Working from home has advantages, it also comes with an array of challenges. These include:
- feelings of isolation
- trouble staying motivated
- having to manage disruptions
- finding a work-life balance
- avoiding burnout
- difficulty maintaining healthy eating habits
- difficulty getting the recommended level of physical activity
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of those who are able to do their job remotely are working from home.
Staying at home as much as possible greatly reduces a person’s exposure to the novel coronavirus. Consequently, it is key to lowering the risk of contracting the virus and preventing it from spreading.
Some people may have viewed working from home as a luxury prior to the pandemic. However, it has now become a necessity for many people because it is a key strategy for increasing safety.
As the challenges of working from home may affect physical, social, and psychological health, it is beneficial to take steps to maintain all aspects of wellness. These may include the following:
1. Eat a healthy diet
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a healthy diet is one that emphasizes nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy products.
The NHLBI note that it also includes eggs, beans, nuts, fish, poultry, and lean meat while limiting foods high in sugar and salt. A healthy diet also limits foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty cuts of red meat, and trans fat, such as processed foods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend not skipping any meals, including breakfast. People with few distractions at home may find that they are more aware of hunger than they would be at a workplace. These individuals can keep healthy snacks, such as fruits, on hand to avoid snacking on chips.
2. Keep hydrated
Drinking enough fluids is essential for preventing dehydration, a condition that can lead to constipation and mood swings, note the CDC.
Water is the best beverage choice, but drinking moderate amounts of coffee and tea is also acceptable. It is best to avoid sugary beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, and fruit drinks.
3. Schedule regular exercise
Exercise has both physical and psychological benefits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suggest that due to these positive effects, a person may want to consider replacing the time they would have spent commuting with working out.
For instance, a person could take a brisk walk in their local area or exercise with a fitness video or mobile app.
Aside from exercise sessions, the DHS advise incorporating physical activity into the workday. People can do this by pacing during phone calls or putting in calendar reminders at regular intervals to do a few pushups by their workstation.
Where possible, using a standing desk rather than a sitting desk can help people avoid long periods of physical inactivity.
4. Set up the home office for optimal posture and comfort
Setting up a home office in a way that promotes good posture can prevent back pain.
The CDC describe the ideal office chair as one with armrests and a seat height that allows the feet to rest flat on the floor. An individual’s hips and knees should be at or slightly above a 90-degree angle. A person may wish to invest in a chair that supports the curvature of the lower back.
The optimal place for a computer monitor is an arm’s length away, with the top of the monitor at or below eye level. Increasing the font size as necessary can reduce eyestrain.
5. Maintain a work-life balance
When people work at home, the lines between their job and home life can blur. For this reason, it helps to set space boundaries, including having a separate workspace with its own door, if possible.
The American Health Information Management Association encourage people to establish time boundaries in the form of a daily work schedule. They say that this should include a lunch break, a 15-minute morning break, and a 15-minute afternoon break.
People can strengthen the division between work and home life by trying to forget about the job after office hours. Some researchers note the importance of mentally detaching from work and focusing on relaxation at the end of a workday.
6. Stick to a daily routine
The CDC recommend also sticking to a daily life routine outside of work, saying that this may help reduce feelings of stress. This routine includes going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every day.
It is also important to allow enough sleep time. Most people need at least 7 hours of good quality sleep.
7. Make personal connections
Working remotely can make it more difficult for people to connect with their co-workers on a personal level.
When people work with others in a shared location, socializing happens naturally — called the water-cooler effect.
On the other hand, when individuals work remotely, they tend to be by themselves most of the time, and socialization does not happen as naturally. Researchers urge people to initiate and participate in conversations with co-workers that have nothing to do with business.
People living with family members or housemates can also avoid loneliness by taking advantage of opportunities to spend time with them. Household members can do things together, such as eating meals, playing games, or watching a movie. When taking a walk, a person can invite a loved one to go along.
It is also important to take time to connect with friends and family members who live elsewhere. People can speak with others on the phone or use online voice or video chat services, such as Zoom or Google Meet.
If a person is experiencing feelings of stress or isolation that seem overwhelming, they may wish to consider talking with a therapist.
8. Reduce stress by practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness may help with the stress of working from home, notes one article.
This practice involves paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. To put it another way, a person practicing mindfulness observes an experience without making a judgment about it.
The authors state that engaging in mindfulness may increase a person’s objectivity. It may enable an individual to merely notice negative thoughts and feelings instead of becoming entangled in them.