How to be Healthy when you Work From Home
by Clare Ivatt
19th October 2020
It’s great to be able to work from home, with all the freedom that it allows: you can set your own schedule, see more of your family, avoid the daily commute and lots more.
However, you do need to make sure your health doesn’t suffer – it’s so easy to lapse into bad habits when you stay at home every day.
You can snack every time you pass the fridge, sit at your desk all day long without moving, and do too little exercise (because you don’t go near the gym any more)!
You can avoid all of these problems by creating a healthy daily routine for yourself.
Combined with a nutritious eating plan, a good daily routine will help to keep you fit, and allow you to make the most of working from home.
Here are some tips to get your healthy routine started:
Eat Healthy Snacks
Making your own healthy snacks to eat at home, rather than shop-bought snacks can vastly improve your diet.
A piece of fruit or homemade muesli bar is a much healthier alternative to the chocolate bar or cupcake you might buy if you were working in an office!
As you can use your kitchen fridge, you can prepare the sort of snacks that would be impossible to keep cool in a warm office e.g. yoghurt, smoothies, snacks with meat in them, or even sushi.
Eat Healthy Lunches and Save Money
You’ll probably prepare your own lunch most days if you are working from home, so you’ll save a lot of money by not eating at a restaurant or buying takeaway food.
I found this to be a big difference when I first started working from home. Instead of going to a restaurant or bagel shop near the office (in Central London) every day, I was able to prepare a healthy alternative at home. Much cheaper!
As well as saving money, it’s also much easier to make sure you’re having something nutritious when you prepare it yourself at home.
Drink Enough Water
It’s important to remember to stay hydrated throughout the day.
The experts recommend that you drink around 2 litres of water a day (depending on your body weight and the amount of exercise you’re doing) to prevent your body from becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration has some unpleasant symptoms:
- feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth
- feeling tired or sleepy
- impaired concentration
- dried skin
- darkened urine
The good news is that you can avoid all of these simply by drinking enough water.
To keep track of how much you are drinking, I recommend measuring 6-8 glasses of water into a flask or jug first thing in the morning, and using it throughout the day.
Then, if the flask is empty by the end of the day, you know you’re drinking enough water.
You don’t have to drink just water, of course. You can drink other things such as fruit juice, sports drinks and milk.
Tea and coffee are also good – the diuretic effect of the caffeine is minimal compared to the amount of fluid they provide. You should avoid high protein drinks and alcohol as these can dehydrate you.
When you work from home, there seems to be fewer opportunities to exercise – you don’t have to leave the house to get to the office, and it’s easy to stay in the house at lunchtime rather than go for a walk in the park – especially if the weather is bad…
That’s why you need to make sure to include exercise in your daily routine. If you can’t fit a full workout into your day, at least make sure that you move around during the day.
a. Keep Moving
It’s important to move regularly during your working day to keep the blood flowing around your body, and especially your brain.
When working from home it’s very easy to stay at your desk and become “stuck” in your office chair. The furthest you have to walk is from the office to the kitchen and back again (be careful not to wear a groove in the carpet!).
I think it’s important to make a big effort to move around during the day.
You could take your coffee break in the garden (weather allowing!), take the dog for a quick walk, eat lunch in a different room to your office (or desk), and make a point of standing up and stretching every half hour or so.
It’s worth buying a fitness tracker to keep a tally of how many steps you take in a day – it’s a good measure of how active you really are.
The recommendation is to take 10,000 steps per day, which is surprisingly difficult to achieve if you are working from home. You’ll have to make a real effort to reach that target!
b. Workout (at Home or Otherwise)
This is the sort of exercise that will increase your fitness by raising your heart rate and making you out of breath.
Here are a few things for you to try if you don’t already have a favourite fitness routine:
- Go for a swim before the working day starts (this is my favourite)
- Go for a run or brisk walk in the park at lunchtime
- Follow an online workout when your working day is complete (Recently, I’ve been doing Joe Wicks’ PE classes on YouTube – they’re great fun)
- Trip to the local gym
All of these things need a fair amount of time to complete, and I sometimes struggle to fit a full workout into the day. Splitting a 30-minute workout into 10-minute chunks throughout the day can work better on really busy days.
If you are working from home and have school-age kids, how about doing a fitness routine with them after school? You’ll all benefit from the stress relief and exercise at the end of the day.
You don’t need a huge home gym to work out at home. You can find many workout routines on the Internet that just use your own bodyweight and simple things like a skipping rope or exercise ball.
I’ve found this great home exercise list to give you a start: https://www.topendsports.com/fitness/home-exercise-list.htm
Try a New Sport
How about taking up a new sport as part of your healthy working from home routine? You could make new friends, and have contact with the outside world by going to the gym or attending fitness classes.
You could try yoga or a martial art where you learn to be in control of your body whilst getting fit.
Also, taking up a team or competitive sport is great for motivation – you need to turn up to training sessions otherwise you let your teammates (or yourself) down.
I love to go to the swimming pool to swim lanes before the working day starts, but this is only feasible if you have a swimming pool near to your home.
Create an Ergonomic Home Office
To make sure that you don’t injure yourself by sitting in a bad position all day long, you need to consider ergonomics when you design your home office.
Your posture is very important – make sure that your back is supported, and that you sit in an ergonomic way.
Here’s an interesting article from Wired all about posture and working from home: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/working-from-home-posture-back-pain
The most important piece of home office furniture you need to consider is your chair – you will sit in it for hours on end, so it’s important to make sure that it is comfortable, is at the correct height for typing (and writing), and gives you proper support.
Ideally, it should be adjustable so that you can change the height as required.
Also, you should think carefully about your desk – are you just making do on the dining room table?
Make sure it’s the right height so that you don’t end up with back or shoulder injuries when you’re typing all day.
You must make sure that your monitor is at the correct height too.
If your screen is too low and you are looking down into it, place it on a laptop or monitor stand (or improvise with a box) so that you are looking straight ahead at the screen.
Some people prefer to use a standing desk, which can help to reduce blood pressure and increase fitness levels as well as encourage the correct posture.
I think it’s important to make sure that you have enough light at your desk so that you don’t suffer from eye strain.
Natural light is great, but if your workspace is too dark (especially in the winter) you should use a desk lamp on your desk, or even clipped to a shelf above.
If you have room, you could devote a corner of your home office to your fitness equipment – you can keep your yoga mat or dumbbells in the corner so you can quickly pick them up as part of your daily routine.
Look After Your Mental Wellbeing
Not only do you have to look after your body when you work from home, you need to look after your mind too.
If you haven’t worked from home before, you might feel a little lonely or “left out”.
If you are working for a company with other employees, have a chat with your boss to make sure that you are not being missed out from meetings (or after-work events).
You can use video conferencing software such as Zoom or Google MyMeetings to talk with people online.
There are many working from home chat groups on Social Media (eg Facebook Groups) where you can talk about your situation and feelings with like-minded people.
I love talking to other entrepreneurs on Facebook Groups – you can usually find someone else who has gone through what you have, and it’s good to talk it through.
One way to lift your spirits whilst you’re working at home is to surround yourself with inspirational fitness and motivational quotes.
There are many places on the web that you can download them from (e.g. Pinterest or Twitter) and some will even send you a different inspirational message each day.
I find that having our two dogs Oscar and Gunner in the office with us all day is a great way to stay positive.
They are always there in times of stress, they always raise a laugh when they ask for things with their appealing eyes (a toy, game or treat), and of course, we have to do regular exercise when we take them for a walk!
Create Your Own Routine
Once you have decided which of the above hints you want to incorporate into your routine, you can design your own home-working day.
It can be a challenge to fit everything in, so you may need to prioritise some things.
If you can’t fit a daily workout in, I would suggest trying to do one every other day to keep the momentum up.
Don’t forget, to make a healthy routine really effective, you need to turn it into a habit that comes naturally to you. You’ll need to stick to it every day.
It is said (by James Clear) that you need to repeat an action for at least 66 days before it becomes automatic.
If you find that a big routine change doesn’t work for you, take it gradually and choose your top one or two priorities. Then you can include other things once you have mastered the priorities.
I would say that moving around, eating healthy food and drinking water are my daily priorities, and I make sure I fit these things in, even on a particularly busy day.
I think it’s important to stay fit and healthy wherever you are working, but you need to make an extra effort if you’re working from home.
I hope you’ve found these hints useful – let me know in the comments below what you do to stay healthy.