How to be healthy when you work from home

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Turn your home into a working sanctuary and keep yourself well with our simple guide.

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With so many of us now working from home as a result of the new restrictions, you may be wondering how to embrace the situation – perhaps even make the most of it.

Whether you live in a tiny studio, a flat, or a house, there are small, simple changes you can make to create a comfortable workspace that benefits both your health and productivity.

How to create a healthy work station

It’s important to arrange your work area ergonomically. Maintaining good posture, sitting comfortably and minimising any extra physical stress on your body is crucial to avoid aches, pains and strains.

The following tips can help:

  • Designate an area for working. Even if you haven’t got much space, try and organise a separate work zone. This can be at your kitchen table, as long as you make it comfortable. Or, find another area where you can set up your computer and chair.
  • Don’t be tempted to work on the bed or sofa. Sitting hunched over a laptop on a soft surface won’t support your body in the right way. Ideally, work with two keyboards. Turn your laptop into a desktop and use the extra keyboard to type with.
  • Sit in a proper chair that supports your back. Your feet should be flat on the floor in front of you with your knees slightly lower than your hips. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Position the screen directly in front of you. Make sure the monitor is about an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen roughly at eye level.
  • Prevent repetitive strain. When you’re using the keyboard, make sure your wrists and forearms are straight and level with the floor. Leave a gap of about 10–15cm at the front of the table or desk, to rest your hands between typing. Keep your hands bent in an L-shape and your elbows by your sides.
  • Use a headset. If you spend a lot of time on the phone this will help prevent aches in the neck and shoulders and upper body strains.

Get outside for 20 minutes to refresh yourself

Spending time in the garden (if you have one) or going for a short walk (while you’re allowed to go out of the house to take daily exercise), can help to reduce stress, and enhance your mood, wellbeing and productivity.

…or bring nature to you

Simply being able to see nature can have a positive impact on your mood, energy and productivity. So, if you can’t get outside, put a plant somewhere you can see it from your workstation.

Research at the University of Exeter showed that having plants in the workplace increased wellbeing by up to 47 per cent, creativity by 45 per cent and productivity by 38 per cent.

Clear the clutter

It’s hard to keep a clear mind and work effectively if you’re surrounded by clutter. So, use this opportunity to declutter your home.

Give everything a thorough clean and organise and streamline your cupboards, books, clothes, and any other belongings.

Too much clutter raises stress levels and if you’re stressed, this will make you less productive in your work.

Scatter your space with things that lift your mood

Be choosy about the things you keep visible on your shelves and other surfaces.

Ideally, try and choose those that have an uplifting effect every time you see them.

Only surround yourself with pictures and objects that make you happy and lift your spirits. Get rid of anything that makes you feel sad and depressed.

Take a daily tech-break

Set aside some time each day when you completely disconnect from your mobile, laptop and social media.

Although technology might be your only means of communication now, too much can cause your mind to feel over stimulated and stressed. It can also impact your sleep and over time, your mood.

In fact, just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to be available all day. Use this unplugged time to meditate, exercise, prepare lovely meals, read or just have a relaxing bath.

Make exercise a priority

Exercising daily is one of the best things you can do to stay physically and mentally healthy.

A burst of exercise first thing in the morning will set you up for the day. It will energise you, enhance your mood, improve your ability to concentrate and think more clearly, and keep stress levels under control.

Mornings are a good time to take your daily walk, or an online class such as yoga, Pilates or cardio training.

Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary

If space allows, make your bedroom a place of retreat where you can switch off from work and the worries of the day.

Put your favourite fresh sheets on the bed. Create a small space with candles, incense, favourite photos and other objects that mean something to you, where you can meditate, reflect or take some quiet time for yourself. This will help you wind down and release the worries from the day.

When you go to bed at night, make sure your bedroom is cool and dark.

Keep electronic gadgets out, as the blue light from mobile phones and computers inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, essential to helping you get to sleep, and to staying asleep.

Although these suggestions are quite simple, together they can have a real impact on how you feel while working from home. If all this seems a lot to think about, just try these three things:

  1. Work from the same place every day and avoid the sofa or bed, working on soft surfaces can strain your neck and back.
  2. Get outside into nature for at least 20 minutes – or bring some flowers or plants in your view while you work.
  3. Fill your workspace with things that lift your mood and get rid of as much clutter as you can.

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