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How to Stay Healthy While Working from Home

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Helpful tips to get the most out of your workday

Posted by Temple Health

These last few weeks, you may have felt uneasy about working from home as you practice social distancing (also referred to as physical distancing). After all, working from home every workday was unfamiliar territory for many, and it's easy to fall into bad habits.

If you worked in an office prior to social distancing, you’re probably used to a fairly structured day. There’s a balance between the work you perform, the meetings you attend and the breaks you take. When you apply that same type of structure to working from home, you start to fall into a productive routine.

There will always be hiccups, but if you stick to your schedule, you may find working from home gives you a real sense of accomplishment. Here are some ways you can be productive, even if your family, your pets, or the TV tempt you into distraction.

Set up a dedicated workspace

You need a comfortable space at home where you can work without distraction or interruptions. If you don’t have a separate room, think creatively. Find a space you can claim as your own until you can return to your office. This may be a corner out of the way or one end of the kitchen table. You can even set up shop with a card table in your den.

Just be sure when you’re ready to work that all distractions are minimal. Think of your home office as a safe space just for you, where you can focus, make uninterrupted phone calls and get your work done. By the end of your workday, you can walk away from this space feeling like you’ve accomplished something.

Avoid strain and pain

Although the couch may seem tempting, a chair that supports your back is probably the best bet. Practice good posture while working at a computer all day, and make sure to stretch often to avoid neck and shoulder injuries.

Learn more about how to avoid neck and shoulder injuries while working from home >

If you have a standing desk at work, see if you can bring it home. Sitting sedentary for long hours may be linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. If you don’t have a standing desk available, try to walk a little bit every hour or practice exercises near your workspace, including:

  • Wall slide – Stand with your back against the wall, feet hip-distance apart. Slowly slide your back down the wall until you’re in a sitting position. Slowly slide back up the wall.
  • Bridge back stretch – Lie on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling, feet firmly on the floor. Slowly raise your hips in the air, then bring them back down to the floor.
  • Crunches – Lie on your back with both knees bent toward the ceiling, feet firmly on the floor. Place your hands across your chest in a crisscross. Focus on your core and lift your shoulders off the floor a few inches, holding your neck in a neutral position. Lower yourself back down to the floor.

Establish a routine

Plan to start work at the same time every day, if possible, and practice healthy boundaries. It may be helpful to use a signal to start your day. Switch on a certain light or close a door, for example.

Structuring your day will help you stay focused on the task at hand, and set boundaries with others to let them know you’re “at work.” Don’t forget to signal the end of your workday by switching off your light or opening your door.

Take breaks, including lunch

Be mindful of your own well-being and schedule breaks into your day. Get up and move around, take a walk or throw a load of laundry in. Anything to get your thoughts away from work will do.

If you have family at home, schedule a regular time to eat lunch together — just be sure to get back to work at the same time every day. Choose healthy, nutritious foods, just as you would at work and try to avoid eating at your desk. Drinking water throughout your day will help you stay hydrated.

Stay in touch

One of the benefits of working in an office is the social interaction. You may not be able to see your coworkers in person, but you can still stay in touch.

If your office supports communication tools such as Slack or Zoom, set your status to “Available” and check in on chat. If not, schedule regular meetings through phone or video conferencing, or have a virtual coffee meeting. Touching base on a regular basis will help you and others feel less isolated.

Think beyond work

When you’re feeling tired or anxious, it can be difficult to stay focused on work. Be sure to take care of your whole self, with exercises and relaxation techniques you can do at home. Here are some helpful resources:

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people off schedule. Be sure to have a conversation with your supervisor before you plan to work from home. You’ll want to set expectations together, including the possibility of a modified work schedule.

Getting everyone on the same page and staying in communication to share your progress will help you be as productive and healthy as possible until you can start working from your office again.

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