Previously we talked about health concerns common to individuals who work from home. Among them were poor posture, constant sitting, mindless eating, and social deprivation. There are simple ways to combat those issues, and with a few behavioral changes you can make telecommuting a very healthy lifestyle.
Get up and move! You don’t need an expensive gym membership to be mobile. Simplywalk through the house, vacuum, stand on your head, or whatever suits you. Remembering to take these small movement breaks can be difficult at first, so set a timerto ring every 45 minutes. When the timer goes off, get up to move around for no less than 5-10 minutes. It will soon become a habit and your body will thank you.
Listen to your body. Learn proper sitting posture and get a quality ergonomic chair. Keepyour keyboard and monitor at proper levels. According to Lifehacker.com contributor Whitson Gordon, in How to Ergonomically Optimize Your Workspace, an ergonomic office doesn’t have to be expensive. The very basics are your keyboard, monitor, and chair.
Monitor: “You want the point about 2 or 3 inches down from the top of the monitorcasing to be at eye level. You also want the monitors to be about an arm’s length away from where you’re sitting,” writes Gordon.
Chair: comfortable cushion, arm rests, adjustable seat height, adjustable backrest, lumbar support, and the ability to swivel.
Keyboard: a sliding keyboard tray is less important if you have an adjustable seat. However, “You want your mouse and keyboard to be as close together as possible.”
Pack before you snack. First, establish a separate meal spot so you aren’t eating at your computer. Then, meal planning is key to making sure you prevent impulse snack choices and avoid mindless eating. Make a separate shopping list just for your lunch menu. Keep food in a lunch bin in the pantry and refrigerator so that you know not to dip into them when you’re off duty. And remember to plan food that will satisfy your hunger as well as increase your energy.
EatingWell.com offers a free, downloadable lunch cookbook to help readers make sensible lunches that won’t cost a lot, and are also simple to prepare and fun to eat. (You could even write yourself inspirational notes to slip into your lunch bag each night!)
Stick to a routine. It is critical that you make conscious decisions about when you will begin and end work each day. Doing so helps you prepare to accomplish things, and gives you boundaries. This is also helpful for others in the house to know when they should expect you to be working. Such predictability will help them respect your time.
One of the best ways I’ve found to set these limits is by planning my schedule the night before. If I know I will be doing some type of data entry work (terrible on the eyes) I plan an earlier break time to prevent me from getting a headache, straining my neck and back, or wanting to nap. When I know I’ll be researching, I can allow for a longer and later work time because I will be actively engaged in what I’m doing.
According to Pastor Jeff Randleman, “Begin by looking at all the tasks that you need toaccomplish each day. If you already have a routine that you’d like to tweak or improve,begin with these three areas: tasks that you already do, tasks that you need to add, andtasks that you need to eliminate or delegate.” (Pastor Randleman has written an excellent series called “How To Develop A Daily Routine”, which you may enjoy, available free on his website.)
Reach out and meet someone. As much as teleworkers might crave contact with other humans, a business conference call or online meeting doesn’t suffice. Interact with others on a casual basis–online and offline. Meet people for lunch, a drink, coffee, or a brainstorming session at a library. Face to face contact is crucial. Get out of the house and sit in a coffee shop for one hour (yes, set limits on your time), and find at least one person to converse with. You will be amazed at how much more refreshed and productive you feel when you return to your home office.
Rest. Once a routine is established you won’t have to force yourself out of your office at 1am. Stop work when you say you will, and then pick a bedtime that’s right for you. There will no longer be a conflict when you are tired and want to sleep because you made a clear choice to stop your work and continue tomorrow. When you return to your office the following day you will feel mentally and physically rested, making you more productive and creative.
Teleworking is a work arrangement that can live up to its promises, if you make it that way. Resolve that in 2015 you’ll make more time for yourself and improve your work-life balance. You can enjoy the benefits of lower stress levels, saving money, and work flexibility. Recognize how easy it is to hurt your health. Plan ways to nurture yourself. And follow through with new habits to launch yourself into a successful new year.
About the Guest Blogger
Pamela La Gioia is Founder/CEO of Telework Recruiting, Inc., a leading service providing professional telecommuting career opportunities for job seekers, as well as helping firms effectively manage their own telework programs. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.