How to Stay Healthy While Working From Home
Working from home offers many benefits. The lack of commute to and from the office can mean more quality time with family, mid-day workouts, or a load of laundry over lunch. And with fewer distractions, the environment of a home office is a productivity boost for certain work styles.
At the same time, some individuals may find it more difficult to concentrate outside of a physical office, and remote work can also impact your mental health. In a recent public opinion poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), nearly two-thirds of the respondents reported feeling isolated or lonely at least sometimes as a result of working from home, while 17% said that they experience isolation and loneliness all the time. And a majority of the respondents who partially work from home said that they find it difficult to step away from work at the end of the day.
With remote work on the rise — the number of U.S. adults who work from home increased from 22% to 42% between 2019 and 2020 — it is important to prioritize your mental and physical well-being and create boundaries between work and social life. Here are steps you can take to stay sane and healthy while working from home.
Stick to a schedule
A physical office space naturally incorporates structure into your day. Simply sitting down at your desk and seeing colleagues allows you to mentally shift into work mode. This is important for not only productivity, but also for work-life balance — just as you are able to jump right into your to-do list once you enter the office, the clear boundary between work and home means you’re less likely to revisit that list once the day is over. Plus, watching a coworker take a break may be a much needed reminder that it’s time to grab lunch or get some fresh air.
There are several ways to give yourself structure while working from home. First, mimic the experience of going to work. It may be tempting to stay in pajamas and check emails from bed, but many remote employees find it easier to concentrate — and to leave work behind at the end of the day — by creating a morning routine and using a designated workspace that’s not in your bedroom.
In addition, having a clear plan for the day can boost both productivity and mental health, as you will have carved out time for high-priority tasks and breaks. For some individuals, planning the day the night before makes it easier to jump into work the next morning, so consider incorporating this into your end of day routine if you find it helpful. There are a variety of ways to lay out what needs accomplishing, from organizing your day entirely on a calendar to using a task management tool. Increasing focus and productivity while working from home is all about finding the system that’s right for you.
It’s just as important to consider your personal preferences and work habits when planning breaks. The frequency of your breaks should correlate to how long you can maintain a state of deep focus. Taking breaks every 75 to 90 minutes may be realistic for some individuals, but others may find shorter bursts of work more helpful. The pomodoro method has become a common approach to time management. You will focus on a single task for 25 minutes then take a five minute break, repeating the pattern three more times before taking a 15 minute break.
Whichever system you choose for breaks, remember to use some of that time for physical activity. Exercise affects both your physical and mental health and may help reduce some of the stress and isolation that often comes with remote work.
Use a dedicated space for work
Having a designated workspace can help you create boundaries between work and social life. Working from home can contribute to burnout, and using your bedroom as the office can often lead to a workday that stretches well past eight hours. If you can, make a workspace in another room. If you don’t have space to use as a designated home office, try the kitchen table or living room.
In addition to supporting your mental health, working in a space that’s set aside for work can help minimize distractions and maximize productivity, particularly if you live with family members or roommates. Young children or anyone who’s never worked from home themselves may not know to avoid interrupting you during your workday. You can set boundaries by informing everyone at home of your working hours and communicating your expectations.
The design of your workspace can also impact your emotional well-being and physiological health. Exposure to sunlight is linked to higher levels of serotonin, a hormone believed to regulate your mood and lower anxiety. If possible, use a workspace that gets a lot of natural light, and use part of your break time to soak up some sun. Add some greenery to your home office too — research has found that having plants nearby as you work can increase productivity.
Maintaining good posture while you work can prevent tightness in your neck or back pain. If working while seated, keep your feet flat on the ground beneath your knees. Avoid working from a chair that’s too tall and prevents your feet from reaching the ground. If you can, use an ergonomic office chair or a standing desk, which offers many health benefits. If using an office chair, remember that each person’s physiological needs are different, so take time searching for the right fit.
The repetitive motion of typing in a seated position has been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome — numbness and tingling in your hand, wrist, and/or arm caused by pressure on your median nerve. A hunched posture can put strain on your wrists and hands, so using an ergonomic chair or standing desk is already a step toward preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Be mindful of your arm and wrist position as well. Work with your elbows bent by your side and keep your forearms stretched out in front of you parallel to the floor. Using an external computer monitor or keyboard can make it easier to maintain this position.
Avoid working in total isolation
Working in silence by yourself can lead to greater concentration and productivity in some cases, but too much isolation and loneliness affects your mental health. An office environment allows for natural socialization and conversation throughout the day, and recreating this experience at home requires a bit more intention.
If you work on a team, use workplace messaging tools to maintain connections with coworkers. Take the initiative in setting up virtual or in-person events like happy hours. And if you’re located in the same area as your colleagues, schedule a coworking session in a local coffee shop. Remote work is also a great opportunity to expand your professional network by joining a coworking space.
It’s important to maintain other social connections, too. Schedule after-work plans with friends and family, and don’t forget to pause notifications and sign off for the day.
Let Alto support your health and wellness
Practicing good self-care while working from home involves prioritizing your physical health. Alto is here to support you with exceptional pharmacy care at every step of the way. We make it simple to stay on top of your medications with free, same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills in our mobile app.
Reach out any time through in-app secure messaging or by phone at 1-800-874-5881.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.