Stay home and stay safe. These phrases are commonly used as our world faces the uncertainties of COVID-19. This is especially true as we adapt to working remotely from home during the pandemic. Employees have recently extended work-from-home policies far beyond the shelter-in-place timelines mandated by state and local authorities. Large businesses such as Google and Amazon are telling employees they will stay home until 2021. These moves to keep employees at home as long as possible reflect the reality that no one is sure how the coronavirus pandemic will evolve. The global workplace analysis estimated that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with remote work since March of this year. There has been an increasing demand for flexibility in how and where people work, even before the crisis. Surveys have shown that 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time. The work from home platform will likely retain a significant presence even after the coronavirus no longer requires it. Those that are working from home are challenged to maintain a well-balanced lifestyle and productive work environment.
The trick to finding balance is knowing what health practices are best to use in a person’s workspace and create health behavioral changes that will enhance your quality of life. Remember the push-up challenge that went viral at the beginning of the pandemic? “See 10 push-ups, do 10 push-ups”. It was a way for people to connect and hold each other accountable for staying fit during the stay-at-home order. The significance in establishing new health behaviors is that they spark a sense of productivity and accomplishment. So you feel good about yourself at the end of the day! A good starting point to induce a productive and healthy workspace is to evaluate ergonomics, communication channels, and self-motivation.
Ergonomics is the study of work, taking an in-depth look at the work you do and the environment that best suits you as an individual in being productive.
This will look slightly different to everyone but the important part is having your work area layout be custom to you! The photo you have framed of your dog and a decorative pot of succulents on your desk does have an important role in the success of your work. Let’s take a deeper dive into what good ergonomic practice looks like. If you do not have access to a desk at home, use the kitchen countertop as a work station, or convert your bedroom dresser into a stand-up desk option. It’s time to get creative! Tips for ergonomics at home:
- Choose a good chair: Invest in a comfortable chair that will support the S-curve in your back and keep your spine aligned throughout the day.
- Forearms: Only two-thirds of your forearms should be on the desk. So the cushion part of your arm makes contact.
- Stomach: Scoot your chair towards the desk so your stomach is close to the desk and the armrest can just barely slide under.
- Computer: A laptop or computer monitor screen should be at the height of your eyes.
Most problems at work on a daily basis are due to poor communication or lack thereof. For remote working teams, it is even more challenging to establish good communication. The good news, there are a lot of communication channels available today. It is important once a team decides what service or channel is right for them to make that the primary channel across the whole team. For example, Slack is a great tool for group chats, E-mail for announcements, and Google Meet or Zoom for video calls. Otherwise, you could have a topic spread to different channels that are irrelevant. Video calls are an important element to any team to help employees bond more, in comparison to text or chat messages. Physically seeing team members on a call can stimulate conversation and force one another to pay close attention. Keep communication channels open even when AFK (away from keyboard). Outside of the core working hours, it is a good idea to share with co-workers when you are unavailable by blocking a spot in your calendar so others know. This will give other team members the chance to focus their tasks elsewhere, until you are back from your coffee break!
In theory, it should be easier to maintain a healthy work environment from home, not being tempted by your co-worker’s birthday cake or that jar of candy your boss keeps at reception. But the truth is it takes a lot more self-discipline and self-motivation to stay healthy from home. It can also be challenging to keep to a healthy routine when you don’t have team members to physically interact with and hold you accountable. Here are a few ways you can motivate yourself to stay healthy while working remotely.
- Set a specific time to wake up each day. It is easy to fall into the pattern of sleeping in because you no longer have to deal with that morning commute. But it is critical to create structure to your workday, even from home. Try to have the first hour of your day vary as little as possible with a set routine you practice no matter how busy life gets.
- Prep meals and snacks. Maintaining good nutrition is important for staying focused and energized throughout the day. This might be the perfect opportunity for a kitchen make-over, getting rid of all processed snacks and sugary treats.
- Schedule a workout into your calendar. Break for a solid sweat session can be a good mental and physical release.
- Avoid mindless eating. Research has shown that taking time to sit and enjoy a meal, uninterrupted, can have lasting benefits in productivity.
- Get off social media! While working, try to stay focused on one task at a time and stop the distractions of responding to every notification that comes to your phone.
- Take mindful breaks. Go for a brief walk after completing a set amount of tasks or step back from your computer to breathe deeply and be mindful of your comfortable environment. Pausing to notice these joys is like a quick dose of meditation.
- Work in a bright, cheerful home office setting. This is going to be a space you will spend a lot of your time so make sure it is a positive, and happy environment.
- Socialize with others. When your workday has finished, talk to other people. You can call up an old friend or join an online book club or Facetime a family member. It will do wonders for your psyche and your productivity.
Creating a healthy work-life balance is hard enough when you work in an office all day, but it can be just as hard when work and life are happening in the same space. Use these tips to adapt to new health behaviors at home. Small adjustments such as raising your computer screen to eye level or taking a break every hour to stretch, can be tools that make a significant difference in your work productivity and your health. Share this article with your co-workers as you organize your work and home tasks and create healthy boundaries around them. This will help drive healthy stability in your work-life that will make your boss and your body happy too!