5 Ways to Boost Your Wellbeing While Working From Home
It is without a doubt, one of the most challenging and unprecedented times in history. Never before have many of us been faced with the challenges we are now dealing with. At the same time, depending on what industry you work in or how you've been able to adapt, there's also some incredible opportunities to be found.
There's been a monumental shift in how we work, what a work day looks like and the paradigm of much of the traditional corporate world has been completely flipped on its head. The working from home lifestyle that many of us had dreamed about prior to this moment is now our current reality.
Although it offers many benefits, (no travel, flexible working hours, less expenses and even higher productivity for some sectors) from a physical and mental health perspective it's becoming more and more evident that its amplifying or creating some real problems for individuals.
Let's take a look at some of the problems people are facing right now as they flip open their laptop on the dining table, kitchen bench or for those lucky enough, the home office.
Less incidental movement: I think we underestimate the amount of incidental movement created from just going into and working from an office that is not your place of residence. The walk to the car or from the car to the train or bus. The walk from your car into the office building, the walk up the stairs and even the 5 trips to the printer you do before morning tea, not to mention the walk to your favourite coffee shop at lunch or the walk home. We are moving less at home, many of us will go the day only moving between the office chair, the lounge, the kitchen and maybe to the letterbox.
Just from chatting with our clients we guess that most people have averaged a 40% drop in their steps per day. An 80kg person would average 40 calories per 1000 steps. So if they would normally average 10,000 steps per day and now it's only around 6,000 that's the equivalent of 160 calories or the equivalent to eating a chocolate bar each day to put into perspective.
We are eating more.
On top of moving less, people are eating more.
I mean, think about it, while we're working from home, at any one moment we are seconds away from a highly palatable snack or easily accessible meal. For many people there's also no set meal time and so we start losing the ability to know when we're hungry/full because we've lost the usual routine or social cues. Thus people begin grazing and snacking all day long because a) they're bored b) it's easily accessible and there's no sense of timing so we just eat whenever, and c) for many there's higher levels of stress, which effects our hunger cues and causes us to crave sugar.
We are mentally struggling to disconnect
Aside from the physical health and wellbeing there is a growing issue with mental health with people working from home, isolated from friends, family, work mates and the usual routines and structures that control our day and our bodies ability to regulate hormones and feelings. Being completely isolated from a work environment and other colleagues can create a sense of loneliness and disconnection whilst making it difficult to detach from their to-do list.
Often in a working from home environment, employees can struggle to create boundaries, routines and structure for their day. There's not the usual socially driven routines, breaks or interactions that usually help us create clear lines between work and 'down' time. Without the usual 'drink fountain conversations or chit chat' people tend to get stuck at the desk for longer periods not taking breaks increasing screen time, eye strain and general fatigue. This and more has blurred the lines between home and work, making it difficult to 'switch off' when it's meant to be knock off time.
A lack of detachment from work makes it hard for individuals to recharge when they're meant to, increasing the chance of burn out, sick days and mental health challenges.
But it's not all bad news! Yes it's a challenging time for many, but we have some effective strategies you can implement into your day to keep on top of your physical and mental health.
Here's our top 5 tips to staying on top of your wellbeing.
1. Get morning and afternoon sun.
If you’re in Melbourne reading this it may seem like a bit of a joke, but in all seriousness our bodies are regulated by the sun. In particular our circadian rhythm or sleep and wake cycles. As the sun lowers in the afternoon/evening this triggers a cascade of hormonal changes to help our bodies prepare for sleep. So to does the morning sun, except this helps us rise or wake up giving us energy for the day. Interrupting this natural daily rhythm by not getting outside in the morning, missing the afternoon sun or by switching on a bright blue laptop screen late at night we interrupt these natural patterns and start affecting our ability to sleep and rest properly.
Even if you can only spare 10min a day, try to get 5min in the morning and 5min in the later afternoon in the natural daylight. On top of that try to avoid screens late at night - err, says the guy writing this blog post at 10 o'clock at night.
Having a consistent circadian rhythm helps regulate other hormones and systems within your body such as hunger cues and sleep/wake cycles. Another great tip is to adjust the lighting in your house to simulate the falling of the sun. So turn your lights down as the evening sets, use warm lighting, lamps or blue light free lights around the home in the evening to help cue your brain to prepare you for a good nights sleep.
2. Split your work up into smaller blocks of time.
The concept of working hard all day long is a fallacy. You may work hard all day long, but you will be much more productive, make better decisions and the quality of your work and interactions will be of a higher standard with small breaks Interspersed throughout the day. Just like in football they have quarter and halftime breaks to refresh, re-group and allow themselves to operate at their peak, your brain needs the same thing. Going all day long will only create more stress and unease like we mentioned above. Couple your breaks with your time outside and you're onto a winner.
I know you know, and I'm not here to bust your --- about exercise. We all know it's important. But what I will encourage you to do is schedule this first thing in the morning if you can. This really sets your day up for success and it means that no matter what happens throughout the day, at least that is ticked off. If you have to, there's ways to manage it, but if you can try to avoid training in the evening. This really hypes your system at a time when you're body is trying to wind down for sleep. Exercise doesn't have to be anything too strenuous, but just getting your body moving, sweating and your heart pumping is great for your mental health as much as it's great for your physical health. If you're not a regular exerciser, start with something a little lower impact, some yoga, cycling or light resistance training. If you are looking for an incredible at home fitness program, I may just know someone. ;) click here to learn more. Exercising first thing in the morning can also help set up a healthy and sustainable daily routine.
4. Set meal times. As I mentioned above, many of us are eating a significant amount more than we normally would purely because we're out of routine, have no real structure to our days in terms of meal breaks and just eat out of convenience. I recommend setting yourself meal times. Have an alarm that goes off to remind you to stop and go have a meal. It would be even more effective if you pre cooked these meals. This way you will eat what's there, rather than making a decision while you're hungry... We've all been there, standing at the pantry, hungry.. it never ends well. So make the decision before you're hungry and prepare your meals for the day.
5. Set boundaries. It seems that there is this universal assumption that if you're working from home you're contactable at any hour of the day. Now I have no evidence to back that up, but from the conversations I've had with many of our corporate clients, business owners and just about everyone who's working from home is that you're now available 24/7. As I mentioned earlier, it's very important for our mental health that we can seperate work from home and have time where we are completely disconnected from work, emails and to-do lists.
This really comes down to setting boundaries with your team, your managers and yourself. Out of office replies, auto text responders or just replying with a nice but direct message that you are unavailable and will respond at a later time really helps set the expectation and allows everyone (including yourself) to respect YOUR time. It also allows you to switch off, recharge and be present with your family when you need to. - again, coming from the guy who feels the need to respond to everything in a millisecond... but you get my point.
If you're finding that working from home is effecting your mental and/or physical health and wellbeing, be sure to give some of these strategies a go.
If you're struggling with your mental health, head to THIS LINK for more information and resources or speak to a professional today. If your company is looking for a at home wellness program that is suitable for a diverse range of teams head to THIS LINK.
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Thanks for reading.