When Work Gets Too Comfortable: How to Stay Healthy Working From Home
Remote work. It’s a phrase that conjures up fear in old-school managers, pangs of desire in hipsters and millennials, and countless think-pieces on LinkedIn. The reality, though, is that the number of people working remotely is increasing at a rapid pace and shows no signs of slowing down. For more and more employees, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, their office is their home.
This style of work has benefits for sure — better coffee, less chatter, heightened productivity — but there are also a number of potential problems. Maintaining balance and staying healthy top the list. Giving proper attention to these areas of your life hinges on being proactive. And, as I discovered, using the flexibility of remote work to enhance your life can subsequently enhance your business or career.
I began my remote journey a few years ago when I was hired to work with an out-of-state marketing firm. While my work projects were always enjoyable and I was able to stay productive and focused, I soon realized that other aspects of my life were suffering. It quickly became easy to avoid going out because I was already in. It was easy to snack on chips and cookies because they were in my pantry. It was easy to put off exercise because I felt I always needed to be online. Essentially, I became lazy in my personal life because my work life had become so comfortable.
I knew I had to reprioritize. What I did was nothing monumental, but once I implemented the changes, the difference in the way I felt was huge. Here are the three most significant things I did to optimize my work-from-home life.
Make Use of Expendable Time
One of the great benefits of working from home is the time you get back. Whether that comes from eliminating your commute or just working more efficiently, you will find you have more expendable time than you did when working in an office. The trick is to use that time for positive things that will further your development professionally, physically, and mentally.
Stretch in the morning. Say you once had a 30-minute commute; now instead of sitting in a car or on a train, you can use that time to stretch before work. I recommend finding a quick yoga flow on YouTube. Morning stretches give you a boost of energy, help your circulation, and can benefit your posture. This is especially important if you frequently work sitting on a couch, which can cause bouts of bad posture and lethargy. I really enjoy yoga in the morning, but really, any kind of exercise will do.
Exercise when the gym is dead. One of the biggest perks of controlling your own schedule is being able to go to busier destinations during off-hours. If your time is flexible, go to the gym during non-peak times. You’ll get more in, enjoy it more, and be more productive afterward.
Prepare for Success at Home
A little bit of preparation can tee up a much healthier work and home life.
Schedule in breaks. For a long time, I battled with feeling like I needed to be next to my computer at all times, “visible” to my boss and teammates. In an office setting, bathroom breaks, chatting with coworkers, going to get coffee, and strolls around the office are all common, acceptable, and healthy. It is also healthy, and necessary, for you to get away from your computer when you work at home, too. If you’re just getting started with the remote game, set an alarm every hour or so to get up and get some steps in.
Stock your refrigerator and pantry. Your fridge and pantry can be either your biggest friend or worst enemy at home. The thing about snackage at a traditional office is that it’s usually curated by a dedicated office manager who is tasked with pleasing everyone. Chances are your fridge and pantry at home is tailored to your tastes, meaning it’s filled with things you’ll actually eat. And when you work from home, you will eat them, possibly a lot of them. Prepare yourself for this and stock up on healthy choices.
Keep Yourself Mentally Healthy
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean your mental health is no longer a concern.
Take a real lunch. For many remote workers, getting out of the house starts to feel like a chore. It’s so easy to microwave some leftover takeout, take to the couch to watch TV, and call it “lunch.” So whether you make yourself a lunch at home and take it to a park or even to the back patio, or you meet up with a friend at a cafe, remove yourself from your workspace for a little bit every day.
Take days off. I always felt as though I had to make extra sacrifices for what I considered to be the privilege of working remotely. Unfortunately, that sacrifice became vacation time and I felt guilty taking entire days off. But remote work is still work. And remote workers need to take days off too. Take them.
Be okay with ‘off’ days. Some real talk: if you have ever worked a day in your life, in an office or anywhere else for that matter, you know that you will never be, and can never be, 100% productive all of the time. Everyone has days where they battle with lack of motivation, writer’s block, or a generally slow day. You will have these days as a remote worker too. Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a breath, prioritize what needs done, and take another stab at it the next day.
It’s important to remember that remote work is still work. And truthfully, because the quiet allows for deep focused work more often, it can be exhausting mentally and physically. It’s important to allow yourself to recoup, or that deep focused work will soon become ineffective work.
The ability to work from home should enhance your health, work, and life. If, however, you aren’t taking care of yourself and maximizing the inherent benefits of remote work, you’ll find that your home life can suffer when work gets a little too comfortable.