Are you struggling with maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working from home? You’re not alone.
The year 2020 was a crazy year, a roller coaster ride for all of us. We were just so busy living our lives and the next thing we know, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and life as we know it has changed. Students take online classes, socialize through zoom, and working adults are asked to work from home. Most of us have been stuck in our houses ever since. No thanks to Covid-19!
Your workplace might just be a few steps away from your bed, some of you might even work from your own beds. Your fridge is so close, and your couch is so inviting and comfy. With the line between work and life so blurry, it’s very easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle.
According to a study published in 2020, 30% of the world’s population aged 15 years and above are engaged in sedentary behaviors since the lockdown. This should not be taken lightly because a sedentary lifestyle could bring about serious health problems, be it mentally or physically..
I have been working from home too since the pandemic and I, too, struggled to find balance. It took me a while but I was finally able to establish work-from-home habits that will help keep my health from spiraling down. Here are 7 tips that I know will help you do the same:
1. Create a separate workstation
Trust me, this is really important for creating balance and keeping you sane. Your brain should associate your bed and your bedroom with sleep and relaxation, not work and wakefulness.
Having a separate workstation gives you a reason to get out of bed, waking up your body, and giving it more energy to move. I suggest that it’s in a separate room or, if that’s not possible, in a different corner of your room.
Set up a chair and table for your laptop and other office supplies and decorate it to make it more pleasant. Maybe a plant, a wall sign with a motivational quote, a painting, or a corkboard will do. Lastly, make sure you have proper lighting.
If this still isn’t possible, try working in a quiet cafe or a co-working space when it is safe to do so. Alternatively, re-create a cafe like environment in your dining room or with the breakfast counter. Using the right lighting, seats and table, you can have that same cafe vibe right at home. Just have a quick way to clear up and put away work staff when its meal time.
Whatever you do, just please don’t work on your bed nor on your couch. You will just feel sleepy and you will have trouble getting quality sleep at night.
2. Have a daily routine
This is the usual work routine pre-pandemic: You wake up, take a shower, get dressed, fix your hair and face, have breakfast, then go to work. Today, you don’t even have to shower nor put on pants. You could even wake up 10 minutes before you start working.
I know it is tempting but seriously, having a daily routine will help you in creating a healthy lifestyle. Schedule your day so you have time for exercise, for leisure, for a proper meal, and an evening routine.
You have to make your own schedule and have the discipline to follow through with it. Otherwise, you’ll just go about your days like a zombie, slumped on your bed or couch, smelling awful, and only getting up to get food from the fridge.
3. Get a decent chair
Spinal pain is one of the most expensive disorders among the working population worldwide and studies show that sitting for long periods in an awkward posture puts your spine at risk.
Our lower backs must be slightly arched as slouching places extra stress on your spine and lumbar discs. If you want to save yourself from recurring back pains, you have to invest in a chair that will help put your back in correct alignment.
Ergonomic chairs are perfect for this. If you think it’s too expensive, just think about how much you’ll save from all those physical therapy sessions. Studies show that Americans spend more money on back and neck pain than on any other health issues, accounting for a whopping $134 billion of their healthcare expenses.
That being said, I think an ergonomic chair is worth the investment. Don’t settle with just your couch or dining chair. You deserve a healthy back. Another option is to buy yourself a lumbar pillow.
4. Take a break from sitting
From an evolutionary perspective, we, humans, aren’t really meant to sit for long periods of time and that’s why it’s so bad for us. Sitting too much has been associated with obesity and more than 30 chronic diseases. So if your work involves sitting in front of a computer all day, here’s how you can combat its negative effects.
Take walk breaks every 30 minutes or every hour. Just stretch and walk around, make some coffee or grab a snack. This keeps your body moving and gives your spine a much-deserved break.
Aside from increasing non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is a very underrated fat loss tool, it also gives your mind a break which helps your mind function better. So, if you have a fitness watch or smart watch, heed the alert to stand up and take a walk.
5. Make healthy eating easy for you.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (on Amazon), if you want to be able to make a habit stick, you have to make it easy for you. Stocking up on junk foods is not making it easy, but stocking up on healthy foods? Yes, please.
Meal prepping is a good way to do this. If you don’t have time to cook in the morning and you’re used to eating out at work during your break, then why not cook a big batch during the weekend? That way, you could just grab it from your fridge anytime and heat it in less than 5mins.
Before you roll your eyes at me, I didn’t mean you should only have ‘clean foods’ at home. I don’t want to drive you insane. Have foods you enjoy but make sure that your body is getting enough nutrients. Check out this article (at our sister site) for a guide on how you can be healthy while still eating your favourite foods.
6. Do yoga
It has been said that sitting is the new smoking. That’s how bad sitting too much is bad for you. But because of the lockdown, people are sitting more than ever.
We lay on our couch watching Netflix or scrolling on our smartphones and we stay in our beds longer than usual. A study in Bangladesh even discovered that the lockdown has negatively impacted the musculoskeletal health of individuals. 
Yoga will help undo this damage. It strengthens your muscles, helps prevent heart disease, improves blood flow, boosts immunity, supports healthy joints, and improves your posture. It also has benefits for your mental health. It reduces cortisol levels and increases serotonin so you are less stressed and happier.
If you’ve never tried yoga and are intimidated by it, there are beginner-friendly yoga tutorials you can find on Youtube. You don’t have to be flexible, just use the poses to stretch and in time, your body will start to ease into the poses. Here are some basic yoga exercises to start you off (at our sister site, colour my health).
7. Have a sleep ritual
Sunlight and our social schedules dictate our biological rhythms. Since we’re almost always inside our homes, we’re not getting much sunlight and every day feels just like the weekend. These, in turn, mess up with our sleep. We may be sleeping more, but our sleep qualities are worse.
Just because a lot of people are experiencing it, doesn’t mean we should take this lightly because declining sleep quality has serious negative effects on our health. It could result in poor cognitive function, heart disorders, obesity, irritable mood, fatigue, and more.
For better sleep quality, having a bedtime ritual is crucial. First and foremost, put your phone and laptop away at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder for us to fall asleep.
I know it could be tempting to have your phone while lying on your bed but when it’s 3AM and you’re still scrolling on your phone, you’ll remember why this tip is important. Some things you can do for your ritual are read a book, have a warm bath, do bedtime yoga, or listen to calming music. Read this article on how to get a better sleep over at our sister site, colour my health for more.
Working from home has a lot of benefits especially if you’re an introvert. You don’t have to deal with colleagues, your boss isn’t checking up on you every ten minutes, you save gas and time, you can eat while working, and you can ditch wearing pants.
However, it also has negative effects. Our sleep qualities are worse, we’re sitting more, it’s easy to overeat, and we’re not getting enough physical activity. In short, we’re becoming working-class couch potatoes, and studies show that this is just as dangerous to your health as smoking.
You might not notice its effects now but these effects compound over time and the next thing you know, you’re hard-earned money is all going to healthcare. It requires great effort on our part to set our own boundaries, to adopt healthy habits, and stay consistent with them.
How many of the tips mentioned above are you already doing? It’s okay if you said zero, no one’s judging you. What’s important is that you take the first step. It doesn’t have to be drastic. Just one healthy habit at a time and you will thank yourself later.
- Park, J. H., Moon, J. H., Kim, H. J., Kong, M. H., & Oh, Y. H. (2020). Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean Journal of family medicine, 41(6), 365–373. https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.20.0165
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- Büssing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 165410. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/165410
- Ahmed, S., Akter, R., Islam, M. J., Muthalib, A. A., & Sadia, A. A. (2021). Impact of lockdown on musculoskeletal health due to COVID-19 outbreak in Bangladesh: A cross-sectional survey study. Heliyon, 7(6), e07335. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e07335
- Barrea, L., Pugliese, G., Framondi, L., Di Matteo, R., Laudisio, D., Savastano, S., Colao, A., & Muscogiuri, G. (2020). Does Sars-Cov-2 threaten our dreams? Effect of quarantine on sleep quality and body mass index. Journal of translational medicine, 18(1), 318. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02465-y
Article By Breech Mae Valencia