“Out of office” doesn’t just mean you’re on vacation any more.
In the past few years, the number of Canadians working from home has increased significantly. About one in five university grads were working from home as of 2008, according to Statistics Canada. More employers are hiring employees for entirely remote jobs. In fact, if you do a job search on a site like Indeed, you can find job titles with “Work from Home” right in their description.
When you’re working remotely, it's tempting to slouch on your couch with your laptop with Netflix playing in the background, or to sleep in when you need the extra rest. It’s also easy to forget to get moving, and to just grab the bag of chips in your cupboard when you get hungry. But there are risks to being inactive for long periods of time, including increased blood pressure and obesity. In fact, sitting for too long can be comparable to smoking in terms of its negative health effects.
The trick with working remotely is to create an environment that motivates you, allows you to get moving and encourages healthy eating throughout the day. These tips can help:
Staying active when working remotely or from home
- Use the time in the morning that you would have spent getting ready, packing a lunch and commuting to exercise. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, mental-health benefits of physical activity include prevention of depression and anxiety, reducing day-to-day stress and boosting happiness as well as self-esteem. Tori Taylor, a Certified Personal Trainer and softball coach from Kitchener, Ontario says she gets up at the same time when she works from home as when she goes into the office. “Instead of using the time to get ready, I work out at home,” she says. “I used my personal spending account from my work last year to buy myself home gym equipment (kettlebells, resistance bands and a yoga mat) and I usually just write down and follow a quick, 30-45 minute circuit.”
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- Put on music that energizes you. Spotify has tons of free playlists. Listening to something you don’t know the words to can sharpen your concentration and might help you be more creative.
- Get up and stretch every hour, and get out of the house at least once a day. Try setting an alarm to go off on the hour, or use a fitness tracker to make sure you’re getting your steps in. You might not have as far to walk to the washroom or to get a coffee as you would at work, so you need to find other reasons to move. Taylor sets aside 30 minutes to walk her dog at lunch. She says even a 20-minute walk is a quick and effective way to get out of the house and into the fresh air. You might also want to try meditation, yoga, free YouTube workouts, or exercise apps during your lunch break.
- Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and meals. It can be much too easy to pull out the junk food if it’s readily available at home. Taylor says that it’s best to prepare meals in advance — even when you’re working from home. The night before, she sets aside time to prep her food for the day: “I found when I worked from home I would end up snacking way more than normal, so I started to make my (healthy) lunch the night before and found I would snack less and eat more whole foods.” Control your snacking by having fresh produce washed and ready to go in the fridge if you do need a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nibble.
Holding yourself accountable
You may be eating well and staying active, but it’s still easy to sleep in and stay in your sweats. Instead, hold yourself accountable by making a schedule and sticking to it. While it’s okay to sleep in occasionally when you need the extra rest, your mental health, level of exercise and productivity will improve if you stay on track with regular working hours. Determine the start and end of your workday, and stay true to it. Make sure you also turn off your computer at a designated time.
Other pro tips:
- Actually get dressed for work. You don’t have to put on your suit or business-casual outfit, but do change out of your PJs and into something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in by your boss.
- Sometimes you need to work from home to be there for a delivery or an appliance repair. But aim to reduce optional distractions like Netflix, pets and housework. Save those for after work as much as possible.
- Enforce your business hours with family and friends. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean they can drop in or ask you to do things with them during the day. Politely remind them that you are still working.
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How to get comfortable when you’re not working at an office desk
Make sure you have the right desk or workspace for you. That might mean investing in a dedicated piece of furniture like a standing desk or even a regular desk, and an office chair with armrests — just make sure you’re not sitting on your couch all day. Taylor has a dedicated office in her spare room at home with a tall bookshelf. During conference calls or huddles, she likes to stand up for the 30 minutes to an hour to take the call, and puts her laptop on the shelf at eye level. “I find standing up keeps me more engaged and awake,” she says.
If you love burning scented candles or diffusing essential oils, put them to work. If you enjoy an outdoor view, set yourself up by a window. Make sure your workspace has adequate light — preferably natural — to prevent eye fatigue. Try to keep your home office separate from your home. If not, make sure you can “put away” your office at the end of the day, and turn off your computer. You don’t always have to work in the same place; if you’re normally in your home office, try working in the backyard, at a coffee shop or somewhere else to change up the scenery.
One of the many benefits of working remotely is having the flexibility to make your workspace work for you. At home, create an environment you can enjoy and that will minimize your stress. Put in the time and effort to make a space you can comfortably and productively work in, so you can stay active and healthy.