The advantages of working from home seem obvious. With broadband internet, laptops, cloud based computing, and video conferencing, there is little you can do in the office that you can’t do at home. Being at home avoids time wasted on commuting, meetings and gossip. But home has numerous distractions that aren’t available in the office, and time you freed up by not going into work suddenly just got eaten up with Netflix and chores.
With some planning of your day and workspace, you can overcome the obstacles and use home working to live healthier.
1. Create a workspace. Our brains like patterns and routines. Our minds learn to associate places with certain attitudes and activities. If the sofa is where you usually unwind and play X Box, your brain will find it difficult to suddenly switch into work mode when you sit down with your laptop. Similarly, if your bed is for sleeping, you will suddenly start to feel tired if you sit there and try to work on a presentation.
Try to create separate spaces for work and relaxation. Ideally have a separate room in your home for working. As soon as you walk into your work space, it signals your brain to switch to work mode.
Another downside of not having a dedicated workspace is the impact on posture. Slouching on the couch over a laptop leads to rounding of the back and shoulders. Apart from looking terrible, this posture leads to long term neck and upper back aches and pains.
2. Turn the saved commute time into healthy time. If you gained time from skipping the work commute, use it for some healthy activity. Try to avoid the extra time just getting eaten by additional work or house chores. Try and do something that stimulates either body or mind – some morning exercise or meditation. Alternatively start work earlier but make sure you finish earlier too.
3. Prepare your food environment. When you get bored or hungry, you will reach for whatever is available. If you house is full of unhealthy food, that’s what you’re going to eat. Prepare your environment by stocking the kitchen with healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables. If you usually have a mid-morning or afternoon snack at work, make sure you have some healthy snacks available.
4. Make use of the flexibility. If you are no longer tied to the office work timetable, use the new found flexibility to break up your working day. Adding in some variation is more likely to keep you motivated. No one is watching you, so there is no excuse not to get up and move around every 60 minutes to keep yourself active. You can use your lunch time to exercise or squeeze in a run in the morning or afternoon.
5. Avoid multitasking use a Pomodoro. Sitting at home surrounded by home chores, it can be tempting to try and multitask DIY, cleaning, laundry or cooking in between emails and work reports. ‘Multitasking is a myth, our brains are only designed to focus on one activity at a time’ says Vala Medical Director, Dr Niall Aye Maung. When we think we are multi-tasking we are actually rapidly switching brain attention backwards and forwards from one task to another. Our brains work best when concentrating on one activity for a continuous period of time. Continuously changing task drains the brain’s energy supply and creates mental fatigue. Dr Aye Maung recommends the Pomodoro technique for time management, ‘It’s a great method for reducing interruptions and improving focus’