There are those who thrive from working at home and there are those who need to be out of their own space in a different work environment, whether a coffee shop, office, work-share space, or library. As my entire team is now remote, one of the key things I look for when hiring is whether they have prior experience working from home. It is not for everyone. Personally, I love it! But it also takes discipline to work from home healthfully and effectively. Without proper discipline and practices in place, it can easily take its toll on one's mental and physical health.
Though I do leave the home for work, it doesn't feel like it to me. I leave only because my son is in and out of the house with his caregiver, which makes it tricky right now, but my office was once my home and basically is a second home to me. My work environment isn't like a traditional office as it's essentially a large kitchen. It's the same space I was in 12 years ago when I was first starting my business and lived, worked, and taught my cooking classes in this single 600-square-foot space. I established essential habits then that still hold true today and that have become part of the onboarding training for my remote team.
If you are struggling with working from home, or would like to work remotely, these are a few things to keep in mind to enhance your work-at-home success.
I recommend doing this before you even start your work for the day. This ensures that you will not spend the day working in your pajamas and that fresh air; and a little bit of an elevation to your heart rate from a morning walk will improve your productivity.
Sun exposure is very important for our physical health and mental wellbeing. I like to get out in natural sunlight as early in the day as possible because sunlight hitting the eye helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, which can lead to better sleep. If you can't get outside first thing in the morning (or are commuting while it's still dark), try to get outside for a bit as soon as you're able to, or try a few minutes of light therapy first thing in the morning.
Get Dressed For Work
Okay, so not my strength, but I do try! There is something to be said for getting dressed, or at least getting out of sweats or yoga pants when it's time to 'show up' for work, even if you're not actually leaving your home. It can help us feel good and confident about ourselves and also allows us to accept a video-based call from a team-member or client at any time. I sometimes ask myself, if someone showed up at my door right now, would I be ready to receive them in a professional way? If the answer is no, it means it's time to wake up, shower, get dressed and get to work.
Have Breakfast Before The Workday Starts, And Plan To Break For Lunch
See, what we're doing here is creating a schedule and routine for ourselves that helps us to maintain physical and mental health. Just because you're working from home, doesn't mean you roll out of bed three minutes before you're due to check-in, nor is it an excuse to make a bowl of oatmeal at 9:00am and proceed to spend two hours eating it.
Make your breakfast, eat your breakfast, do the dishes, and then go to work. Bring a cup of tea or an elixir with you, but not the whole breakfast.
When lunchtime rolls around, peel yourself away from what you're doing and enjoy your lunch at a table that is basically anything other than your desk.
Meal plan and meal prep
When you work from home and the kitchen is nearby, you might think you have tons of time to make yourself a proper lunch or afternoon snack. In my experience, when you are focused on work tasks, the last thing you want to do is break your flow to make a batch of soup. You don't want to end up ordering takeout, scrounging in the cupboards, or having spoonfuls of sunflower seed butter for your lunch.
Ensure you stay fueled with health-supportive food by creating a meal plan for the week and then meal prepping so meals and snacks are either ready to go, need minimal assembly, or only require quick cooking.
You can get the goods on meal prepping, batch cooking and cooking from scratch in my brand-new course, Everyday Culinary Nutrition. You can get all the course details and sign up here.
Set a specific schedule and LIFE AND work boundaries
Working from home doesn't mean you are permanently on call to wash the dishes, head to the post office, or throw in a load of laundry. It also doesn't mean that during work hours, you are invited to kick back and catch an episode on Netflix. Most offices that permit or encourage work-from-home setups also build in accountability and have an expectation that team members be available just as they would be if they were down the hall. In the same regard, you should expect your workplace to honour your off-hours as well.
Set a regular work schedule and try to stick to it as much as you can. You'll need to find what works for you, the company you're supporting, or your own business – your work hours may not be from 9 to 5. The key is to ensure that everyone in your household knows what those hours are so they can support you (and your employer of course if you don't have your own business).
Creating that boundary between work and home/family stuff is very important to my work/life balance and is a vital work-from-home health strategy.
In the work that I do, the boundaries do blur. Am I making dinner or is this prime fodder for an Instagram Story? One of the habits I have gotten into is silencing alerts on my phone from 5pm – 8am. I can check in if we are working on something urgent but any non-urgent issues won't interrupt my 'off time' with my family.
Have a defined, health-supportive workspace
Set up a space at home where you can work comfortably and efficiently and will support your health rather than detract from it. Some of the elements that contribute to a healthy workspace are:
- A proper desk and chair (I have a standing desk that I love)
- Ensuring you practice good posture
- Good lighting; avoid fluorescent lighting and try to have access to natural light
- Adjusting your monitor so it's about 2 feet away from your head
- An essential oil diffuser with good quality essential oils (I love Living Libations)
Not everyone has the space for a complete home office, but be sure to carve out a special place in your home just for work. (Side note: if you work outside the home, learn about how you can mitigate the office health hazards here.)
Drink water and stay hydrated
While you're working away, don't forget to drink water, which keeps us hydrated, supports the liver, joints and kidneys, and helps with digestion and elimination – it's especially great for preventing constipation!
If you have trouble remembering to drink water:
- set a timer on your phone or computer
- fill up a few bottles in the morning and keep drinking till they're done
- mix it up with herbal teas, green juices, elixirs, coconut water, nut or seed milk, or kombucha
Take exercise or stretch breaks
Whether you work from home or not, it's beneficial to disrupt your sitting and get a little bit of exercise. That might be going up and down the stairs a few times, doing some lunges, doing some light stretching, or a super quick 5-minute yoga break, or a walk around the block. The main thing is to get up and get your body moving!
As some of you know, I have become a huge fan of the online fitness site Obé Fitness. The workouts are on-demand, short, full of variety and are utterly FUN. Obé workouts are a regular habit for me, typically in the morning before I begin my workday, and they have kept me feeling strong mentally and physically. In addition to taking short breaks, I also recommend prioritizing some longer bouts of exercise as part of your work-from-home health strategies. That might be going for a longer walk or hike, attending an exercise class, swimming, or whatever kind of exercise you like.
Offer alert: If you're working from home or work out of the house and can't fit fitness in, I get it! That's how and why Obé works for me. Use code MEGHAN30 to enjoy a 7-day complimentary trial of Obé Fitness and save 30% on your first month if you get hooked.
If you are able to work from home (or even really close to your home!), you are fortunate. Some people are miserable in their jobs. Others have to commute for at least an hour each way in traffic or on transit to make a living. Some people are out of work (or physically unable to work). Try to incorporate a gratitude practice into your day. Either start off the day with gratitude or write down one thing you're grateful for at the end of the day. Or both! More about how to follow a gratitude practice here.
Integrating these work-from-home health strategies into your routine will help you experience a healthier and happier work life. Once you get in the habit of doing them, you won't want to stop.