If you are like me and you run a graphic design studio or a home-based business, then you’ll find that working from home has many benefits. There are no set working hours. You can pretty much take a vacation when you feel like it. And if you want to take the day off, you don’t need to clear it with your boss.
In reality though there are many challenges that face a home worker. And if you are a working mum or working dad then the challenges may be even greater. You need to be focused, disciplined and have a certain level of drive and luck. But of course, staying healthy and happy is one of the most important things.
But this lifestyle is not for everyone as it does takes a lot of focus and motivation to ensure things run smoothly day after day. So here are my top 18 tips to stay healthy while working from home.
1. When you wake up
After laying flat for 8 hours, your body can sometimes feel stiff, sluggish and dehydrated. So stay healthy and kick-start your day be drinking a large glass of water, preferably at room temperature. Our bodies are actually made up of 60% water and it helps to keep us in tip top condition by energising our muscles, keeping our skin looking good and aiding numerous other bodily functions.
You can go one step further and add lemon to your drink which has even more health benefits. You can read more about powering up with lemon water via Dr Axe
2. Start the day with a healthy breakfast
Whether you work in an office or at home, it’s really important to get a good start to the day in the form of a hearty breakfast. So bin those packets of sugary cereals and toast with jam, and go for something that contains fresh fruit or protein.
One of the best things you can eat is the common egg. Mix in some healthy turkey bacon, avocado, red pepper, spring onions and chilli, and you can pretty much say goodbye to those mid-miring munchies.
Whole rolled oats are great too. Mixed with milk, pomegranate seeds, blueberries and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. No chance of a tea and cake break after that!
If you are stuck for ideas, there are some great breakfast suggestions in Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 Book
3. Limit your working day
For some people it can be tricky keeping to an eight hour working day. Especially when the home office door keeps calling you. Obviously when you are busy this can sometimes mean early mornings and late nights. But don’t forget, you aren’t a machine so don’t over do it. Take regular breaks, have a lunch hour and finish work at a reasonable time.
It’s definitely worth setting some boundaries for yourself:
- Don’t work weekends unless you have to.
- Don’t eat in front of your computer (guilty!). Take that break!
- Keep a log of your working time. It’s important you don’t do crazy hours regularly.
- Shut down your computer at the end of day.
4. Get plenty of sleep (and the occasional catnap)
It may be tempting to burn the candles at both ends but the long term health issues with this will result in total burn out. Sure, in order to be successful when working from home, you sometimes have to work long hours and push your body and brain to the limit. But if you don’t get enough rest, then it will be counter productive. Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours deep sleep every night. This will ensure you can work effectively the next day.
My cat definately knows how to stay healthy while working from home – plenty of sleeps!
5. Plan your working day
If you are like me and primarily work alone, then it’s a good idea to schedule your work for the day or week. Take 5 minutes first thing in the morning to write out your tasks for the day. Otherwise there is a danger you’ll forget to complete that important piece of work (yep it’s happened) or become stressed and unfocused on what you need to do.
6. You may be a home worker but take a break
Don’t forget to take regular breaks, especially if you sit at your desk all day. Try and set a timer to go off every hour so you can get up, stretch and re-focus your eyes. I sometimes suffer from stiff shoulders, neck pain and in turn headaches, and I’m sure this is quite common for anyone regularly using a computer. There are some good stretching exercises on the Mayo Clinic website which will help.
7. Soak up some sunlight and fresh air
If you work in a home office, like me you’ll probably forget there is a world just outside your front door. I will often be engrossed in a piece of work for a number of hours and totally forget to to take a break. The fact is that it’s important to regularly get a dose of fresh air and more importantly sunshine.
Of course we all know too much sun isn’t good for us, but at least 10-20mins a day can work wonders. It can kill harmful bacteria, cleanse the blood and blood vessels, and build up your immune system. It also combats depression, lowers cholesterol and can even control some forms of Cancer. You can read more about the benefits of sunshine exposure at Mind Body Green
In the winter months it’s important to keep your Vitamin D levels up, so it’s worth taking a supplement. In the UK this will be October to March where the sunshine levels are too low to aid much benefit.
8. Setup your office chair and desk correctly
Sat on your backside all day just isn’t a good idea. But if you have to then make sure you invest in a good seat. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars more for a good quality office chair, preferably one that supports your back.
Ensure you set up the height of your chair correctly so that your eyes are level with the top of your computer screen. Ideally you want to be sat straight with your shoulders back and your thighs horizontal to the floor. If you have short legs like me, then you probably will want to purchase a foot stool to help level your legs out.
A good tip is to pull your keyboard to the front of your desk – this reminds you sit upright and not slouch your shoulders.
You could consider using a standing desk of course. In an article by Men’s Health, apparently you’ll live longer, lose weight, be more productive and avoid the risk of depression. This won’t fix everything as in truth it’s better to get up and move around regularly.
9. Create a good working environment
Some of this may be obvious, but it’s important to get your work space tailored to the way you work. If possible choose a dedicated room and be sure to let your family know when your door is closed you are not to be disturbed.
So for instance if you are a freelance designer and work on the computer all day, don’t place the screen against a window. The view may be great but the natural daylight will strain your eyes. And any movement in the background is likely to distract you. I’d suggest placing your screen against a wall – this ensures a calm and distraction free background.
Of course if you are an illustrator or painter, then natural light is your buddy. So you’d be more likely to setup your desk near a window or let more light into the room. I’d recommend installing a set of Venetian blinds. This will allow you to tailor how much light you let into your office space.
Ultimately set the room to how you like it. Add music, scented candles (if that’s your thing) and make sure you keep the window open. A dose of fresh air will lift your spirits and keep you motivated.
10. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks
If on the odd occasion you didn’t have time to make yourself a big breakfast then like me, by mid-morning you’ll stomach will be shouting for attention. But before you head for the cookie jar instead choose a snack that will keep you powered up until lunchtime.
At some points during the day your blood sugar levels may become unbalanced, so it’s important to choose what you eat. Mike Kamo at Nutrition Secrets has some good ideas on healthy eating.
For example a small bowl of mixed nuts and dried fruit will keep your hunger pains a bay. Or a hard-boiled egg which is protein rich is ideal.
11. Hey kids stay hydrated
Staying hydrated throughout the day will help to keep you in tip-top condition. Here in the UK the recommended amount is to consume 1.2 litres of water (six to eight glasses) per day – with a slice of lemon if you prefer. Avoid fizzy drinks like Cola or Lemonade as they contain sugar, salt or even worse sugar alternatives like Aspartame.
If water isn’t your bag, then drinking tea or coffee is fine. Coffee has been shown to be very healthy. Studies have demonstrated that it can help burn fat, increase physical performance, lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Of course we are taking about coffees without all the added sugary crap and whipped cream here. A straight Expresso or Americano is ideal as they contain the least amount of calories. Personally I only tend to drink 1-2 cups a day and it helps me focus during the afternoon slump.
12. Take a lunch break away from your desk
The most important break during your working day is your lunch hour. If you can, make it a full hour rather than a quick 15 minutes. One hour gives you time to rest your brain, refuel and power-up ready for the afternoon.
When it comes your food, then try and get a good balanced diet. So plenty of fresh veg, fruit, fish and meat. It stands to reason that if you eat good food then your health, mind and body will respond well. Working at home has meant that I’ve re-discovered the delights of cooking and now find that I really enjoy planning and creating meals.
13. Dealing with stress
Stress can effect us all at some point. I know from personal experience that it can effect relationships, family, health, sleep and work. So try and recognise any symptoms and self-manage them or get checked out by your GP.
You can control stress levels through regular exercise. This triggers your body’s endorphins which in turn enhances your mood and helps you to relax.
Practising ‘mindfulness’ can work wonders with your state of well-being. It’s essentially the practice of being aware of your surroundings, your thoughts and your feelings. It may sound like a load of mumbo-jumbo but give it a try. I’ve been using the Headspace smart phone app for a few months now and it seems to work wonders. You have the ability to choose different focus packs (sport, creativity, happiness etc). This has now become part of my morning routine.
As I’ve already mentioned, getting regular exercise is a great way to keep your mind and body in good shape. If you sit down all day then this is especially important for maintaining good posture. I am smiling while writing this as I have recently fractured my metatarsal (the outer bone in the mid-foot), so no exercise for me at the moment!
Anyway, make sure you make the time to fit in 3-4 sessions a week. This can be first thing in the morning, at lunch time or at the end of the day – whatever works for you. Go for a walk, get to the gym, go for a bike ride or hit the weights.
For the last 6 months I’ve been trailing HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. It’s the practice of exercising at one hundred percent through, quick, intense bursts followed by short breaks. It gets your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. So there is no excuse not to fit in 15-20 minutes of HIIT in every other day. This is ideal for people who work at home as it requires minimal equipment and minimal time.
15. Invest in good lighting
I’ve mentioned earlier how daylight can be used to aid or distract you in your daily work routine. Depending on what type of work you do, you may find yourself sat in front of a computer or hunched over a desk. An overhead 100 watt light bulb may add lots of light but it won’t be the best for your eyes. Invest in a good desk lamp, preferably a natural LED light with adjustable settings.
16. Adjust your screen brightness
If you use a desktop computer or laptop regularity then at some point you are going to get eye strain. Screen brightness and reflection are usually the common causes, so alter your screen position and intensity to match your environment.
In addition to the above, I use a piece of software called Flux. It’s available for Apple Mac and PC based systems. It automatically adjusts your screen colour based on the time of day. So by early evening the screen has a softer light and won’t strain your eyes. I believe that Apple have created something similar and this is now available on iPhones at the time of writing this.
17. Plants can be your friends
A pot plant or two can brighten up any drab office. You also get the benefit of improved air quality and the removal of air impurities. You don’t necessarily need to be green-fingered as some plants require very little maintenance. There is a good list of suitable plants over at Small Business Trends
As I write this, my office Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is in mid flower.
18. Take a holiday – you’ve earned it
Just as you would in a full time job, make sure you block out some time to get away from the office. Although you may feel guilty (I do sometimes), this shouldn’t be the case. It’s important to shut that office door (physical and mental) and to forget about work for a period of time. This will allow you to rest, re-energise and re-focus.