Looking forward to more working from home this New Year? While it may seem like a dream come true at first, several challenges come with working remotely. One of the main concerns is how to maintain good health while working from home.
In this blog, we will explore practical strategies to ensure health and wellness while working from home. Topics will include setting up an ergonomically correct workstation, maintaining robust time management routines, and the importance of regular breaks. We’ll delve into strategies to minimise feelings of isolation and optimise mental health. Lastly, we’ll discuss the significance of checking in with your team regularly and managing screen time effectively. Tuning into these areas can help to maintain not only your productivity but also your overall well-being amidst the shift to remote working.
Practical Strategies for Health and Wellness in Remote Work
Correct Workstation Setup
An ergonomically correct workstation is vital for avoiding physical discomfort and related health problems. Ensure your desk and chair are at the right height, your screen is at eye level, and your keyboard and mouse are positioned to promote relaxed shoulders and wrists.
Consider investing in an adjustable chair that supports the natural curve of your spine. Your feet should be flat on the floor (or a footrest if needed), and your knees at a 90-degree angle. Your monitor should be positioned such that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level. This setup reduces the risk of straining your eyes and neck. A distance of about an arm’s length from your screen can also prevent eye strain. For your keyboard and mouse setup, they should be within easy reach and on the same surface. To help maintain a neutral wrist posture, your keyboard should be at a slight negative tilt – down and away from you. Following these guidelines will go a long way in minimising potential aches and pains that can arise from prolonged periods sitting at your desk.
Time Management and Good Work Routines
Maintaining a regular daily routine helps to structure your day and increase productivity. Establish clear start and end times for your workday, and factor in time for tasks outside of work.
Incorporating regular breaks throughout your workday can also enhance performance. It’s beneficial to plan short breaks every hour or so – stand, stretch, move around, or rest your eyes. These pauses can help maintain your concentration and reduce fatigue. During longer breaks, engage in activities that you enjoy, such as reading a book, going for a walk, or meditating. It’s important not to overlook lunch breaks, too. Try to have a healthy, balanced meal away from your workspace. This will help to replenish your energy and keep you focused for the rest of the day.
Conscious time management also means setting boundaries between work and personal time. When working from home, it’s easy to blur these lines, but maintaining a balance is paramount for mental health. Once you’ve reached your designated end time for the workday, resist the urge to check emails or complete just one more task. Allow yourself to switch off from work and spend time on personal pursuits and relaxation. This will help you to unwind and get ready for the next workday, promoting a healthy work-life balance.
Taking Regular Breaks
Taking breaks can reduce the risk of physical strain and mental fatigue. Try to take a short break every hour and use this time to stretch, move around, or rest your eyes from the screen.
In addition to these hourly breaks, it’s essential to take a longer break in the middle of your workday. During this time, aim to step away from your workspace entirely. Engage in a relaxing activity, or, if possible, enjoy some fresh air outside. Disconnecting from your work environment helps to refresh your mind and can contribute significantly to your creativity and productivity when you return.
Consider incorporating some physical activity into these longer breaks. Light exercises, such as yoga or a brisk walk, can help to relieve muscular tension and improve blood circulation, particularly important if your work involves extended periods of sitting.
Also, make sure to limit your screen time during these breaks. Overexposure to screens can lead to digital eye strain, characterised by tired or dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. Instead, use this time to engage your senses differently. Listen to some music, read a physical book, or get your hands dirty in the garden.
Remember, the objective of these breaks is not only to rest and rejuvenate but also to create a healthy distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘personal time’. By consciously allocating time to non-work activities, you reinforce these boundaries, contributing to improved work-life balance and mental well-being.
Minimising Isolation and Optimising Mental Health
Stay connected with others to avoid feelings of isolation; virtual team meetings and social calls can help. Since remote work often involves prolonged periods of solitude, it’s important to take proactive steps to mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is by maintaining regular communication with your colleagues. Leverage the power of technology to stay connected. Use video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams for daily check-ins or weekly meetings. Not only does this facilitate effective collaboration, but the face-to-face interaction, albeit virtual, can also foster a sense of camaraderie and belonging that’s often missing in remote work settings.
Additionally, prioritise your mental health by incorporating self-care practices into your daily routine. This can include mindfulness activities such as meditation or deep-breathing exercises, which have been shown to reduce stress and improve overall mental well-being. Also, make sure to seek professional help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. Many organisations offer Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that provide counselling and other mental health services. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help, and taking care of your mental health is essential for your overall well-being and productivity.
Ultimately, working from home doesn’t have to be an isolating experience. With the right strategies and practices in place, it can be a rewarding and productive way of working.
Checking in with your colleagues
Regular communication with your team not only aids in coordination but also fosters a sense of teamwork and shared purpose. Keep everyone updated about work progress and any issues you might be facing.
Sending out daily or weekly updates via email or instant messaging platforms can be an effective way to keep everyone in the loop. Additionally, setting aside time for virtual ‘coffee breaks’ or ‘water cooler chats’ can help emulate the casual, interpersonal interactions that occur in an office setting. This not only provides an opportunity for team members to get to know each other on a personal level but also helps to build trust and rapport amongst the team. Ensuring you’re in regular contact with your colleagues helps to mitigate the feeling of isolation that can often accompany remote work and supports a healthier and more collaborative remote working environment. Remember, you’re not alone – even if you’re working from home, you’re still part of a team, and together, you can navigate the challenges and opportunities that remote work presents.
Managing Screen Time
Extended screen time can lead to eye strain and disruption of sleep patterns. To manage screen time, use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Also, try to switch off digital devices at least an hour before bed.
Further to managing screen time, consider punctuating your day with activities that do not involve screens. Incorporating physical activity, such as a quick walk or a stretch, can be beneficial, not just for your eyes but for your overall well-being. Remember, screens emit blue light, which can trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight and disrupt your sleep cycle. To mitigate this, adjust your device settings to emit warmer light in the evenings, or consider using blue light filter glasses. Lastly, ensure your workspace is well-lit to reduce strain on your eyes. By adopting these practices, we can lessen the impact of extensive screen time on our health while working from home.
Why not create an action plan to implement the guidance above? Start by taking a moment to assess your current working environment and identify areas for improvement. Once you’ve established what needs to be addressed, draft an action plan with clear steps and timelines.
For instance, you might want to start by updating your workstation setup and then move on to refining your work routines. Include time for regular breaks in your schedule and make a conscious effort to minimise screen time where possible.
To ensure you stay on track, use calendar reminders. These can serve as prompts for taking breaks, switching off screens, and even for virtual catch-ups with your team. Regular check-ins can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and promote mental well-being.
By following these guidelines, you can maintain both your physical and mental well-being while ensuring productivity when working from home. It’s a balancing act that takes time to master, but remember, your health is paramount. Adopt these strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthier and more productive remote work environment.
For many small businesses, engaging an Occupational Health Professional can prove immensely beneficial in shaping effective work-at-home guidance policies. Indeed, we possess the necessary expertise to provide evidence based and impartial advice tailored to your unique business needs. We do these thorough evaluations, ensuring your business can ensure your remote working practices not only enhance productivity but also promote the physical and mental well-being of employees. This way, businesses can navigate the complexities of remote work with ease while safeguarding their employees’ health and well-being.
If you’re seeking professional guidance and expertise to further improve your at-home working conditions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We have a dedicated team of Occupational Health experts ready to assist in creating an optimised and health-centred remote work setup. Each situation is unique, and we’re here to help you navigate yours with personalised solutions. Start the conversation today, and discover how we can help you enhance your health and productivity whilst working from home. Contact us now!