Now that we’ve embraced working from home, many changes were needed for us to adapt to the changes of remote working. And perhaps as a consequence, remote employees are starting to neglect the importance of physical health.
Physical wellness is essential for our bodies because we need to be healthy in order to perform to the best of our ability.
Learn how to embrace a healthy lifestyle and start working from home like a pro.
Download our work-from-home wellness guide today to learn how to work remotely while staying healthy.
How to improve mental health and wellbeing for remote workers
Following the rules and tips outlined below will allow you to maximise the opportunities and advantages of working from home life.
1. Start your day right
The first hour of your day often influences how easy it is to stay productive for the rest of the day.
Start by getting dressed. Working in your PJs is never as good as it sounds.
Then, make your bed. There’s a reason your mother used to nag you about making your bed.
According to productivity expert Charles Duhigg, making your bed is a ‘keystone skill’ of successful people. Why? Because it’s one small accomplishment right at the beginning of your day.
This habit tells your brain, “Right, today is going to be productive. We’re going to get stuff done“.
However, you start your day, do it thoughtfully. Rolling out of bed and straight onto social media isn’t likely to boost your ability to work well from home. A healthy routine is essential.
Read more: Apps for a healthy WFH routine
2. Set a morning routine
While the morning commute to the office may be dull, it’s a consistent ritual that puts you in the mindset to work. Recreate that working mindset at home while simultaneously being productive by spending some time at the start of working hours clearing anything unnecessary from your workspace.
Other morning routines can include making a cup of tea or coffee, spending some time stretching or closing any non-work documents on your computer before beginning your day.
Additionally, having regular activities to finish your day can help you switch off from work. This makes a big difference in reducing emotional exhaustion according to the University of Konstanz and Bowling Green University.
This can include the sweet satisfaction of closing all of your internet tabs at the end of the day. Or even just going for a walk, cooking, or getting some face-to-face time with family or friends IRL.
Whatever it may be, having a small symbolic activity to do after you “leave” the home office lets you switch off from work and achieve a better work-life balance. This brings us to our next point – setting ground rules while working remotely.
3. Set clear boundaries between personal life and work
When you work from home, do you find it harder to ‘switch off’? Do you ever feel like the lines become blurred between your personal time and professional life? You’re not alone.
Our Remote Work Report found that difficulty in switching off and blurred lines between work-from-home life and work were some of the things we least like about working from home.
It can be difficult to stop thinking about that important deadline or get some distance from that big project when your work laptop is staring at you from across the room.
This sense of being too close to work can cause a ‘stress spillover’ if it goes unchecked. A stress spillover essentially means that you bring all work stress home with you – the barrier between work and home life becomes eroded.
Read more: Are you experiencing a remote work rut?
4. Plan and set fixed working hours
Working from home means more flexibility. To stay productive at our job, we should use that flexibility well.
When planning your day, ask yourself these questions:
- How many work hours do I need to get done today?
- What time do I usually clock on for work?
- What do I need to get done before that time?
- When do I want to take my breaks through the day?
- What time do I want to clock off this evening?
- Are my colleagues on the same schedule?
- Is there flexibility on the nine-to-five schedule?
Then, write yourself a work schedule. Even better, give your colleagues a heads-up about that schedule. Want to get some work done early in the morning so you can clock off earlier?
Let people know, so they can work productively too. You can’t just assume productivity will happen. You need to set yourself up for a win. And the best way to do that is to use your time well. Set your work hours and write your to-do list accordingly.
5. Take regular breaks
When there’s no one around to remind you, it can be easy to sit at your laptop for the full eight hours of your work day. This doesn’t equal good productivity. Choose a decent lunch break over scrolling through social media every five minutes.
Don’t jump from task to task out of boredom. Work with purpose and then take a proper break, away from your work. When working from home, you can often choose when you take that break. Choose wisely.
While working remotely, aim to have your biggest break half to three-quarters of the way through your work day. That way, you’ll have the energy you need to finish the day well. Treat your brain to the break it deserves.
Here are some ideas for using your lunch break well while working from home:
- Get some exercise! Jump on the treadmill or put a workout tutorial on. If you can go outside, head out for a walk around the block to enjoy the fresh air.
- Find some face-to-face interaction. Sit down with your family members or housemates for lunch.
- Watch an episode of your favourite Netflix series. Don’t have the TV playing in the background while you work. Instead, indulge in one episode.
- Try some mindfulness. Find a guided meditation video on Youtube. Take a breath.
Although one of the major benefits of working from home is being free from distractions, putting your head down and working for hours on end is not a healthy or productive choice.
From a productivity point of view, researchers recently found that employees who took frequent breaks were more productive than those who didn’t.
Taking regular breaks – like the suggested 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off model – can help in reducing fatigue, minimising distractions and improving concentration.
6. Keep in touch with your colleagues
Have you heard of the term ‘remoteliness’? It refers to the lonely feeling you get when you haven’t seen colleagues for a long time due to remote work. You may be feeling out of touch with your team or feeling isolated during long hours alone.
Of the respondents to the survey making up our Remote Work Report, 29% said they miss the camaraderie with co-workers when working remotely (like the small talk we have near the water cooler). But this sense of connection doesn’t have to be abandoned once you start working outside the physical office.
Start a habit of reaching out to your teammates for casual social interactions regularly. Don’t feel the need to make it about work; ask how their weekend was or share a funny article.
Even though this might feel a bit manufactured at first, the more you do it, the easier conversations will flow. Chances are that the teammate you’re talking to is feeling the same way and is grateful for your efforts to stay connected.
This is a great habit to work into your everyday routine, using instant messaging apps like Slack. Let’s say that every day after lunch you check in with a different member of your team – you’ll feel connected in no time.
Read more: Free online team-building games for fun
Ergonomic tips for setting up your home office
Workplaces spend big bucks on specially designed desks and office chairs. Why? Because there is nothing that negatively impacts productivity as quickly as bad posture.
An ergonomic office set-up is crucial to ensure that you can perform at your best in a safe and productive way. Physical discomfort from a poor office environment can cause increased mental and physical stress and hinder your work performance.
Just because your home office looks like it’s got the tools that make a great work environment doesn’t mean you’re using them correctly.
These tips will help you become a master at implementing ergonomics at home to improve your productivity and physical wellbeing:
7. Invest in a height-adjustable desk
While setting up your work from home office, the first thing you should do is find a desk that meets your needs. Ideally, an adjustable desk so that it’s not too high or too low.
A quick way of checking whether your desk is in the correct position is whether your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when typing on your keyboard.
Standing desks are also a good alternative to regular desks, as you can alternate between standing and sitting while working to improve blood circulation.
Read more: Checklist for your work from home set up
8. Find a chair that fits
Buying a quality ergonomic office chair that works with your desk is important to maintain a correct posture throughout the day. What does that look like? Your feet are supported by the floor with your legs at a 90-degree angle.
The right chair will provide the support your back needs in order to relieve pain and muscle strain. While the couch may seem like the most comfortable place to work, the wrong chair can lead to slouching, headaches, back pain and fatigue.
When buying a chair, make sure you’re looking for one designed for both lumbar and pelvic support. While the price may be off-putting at first, a high-quality chair will reward you with better posture, better breathing and higher concentration — and save you hundreds in physio bills!
9. Position your laptop correctly
Some of the worst posture issues come from slouching over a laptop. Investing in a keyboard and mouse will immediately improve this. Regardless of where you are working, one of the most important things to do when working with a laptop is to have it at the right angle.
Ideally, the top of the monitor should be at eye level with as little neck deviation as possible. If you don’t have access to a proper stand, try making one with a stack of books. These rules still apply when returning to the office.
10. Set up your office environment
Finally, to remain positive during the day, choose an area to work that has enough space to not feel cramped, has natural light and is visually appealing. Spend some time thinking about what makes you happy, and involve those things in your home office.
If you can, set up a dedicated workspace in a quiet space away from others to minimise distractions. But if you live in a small apartment and with other family members, decorating your office helps too.
Whether it’s a window view, art on the wall, music in the background or plants in the room can all make a world of difference to remote workers.
Plants in particular have a positive impact on your productivity at work.
They can also help increase your attentiveness, satisfaction and wellbeing. They can even lower your diastolic blood pressure levels, which simply put, is the pressure while your heart is relaxing and taking blood back in.
Ways to stay physically healthy
Over time, poor posture can lead to chronic pain, muscle deterioration, headaches, fatigue, weight gain and more. But now that you’ve office ergonomics sorted, it is time to work on your physical health.
11. Stay hydrated
On average, you need to drink 2-2.5L of water per day to keep your body performing at its best.
Other liquids count toward this tally – but you can’t live on coffee alone! Your body cannot function without water.
Your brain is 80% water. If you don’t drink enough during your working day, this is what you’ll experience:
- Low mood
- Achy muscles
- Headaches and migraines
- Poor concentration and memory
The transition to working from home has made it challenging to maintain healthy habits like staying hydrated. It can be easy to get lost in your work and go the whole day without having any water at all.
Dehydration can result in lower energy levels, headaches and a decrease in concentration. All of which can negatively affect our work performance. Some ways to remember to drink water include:
- Downloading an app that reminds you to drink water.
- Keeping a 1L drink bottle with you so you can keep track of how much water you’re drinking.
- Make drinking water tasty by adding fruit like lime and mint.
- Drinking a glass or two of water before every meal.
Learning to recognise when you’re thirsty and drink! (simple, but effective).
12. Stay active during breaks
In the past, meetings and other work-related events would have usually been in person. This meant actually having to get up and move around.
However, with the growing trend of working remotely, everything is now done seated at a computer. With Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts filling up our calendars, remote employees are spending more and more time seated at their desks.
Research has shown that people who spend extended lengths of time in a sitting position are at a higher risk of herniated discs and other back issues. Therefore, prevention is key.
Poor posture can eventually lead to musculoskeletal disorders and strain injuries that take months to heal.
Our bodies are designed to move, not to stay frozen in the same posture for hours. Aim to get up every half an hour to stretch your arms and legs.
Similarly to drinking water, there are some great apps out there that can help remind you to take some time away from work. When the opportunity arises, like a phone or video call, use that time to walk around to make sure you keep your body moving.
Not only will this help reduce muscle strain but it will also allow your mind to reset and focus.
13. Stand up and stretch
Most people are familiar with that nasty residual ache of hunching over a desk all day.
While working from home, you don’t have to walk to meeting rooms or visit colleagues’ desks – which can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. When everything is accessible from your laptop, it’s all too easy to stay seated for hours on end.
But we really shouldn’t. A sedentary lifestyle can not only make you feel sluggish – it can negatively impact your muscles, your heart health and even your digestive health. This can all be helped with the simple act of getting up, doing some quick stretches and taking a short walk.
If you can, shoot for 10,000 steps a day. This is about one hour and forty minutes of walking in total – could you spread that out into short bursts throughout the day? Walking while taking conference calls, drinking coffee or doing household chores could make this more achievable than you might think.
14. Snack wisely
If this is the first time you’ve had to work from home, it can also be difficult to know how to eat and snack in a smart way. This isn’t to say snacking is bad or has to be healthy; by all means, have a Tim Tam or two and enjoy it!
But try to resist bringing the whole packet to your desk. If you eat while working it’s likely that you’ll end up over-snacking. Instead, schedule times for snacking and make it part of your routine.
Or, step away from your workspace when you’re hungry and take the time to enjoy your food, then return once satisfied. Make sure you are keeping your energy levels up by eating proper meals throughout the day.
Not only will this make sure you’re getting nutrients in, but it will also keep your concentration levels up.
How can I set up healthy habits while working remotely?
Healthy habits can be difficult to establish. Ironically, this is because many of us bite off more than we can chew. If you try to overhaul your entire working life at once, it’s pretty unlikely that anything will stick.
This can lead to people feeling like a failure because they believe we lack the willpower to do it. But willpower actually has very little to do with forming positive habits.
“Behavioral scientists who study habit formation say that many of us try to create healthy habits the wrong way,” writes Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times. “We make bold resolutions to start exercising or lose weight, for example, without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success.”
Successfully building a habit doesn’t depend on you forcing yourself to do it, she writes. It’s actually all about making things easier for yourself. Before you start trying to implement these habits, she suggests considering these points:
- Can your new habit be tied into an existing one? Try walking around the block during a morning call or doing a quick meditation when you’re in the shower.
- Start small, and want to do it. If you went from no exercise to running 10kms a day, there’s no way you could keep it up. Keep your new habits small and try to make them as enjoyable as possible.
- Do it every workday. Habits can take time to create (it could take as many as 19 to 254 days), but doing them every day will help build them faster. Try to avoid habits that you only do a couple of times a week.
This is why it is important to set some ground rules to achieve a better work-life balance.
If you are just starting out a new job that allows remote work, download our work-from-home wellness guide now for more tips on how to work from home like a pro.