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5 healthy tips for working from home

The COVID-19 pandemic means that all of us are having to adopt some very significant lifestyle changes. Whether you’re social distancing, self-isolating or have been instructed to work from home by your employer, working from home presents its own set of challenges. Not only can it be difficult at first to maintain productivity (although, some people may find their productivity actually improves!), but it can also impact on your health.

Here are a few tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you’re working from home:

Set up a comfortable working space

One of the most notable changes you’ll find when working from home is that your working space is drastically different. Many of us don’t have an ideal home office setup, but there are a number of things you can do to make sure that the space that you’re working in is optimal for working long hours.

First and foremost, make sure that you’re sitting in a way that helps maintain good posture. Working from the couch, from bed or from the floor can put your body into a slouched position. While this is fine for short periods of time, slouching for hours over the course of the day can wreak havoc with your back and neck. Given that many of us are already restricted in how much we can exercise due to self-isolation, quarantine, or the closure of gyms, you certainly don’t want to restrict your movement further by giving yourself an injury.

Ideally, it’s best to sit on a chair where you can have your feet on the ground and your back supported. You may find that it’s more comfortable for your neck to elevate your laptop, using a laptop stand. These are relatively inexpensive to purchase and can help to move your computer to eye-level so you can keep your neck in a neutral position while you’re working.

Plan activity breaks

Movement is a huge part of maintaining good overall health. Unfortunately, working from home tends to minimise activity levels for most people. In fact, if you don’t put in a little effort, you may find that the only exercise you’ve done is to walk from your desk to the kitchen, bathroom, and couch!

Being sedentary presents some pretty significant problems when it comes to our health. According to Safe Work Australia, prolonged sitting is associated with a range of health problems, including:

● Obesity

● Poor mental health

● Musculoskeletal disorders

● Diabetes

● Some cancers

● Premature death

Luckily, small pockets of time spent being active can add up very quickly over the course of the day. One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting enough movement is to set a timer and take a five-minute break to get up and move. Some people find that they need a solid hour to get into the flow of their work, while others prefer a shorter time period. Why not try using the Pomodoro Method? This strategy uses blocks of 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break. After you’ve completed 4 of these cycles, you then take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. There are plenty of apps that you can use to help you time your blocks of work and breaks. Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To-Do List works on Android and iOS, as well as Mac and Windows.

Fill your breaks with either household chores like hanging out the laundry or a quick vacuum, a walk around the block, stretching, or a few bodyweight exercises like squats or push-ups.

Give your eyes a rest

As a child, did you ever hear that too much TV would give you square eyes? Well, luckily, staring at a screen for hours won’t permanently damage your eyes (or change their shape), but it can result in some uncomfortable symptoms. They tend to fall under the category of ‘eye strain’, and include blurred vision and headaches, as well as eyes that are:

● Sore

● Itchy

● Watery

● Tired

● Dry

According to the American College of Ophthalmology, research shows that humans normally blink 15 times every minute, but blink only 5 to 7 times per minute while using computers and digital screen devices. This is important because blinking keeps eyes moistened, and less blinking means that your eyes can become dry and irritated.

Dry eyes can be treated with eye drops, but they can also be prevented by taking regular breaks from looking at your screen. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the”20-20-20” method. This simply means that every 20 minutes, you shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet (about 6 metres) away, for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid comfort eating

Ever noticed that when you’re home on the weekend, the fridge can seem to call your name? It’s very common for us to snack or graze when we’re experiencing feelings of boredom, stress, or grief — emotions which are quite justified given the current pandemic. Comfort eating is fine in moderation, but when done in excess it can become problematic, perhaps causing us to overeat or consume too many processed, snack-like foods.

There are a few ways you can help to curb the temptation of comfort eating. Firstly, try to limit the amount of highly processed, lower-nutrient foods in your home, such as chips, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, or lollies. Secondly, try and make sure that you’re regularly eating healthy meals. Some people in self-isolation may find that they have a bit of extra time on their hands, which could be used towards learning some new recipes and prepare a few healthy meals for the household.

Schedule in some rest

It’s perfectly natural to feel stressed during this period of uncertainty. In small doses, stress isn’t too problematic. But prolonged periods of stress, called chronic stress, can result in symptoms like poor digestion and sleep which impact our bodies ability to effectively fight off disease or infection.

Now is an excellent time to implement some stress management strategies to help you cope. One method which is backed by research is meditation and mindfulness practices. These practices can help us to stop worrying about the future, and bring us back into the present moment. There are a number of excellent apps for mindfulness and meditation which provide an easy, approachable way of learning and practising these strategies.

If that’s not for you, it’s perfectly fine to just schedule in some time to rest and indulge in an activity that you enjoy. Reading books, watching movies, baking, gardening, journaling, or having a soak in the bath are all excellent ways of unwinding and taking your mind off of your worries.

You may also be interested in the following:

5 healthy recipes for the whole family


Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.