routine, and ‘go’ to work. Commit to work for the normal work day and stop working when the work day has finished.

  1. Attend to self-care – get the basics right

The lack of social interaction and loss of visibility can result in a decline in personal hygiene and care.

One solution is to adopt the mindset that you are visible and accountable. Commit to your usual morning routine – shower, dress, clean your teeth, ditch the slippers – put your shoes on!

Hydrate; a loss of routine can lead to the little things slipping away. Set up a glass of water at your work space  and commit to filling it at regular intervals.

Food; use self-control. Having 24/7 access to the fridge and a fully-stocked pantry at your fingertips can lead to disaster. Commit to set schedule of meal and healthy snack times rather than all-day grazing. Chop a selection of vegetables and fruit for easy access  for when the inevitable fridge visit calls.

  1. Environment and structure – set the scene

Research has found that cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep (Harvard Business Review).

Neuroscientists have found that our brains like order, and that disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.

Live by the principle: “I am as organised as my surroundings”. Set up an orderly, clean work environment with a suitable ‘desk’, chair and work resources that serves as your work-space each day. Avoid working on or in bed or the bedroom, kitchen bench or loungeroom floor.

Remember, ergonomics are still important. Ensure your seat height allows you to have both feet flat on the floor and ensure your desk height doesn’t cause you to hunch and stoop your neck all day.

Prop up your laptop with books or a box to raise it if needed.

  1. Take a break – addressing balance

Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. 

Based on the theory that the brain requires intermittent bouts of rest for improved performance and focus, the Pomodoro Technique was introduced. This involves setting a timeframe for bouts of work with intermittent rest breaks. Set a timer to take a 5 minute break every 25-50 minutes. Keep the short break healthy – stretch, stand, walk around, have some water and leave your desk/office to eat meals.

  1. Boundaries – working with new ‘co-workers’

Your new co-workers may include your partner, children and pets who all share the household. Conflict about noise preferences, space/location needs, and even room temperature may arise. Virtual meeting schedules, meal times, and other demands may clash. There are also competing distraction. The temptation to attend to household chores is ever-present.

Setting and agreeing to ground rules about TV, music, room temperature and voice volume is crucial. Set rules with yourself and ‘co-workers’ about volume, using headsets, privacy for meetings, and about the frequency and length of breaks.

  1. Move and exercise – get outside

Constant sitting increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Even just a 5-minute walk every hour can improve your health and well-being. 

Movement Breaks provide an opportunity to escape the typical workday routine and relieve stress in a way that promotes physical and mental wellbeing. The ripple effect of regular movement and exercise includes increased fitness, energy expenditure and reduced sitting time; an improved sense of wellbeing, increased concentration and focus, heightened energy ; a decrease in chronic disease risk factors, reduced postural pain; and improved work satisfaction and performance.

  1. Connection – stay social

Optimise virtual tools to replace personal contact, but moderate social media use, know and set rules for yourself and others in the household about when, where and how social media is used.

Communicating with colleagues in formal and informal settings is crucial to overcoming isolation and loneliness. Set up ‘coffee dates’ with colleagues or do “Health Breaks” together.

In addition, maintain open communication with managers – remember, they don’t know what they can’t ‘see’.

7 Healthy Habits summarised:

  1. Adopt the work mindset
  2. Attend to self-care
  3. Set the scene
  4. Take a break
  5. Exercise and keep moving
  6. Set boundaries
  7. Stay connected

By Kristin McMaster, Director, Health Breaks