For many of us, going into the office doesn’t even require heading out the door. More than 30 million Americans work from home, and Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast predicts that number will rise to 63 million by next year — meaning that 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will work remotely.
But working from home can present a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to your health. The abundance of alluring snacks in the kitchen, the lack of social stimulation and the temptation to work in an ergonomically unsound position, like in bed, can all sabotage an otherwise virtuous worker’s best health intentions.
Here are my top 12 tips for staying fit, healthy and on task while working from home:
Set up a separate office space.
Use a space in your home that’s designated solely for work. Your bed activities should be limited to sleep and sex only. Bringing in work materials can interfere with your ability to relax later on. And working from your couch can create mental associations that keep your mind occupied with professional obligations, even during off-hours. Even if you live in a tiny studio, set up a desk and chair and separate the professional from the personal.
Choose a good chair.
Invest in a comfortable, ergonomically sound chair that will keep you properly aligned throughout the day.
Or ditch the chair altogether.
Use a standing desk to give your back a break and reduce your overall long-term mortality risk.
Get up every hour and get out at least once a day.
It can be easy to get stuck in your seat, especially since you feel comfortable in your space. Set a timer or use an app to remind you to get up and stretch once every hour, and make sure to get outside, even just to walk around the block and get some sunshine and fresh air.
Set a schedule and stick to it.
It can be tempting to wake up late and work at odd hours, but you will benefit your mental health and the quality of your work by setting a schedule as if you were going into the office. Then: Stick to those hours.
When you create your schedule, use the flexibility to your advantage. Schedule your workouts as you do meetings — but pencil them in before you begin working, during lunch or after hours.
Schedule active meetings.
Arrange to meet colleagues at the gym to discuss work, so you can get your work and workout done at the same time.
Create a soothing environment.
Staying home means you have free rein over your surroundings, so make your work area soothing and keep your stress level under control. If you love scented candles, place them around your desk. If a beautiful view helps you stay calm, set up your desk in front of a window or within eyesight of artwork you enjoy.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance by logging your time and setting limits.
Track your hours and keep yourself accountable. Don’t let work bleed over into your personal time, or vice versa. Avoid working on weekends if you can, and keep an eye on how much time you’re spending on work every day.
Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and meals.
It can be easy to wander into the kitchen when you know it’s packed with treats, so keep temptation at bay by buying fresh fruits and vegetables, and keeping the candy and junk food out of sight.
Get showered and dressed as if you’re going to the office.
Some experts believe that you adopt the characteristics associated with what you’re wearing. In fact, one 2012 study found that people who thought they were wearing a doctor’s lab coat displayed heightened attention, while those who were told it was a “painter’s” coat weren’t as attentive. The authors said they believed that “the influence of clothes thus depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.” So, instead of staying in your pajamas all day, put on an outfit you’d likely wear to the office. Feeling competent isn’t just about productivity: Research has shown that self-efficacy has a positive impact on health behaviors, including weight control and exercise.
Get involved in a virtual telecommuter community.
It’s important to have some social connection, even in the absence of coworkers. Maintaining healthy social connections improves your overall well-being and helps you stay motivated.