Posted on behalf of Hollis Marek, Director of Technology Strategy
There are a lot of things I love about my job. I really enjoy working in the R&D department at Summit Healthcare and helping to craft our integration suite of software. On top of that I really like the benefit of working from home; being able to skip the commute means I can sleep a little later and spend more time with my family, plus being home during the day makes it a lot easier to get errands done at lunch time.
With all the great things about working from home, sitting at a computer for hours on end and being disengaged from your coworkers does bring some challenges, including added difficulties in staying healthy. For this article I’ll talk about some of the challenges I’ve faced or witnessed and some strategies for combatting them.
Please note that everyone is different and before making any changes in exercise or diet it is always recommended that you consult your doctor.
Challenge: Physical Activity
When you go into the office there’s a certain amount of activity built into the day, and you can increase it with simple strategies like parking further away from the door (if you drive) and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. When you have to talk to a coworker you can walk over to their desk and even walking to the cafeteria for lunch is something.
When you work at home you have none of these options, so you have to add activity yourself. Tracking your steps is one good way to motivate yourself to be more active. A ten dollar pedometer will work fine for this, but if you’re a little nerdy then more advanced trackers and smart watches give you the ability to view your progress over time and even compete with friends and coworkers.
I also try to make a point to stand up and move around at least once an hour. Standing during meetings is a good way to make this goal without compromising work time. Getting a dog is also a good way to force yourself outside at least a few times a day.
Challenge: Healthy Eating
Eating is a mixed bag at home. On one hand you have more control over the food that’s available and there’s no snack machine tempting you all day. On the other hand there’s nothing but your own will stopping you from snacking all day long. I’ve found that tracking my calories helps, though I don’t do it religiously. Whenever I feel myself slipping I track for about a week to get myself back on track.
Challenge: Work Environment
When you work in an office the company is responsible for supplying you with equipment that is appropriate to keep you safe and healthy. When you work from home it’s not uncommon for people to try to shoe horn themselves into whatever space they may have available. A lot of people seem quite happy to work at their dining room table, but a dining room table is not a desk, and a dining room chair was not designed for either computer use or sitting in for several hours.
Ergonomics is a big subject, the most important thing is to make sure that you have a work surface at a comfortable height for typing and you can keep your feet flat on the floor while sitting. You can also try a standing desk, but there are mixed reports on that. Ideally you should alternate between sitting and standing if possible but this doesn’t work for everyone.
It’s also important to isolate your workspace as best you can. If you’ve set up in the middle of your living space it’s easy for “working from home” to turn into “living at work”, and this can lead to burn out pretty quickly. Try to dedicate a room to your office if you can, or set up a desk in a closet where you can close the door when you aren’t using it. Pinterest is full of ideas for organizing small offices if you need inspiration. I’ve even heard of people setting up RVs in their back yard to separate their work area from living space (the RV is for your office, not to live in).