5 Key Points for a Healthy, Home Working Environment
5 Key Points for a Healthy, home working environment
- Make up for lost steps
- Take a break from the digital world
- Be a creature of good habits
- Set up to last
- Take on new opportunities
1 – Make up for lost steps
Keeping moving is one of the most essential parts of being a life-long healthy human being. For most of us working from home means a much shorter commute to the office. Unfortunately this also means less movement.
Sitting or standing for hours a day can lead to a significant amount of stress on the muscles and joints of the body and as such can increase the likelihood of developing neck and back pain.
Regularly standing up and getting in some steps is an easy, cheap and not time consuming exercise, proven to help improve mood, reduce lethargy and reduce the likelihood of developing neck and lower back pain.
2 – Take a break from the digital world
What do you do while taking a break from work? For most this involves a cup of tea, an opportunity to ‘powder your nose’ or ‘spend a penny’ and another 5 minutes of staring into the endless world of the internet. Social media, Youtube and checking your emails are all more time spent with a screen in front of your face.
Too much time spent at a screen can lead to eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, neck and shoulder pain. When taking a break from the computer screen it is important to also take a break from other screens.
This might seem like an easy change but in a time where most of our life is organised and communicated digitally, separating can be nearly impossible even for 5 minutes. Finding alternative tasks to occupy your brain and body can be a good way to manage this such as exercise or scheduled meditation.
3. Be a creature of good habits
When living and working in the same environment, being a creature of habit is easy but being a creature of ‘good’ habits is much harder.
Good habits such as:
- Having set work hours – Being at work from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep is an easy routine to fall into when working from home. Having a set start and finish time is important to keeping healthy
- Regular and consistent breaks – If you are in the office you would often leave your desk between meetings for a cup of tea or just to stretch your legs. Keep this up at home, even if you have to put a reminder on your phone.
- Eating appropriate meals at appropriate times – If you are at home you have access to the kitchen! This means the opportunity to cook fresh or eat well during your lunch time and breaks. As easy as it is to order something quick to arrive in 15 minutes, try to avoid temptation… most of the time!
- Avoid distractions – Make sure your work environment is set up to suit your work. A professional background for your virtual meeting, professional attire (above AND below the camera line), minimal distractions.
- Use a reminder App to schedule regular breaks for ideas see https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/five-apps/five-free-apps-to-help-remind-you-to-take-a-break/
4. Set up to last
Working from home might be for 1 day a week or 5, either way this is still several hours at your desk. It is worth taking the time to set this up to last. Investing in your work space is investing in your body, your mind and your work ethic in a way that is hard to match with quick fixes.
A decent work chair, with a high back, elbow rests and the ability to adjust them will make you more comfortable and reduce your risk of back and neck pain from hours sitting.
Setting up your desk at the right height or, better yet, having the ability to stand or sit at your desk while working will once again do wonders for your body but also help comfort, attention and break the day up. If you’re able to, standing for 5 minutes every thirty will significantly improve your position during the day.
Screen height and depth is equally important. The top of your computer screen should be level eye line and far enough away that if you reach forward with your arms your fingers should just brush the edge. This will reduce the strain on your eyes, head and neck, reducing the likelihood of neck pain and headaches.
5. Take on new opportunities
Working from home can offer lots of opportunities to improve your health, life and well being. Less time commuting can only be good but rather than another hour in bed or an hour lounged about on the sofa watching TV or surfing the web think about what else you can be doing with it before you fall out of the habit.
An hour of exercise before or after work can be excellent for weight loss and muscle tone. Exercise doesn’t mean a Body Combat class that will leave you tired and sore (but it can be). An hour’s walk, cycle or stretch is an excellent way to start the day, kick start the metabolism and set you up perfectly for a productive day.
If you’re working from home the kitchen is only a few steps away. Yes, this could mean easier access to the biscuit tin or snack cupboard. But this also means you have the time and opportunity for tasty and wholesome food. This is a great chance to cut out the fast food or quick pre-packed lunch for a well balanced diet. If you still aren’t sure you have the time then remember those hours you used to spend commuting and ask yourself where they have gone. Meal prep is an excellent way of doing this and taking advantage of some of that time you’ve got back.
Overall these 5 points are just the surface but making a change can be limited by 2 things. Firstly being ready and wanting to change yourself and the second is having the opportunity. Working from home for the first time is an opportunity. Now can you make a change for the better?
If you are after more advice on this subject please check out our video here
Author: Andrew Livett Physiotherapist BSc MSCP