Top tips to make your time at home more productive, effective and healthy
The novel coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, has caused a lot of panic and stress for millions of folks across the U.S. and forced a lot of Americans to do something they've never done before; work from home. While certainly not the worst of situations, working from home is a completely new experience for many and with it comes challenges that need to be overcome.
Let's be honest, without the threat of a boss or manager looking over your shoulder, many of us have a tendency to slack off, procrastinate or look at our smartphones far too much. Also, with the fridge only a few yards away, over-eating can be...problematic. The lack of a set schedule is possibly the biggest challenge most people new to working from their home face, all of which can lead to an even more stressful situation.
Secure in the fact that none of us needs more stress, we've put together Top 8 Tips To Stay Healthy Working at Home During the COVID-19 Quarantine. Filled with tips and advice, when you're done you'll have a much better handle on your new work-from-home adventure, and be much more productive.
Tip #1- Re-Design Your Home Office Space
One thing that everyone needs when working from home is an 'office'. That can be a spare bedroom, sunroom or anywhere else in your home, as long as it's comfortable and allows you to do your work efficiently. That being said, there are a few things your work-from-home office really should have to make it practically perfect, including;
- Sunlight. Not direct, in-your-face sunlight, but at least one decent size window that lets sunlight in and brightens your workspace naturally. Natural light is more important to your mood and demeanor than most people realize, so make sure you get at least some. Working, for example, in your basement where there's no natural light at all is not great for your mental health.
- Plants. A few nice plants can bring some natural goodness to your home office and make working there much more enjoyable. Plus, tending to and talking to plants can be very relaxing during these stressful times.
- A door. Being able to shut the door and keep interruptions from family to a minimum is essential to your productivity. Just like that talkative cubicle-mate at work, a spouse or child who keeps interrupting you can make trying to finish (or start) a project very frustrating, to say the least.
“Being able to shut the door and keep interruptions from family to a minimum is essential to your productivity.”
Tip #2- Keep Your Posture as Close to Perfect as Possible
Poor posture is one of the biggest health risks for people who work at a desk. The fact is, the curves of your spine (there are 4 of them) are vitally important to your overall health and, if you sit in a slumped position, look down all day at your computer screen or keyboard, or sit for long hours in a poorly designed chair, you're literally killing yourself slowly. To prevent that, you should have;
- An ergonomically designed chair that forces you into a proper seated position (but is still comfortable)
- An automatic Stand-up desk that you can switch between sitting and standing. Standing for at least a couple hours a day while you work is great for your spine and, if you can stand all the time, even better!
- A computer screen that's level and centered with your eyes. Looking down at your computer screen is a major cause of neck pain, headaches and shoulder pain. Over time it can cause severe cervical spine problems also. Your eyes, when you look straight ahead, should be centered in the middle of your computer screen.
- It might take a few days of getting-used-to, but a laptop stand can be a lifesaver for both your neck and your wrists.
Note that all of these tips come from a chiropractor with over 20 years of experience and have helped thousands of patients. He is a stickler for posture because he believes that poor posture is one of the biggest preventable causes of health problems on the planet.
Tip #3- Take Sunlight Breaks
As much as it's important to have natural light in your office it's even more important to take a break two or three times a day to go out in the sun and just let it soothe your body and mind. Even if the weather isn't perfect you should still do this, and here's why;
- Health experts say you need at least 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine every day for optimal health.
- Sunshine can prevent or lower feelings of depression.
- Your body needs sunshine to make Vitamin D, which can improve brain function, lower high blood pressure and prevent dementia, prostate cancer and heart disease.
- Sunlight increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is the 'feel-good' hormone and can improve your mood.
- Sunlight boosts your immune system, a big plus during any pandemic
If all of those reasons weren't enough, the truth is that standing in the sun and letting it bask your face and body just feels good and lets you know that, although things might be messed up right now, they will eventually get better.
“Sunlight boosts your immune system, a big plus during any pandemic.”
Tip #4- Create a Routine and Stick To It
Yes, some say that having a routine can become boring and some complain that they are 'stuck in a rut'. But here's a fact; without a routine, your productivity will drop like a stone when working from home.
Most of us are very scattershot when working from home, and prone to bouts of procrastination. Plus there are a lot of distractions, whether you have a family, a roommate or live alone. TV, phones, pets, doing the wash, etc. Without a routine, those distractions can use up the better part of your day. To prevent this, here are a few routine-setting tips;
- Start your workday at the same time every day.
- Set specific hours to work based on the usual amount of time you work at your job.
- Don't take calls or answer emails that aren't work-related during your set hours.
- Set a timer when you start working and only stop when it goes off (Set it for stretching breaks too, which we'll talk about in a sec.)
Tip #5- Don't Stop Working Out
This goes back to having a routine. Most of us who value our physical health go to the gym on a regular, weekly schedule but, when you're confined to your home, that schedule disappears. Now, sure, you might not have all of the equipment at your home that the gym offers, but there are still a lot of things you can do from home that will give you a satisfying and healthy workout and keep you fit and trim.
- Yoga and Pilates. All you need is some space on the floor and a yoga or pilates channel on YouTube and you're all set. Don't know how to do either? No problem, there are beginner, intermediate and expert yoga and Pilates lessons on YouTube for free!
- Walk, run or bike around your neighborhood. If you can do this following social distancing in the area you live, all three of these activities are excellent.
- If you have a pool at home, swim. Doctors say that the coronavirus can't survive in chlorine so the pool is safe!
“There are still a lot of things you can do from home that will give you a satisfying and healthy workout.”
Tip #6- Let Everyone in Your Home or Apartment Know that Work Time is Alone Time
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is, frankly, that spouses and children don't understand (or don't respect) that when you're working they shouldn't interrupt you every 10 seconds, especially for unimportant stuff or silly questions.
You might need to do this once or, possibly, every single day, but you should let everyone know that, when you're working, you don't want to be interrupted unless it's an emergency. A real emergency too, not children arguing, the remote is missing or the cat coughed up a hairball. We mentioned in Tip #1 that a door is necessary for your home office and now you know why; it can keep interruptions from family members to a low roar.
One excellent tip is to have a sign you can hang on your door saying "Working: Please Do Not Disturb", similar to the door-hanger signs you see in a hotel.
Tip #7- Stock your Kitchen and Pantry with Healthy Snacks
Here's the thing; having a refrigerator and pantry within walking distance can lead to a lot of snacking. Sure, you can keep candy and gum at work, but you can't easily keep chocolate cake, HoHo's, Twinkies, Oreo cookies and the myriad of other snacks you can stock at home. Easy access makes overeating a real risk and, for that reason, having healthy snacks on hand is a much better idea. We've listed a few of the best below.
- Assorted mixed nuts
- Low-fat Greek yogurt
- Apples with natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
- Celery, carrot and bell pepper 'sticks'
- Kale chips
- Dark chocolate
- Hard-boiled eggs with a tiny bit of salt and pepper
- Dried, unsweetened coconut chips
- Olives of all types (except cheese-filled)
Tip #8- Take a Break Once an Hour to Stretch
Like your posture, stretching every hour is important when you're sitting (or even standing) for hours at a time. Here are a few reasons why stretching is so important;
- Stretching will prevent muscle cramps and soreness
- Stretching promotes blood flow and can prevent deadly blood clots
- Stretching gives you a minute to ease your mind
- Stretching increases productivity
- Stretching prevents back pain
One thing to keep in mind is that you should stretch slowly, so that you don't throw out your back or otherwise hurt yourself. Stretching to both sides, back and forth, up and down and in rotation all work. A basic yoga stretch like 'cobra' and 'down dog' would work great too. If you don't know any good stretches you can Google 'easy stretches' and you'll find dozens of them, or you can also use the four excellent stretches we've gathered for you below.
1- Seated Spine Rotators
- Sitting in a chair that doesn't rotate, cross both arms over your chest and grab your shoulders.
- Keep your feet in place and rotate to the left as far as you can, slowly, and then back and to the right.
- Stretch your neck by slowly looking over your shoulder as far as possible.
- Do this 5 times per side, stretching further every time
2-Arm Over the Head Stretches
- Sitting in a chair raise your right arm straight up
- Lower your arm to the left and your head and neck also, while looking straight ahead, and hold for 5 seconds
- Go back to straight up, lower your right hand to your side, raise tor left hand up and repeat
- Repeat 5 times per side, stretching further every time
3- Shoulder Raises
- Sitting in a chair raise both hands above your head and clasp your hands together
- Reach up as high as you can, stretching your arms and shoulders, and hold for 5 seconds
- Repeat 10 times, stretching further every time
4- Standing Side Stretches
- Standing up straight, raise both hands and arms over your head
- Bend to the left, staring straight ahead, slowly as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Go back to standing straight and repeat to the left side
- Repeat both sides 5 times, stretching further every time
Being forced to work from home during the pandemic isn't great, but it's certainly not the end of the world! Follow the tips we've given and you should be just fine. Heck, by the time it's OK to go back to your place of work, you might find you like working from home better!
To all who are reading this, we wish you the best during these stressful times. Stay safe, wash your hands, follow social distancing rules and know that, in time, things will get back to normal.