3 Things You Can Do Today To Stay Healthy While Working From Home
Actionable tips to make full use of all the working-from-home benefits.c
The COVID-19 crisis has forced a lot of us to start working from home. For most of us, working from home is great. Well, to be honest, it has the potential to be great.
There are numerous benefits to your health, mental health, and productivity. Yet, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. Even though it has a lot of benefits, working from home can be hard.
I’ve been working from home for close to a year now. With no specific date to return to the office in sight, I have had the time to experience both the benefits and downsides of working from home in full.
At times, working from home has been great for me. There were challenging times as well. Especially after a few months, the downsides started to creep up on me.
With working from home here to stay, it would be of great benefit to you (and anyone else) to make the best of your working-from-home situation. These tips have helped me as a UX designer but can apply to anyone that has to work from home, of course.
Here’s what I’ve noticed during my time of working from home and how it can help you in the coming months.
1. Go outside
There are two reasons why working from home can be very exhausting. These are the lack of visibility and commutes. Let’s start with the first one.
When you work from home, your partner might be working from home too. Your pet might be sleeping on the chair next to you. However, there are no colleagues around. This means that you might feel more pressure to perform. You have to perform extra because you’re less visible to others.
The second thing to keep in mind is your commute. Or lack thereof. Since you don’t have to commute every day you might not take breaks or go outside at all. The daily commute is for a lot of people the only time they ‘exercise’ and a big part of their outside time.
Back when I was able to go to the office, I walked about 10.000 steps a day. Most of those steps came during my commute to work and my daily lunch walk. During the first lockdown, this number went down to around 2.000 steps a day on average.
When you work from home, you lose these moments. By going outside and actually taking a break you get a well-deserved moment away from your screen. Taking a step back will cause your productivity to increase also. Most importantly, it is good for your health.
Pro tip — Start your day with a walk. If you want to go ‘extra pro’, walk on an empty stomach. You have time to gather your thoughts, get some much deserved fresh air, and burn body fat in the process. The list goes on.
This of course doesn’t mean that a morning walk is the only walk you can take during the day. You can take as many walks as you want.
2. Clear your desk
After working from home for a long time the line between home and the office becomes blurry. In my case, I stopped clearing the table I worked at. I left my laptop, notes, and work phone out in the open.
When you do not have to go to the office in the morning it is easy to just let things lie around the kitchen table or home office desk. Before you know it you’re looking at piles of old paperwork that doesn’t do anything but distract and demotivate you.
As mentioned before, I was work at the kitchen table. I work as a designer so I have a lot of sketches, paper, and notes lying around. Every day at 5PM I put my working stuff to the side of the table. Yet, whenever I walked past the kitchen table I could still see my working gear at the edge of the table. Because of this, I can never really let my work go. It was always visible to me and thus always in the back of my head.
Pro tip — Here’s what to do instead. Pack your bag as if you were expected to come into the office the next morning.
By doing so, you clean your desk or kitchen table from work-related items. Back in the day, you were done for the day once you packed your bag. You trigger your mind to finish work and relax.
A tidy house equals a tidy mind.
If you want something else you could also put on your working shoes every morning. This has the same effect. It puts your mind into working mode. You’re finished once your shoes come off.
3. Stay connected
We’re social creatures. We like our lunch break or coffee room gossip. If you take that away, things can become quiet.
An important aspect of doing remote work is communication. As mentioned earlier, you can’t just walk up to your colleagues like you would when you were all in the same building.
In my own experience, it works well to have a short phone call with your clients, colleagues, and stakeholders every week to check if you’re all still on the same wavelength. During this phone call, you can discuss current and upcoming work but also have that social call we all like so much.
Another thing that will help you stay connected in a very effective way is to create a (video) chat channel that’s open all day for colleagues to just drop in to say hi or discuss work when needed.
Pro tip — Try and have the same meetings and events just as if you were in the office. If you’re working in an agile environment, make sure you attend weekly recurrences like reviews, Scrum meetings, and standups.
This doesn’t have to be all business. You can do Friday afternoon drinks via a video meeting as well. This year we’re doing an online Christmas diner where we all get food sent to our homes to prepare and cook together.
If that isn’t staying connected in these troubling times, I don’t know what is.
4. Extra — Invest in your posture
Working from home has numerous benefits. Yet, there’s one lingering danger. Bad posture. Most office workspaces come with an ergonomic office chair. These chairs offer more lumbar support than your ordinary kitchen or living room chair.
Exchange your adjustable office desk for the kitchen table you have at home and things can get worse quickly.
After a few months of working at home, I started to feel tightness in my neck, lower back, and hips. The tips I mentioned before have great (mental) health benefits but cannot compete with being in a bad posture all day.
If you’re working from your kitchen table, please invest in a laptop stand. This enables you to put your laptop at a height that doesn’t put a strain on your neck the whole day. The health benefits are endless. For just a few dollars, this is a no-brainer that pays for itself instantly.
Pro tip — If you have space and money, get yourself an adjustable desk. After I moved from an apartment to a house, I bought a desk that can be used both for standing and sitting. It has helped my posture, stamina, and productivity enormously.
An added benefit is that my girlfriend can use the desk at her height as well. That wasn’t possible at the kitchen table. That table didn’t fit either of us. We’re in this together.
Working from home took some getting used to. I thought it was going to be easy at first. The benefits were clear. However, after some time, disadvantages arose and working from home became challenging.
As a designer, applying design thinking principles to my working-from-home situation has helped me improve my home office, work-life balance, and (mental) health tremendously.
Designer & consultant. Working on providing designers the tools they need. Join the Designer’s Toolbox at https://bit.ly/jointhedesignerstoolbox