Your most important tool is yourself, so take care of it.
Do you work from home? If you joined thousands of others that moved their work lives into their apartments and houses, then you know the challenges of staying productive and motivated enough to get the job done.
You might use more willpower to work from home than those that go to an office or workplace. There’s no boss enforcing your day-to-day routine. It can leave you mentally worn out.
It’s easy to flop on the couch and turn on the game system or zone out in front of the blinky box after you get your tasks done. There isn’t extra gas in the tank to make sure you take care of the body and mind too.
“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” — Vincent Van Gogh
One month of working from home won’t set your physique and mind back too far. Three months might start to make your clothes fit differently.
After a full year of slacking off on the fitness, you’ll lose muscle mass from all of that sitting in front of screens with no motion.
Your brain can go to mush if you never see other people in the real world or give it some mental exercise dealing with outside reality. We aren’t meant to sit still in a tiny space working on words or spreadsheets or files for entire days. It stifles our souls.
You could end up feeling like a 90-year-old, all creaky and sore. Don’t let it creep in while you weren’t looking.
Inertia and Overwork Combined
Your job can be harder to do from home than it was in the office. Keeping on task is a task in itself.
Another challenge is the fight to seem productive and “prove” to your supervisors or clients that you really are putting out. Since they can’t physically see you, there might be more pressure to give evidence of your hard work. It might mean longer hours and more responsibilities than ever before.
One remote worker, Andrew, told me that he’s expected to do more than ever before since relocating his work station to his apartment.
“I get up and go straight to work at 8:00 AM. I’m usually still working at 6:00 PM. There’s no quitting time anymore, and I’m on salary so there’s no way around completing the work.”
Andrew told me it’s tempting to order food in because he works so late and fails to plan supper sometimes.
His exercise level dropped dramatically. He used to get about 4000 steps in a day just walking to the train station and moving around at the office. Now, he’s lucky if he breaks 2000 steps in a day.
Another hurdle is the fact that gyms and activities are all closed at this time. And it’s winter. Like most of us, Andrew is feeling trapped indoors.
“Ya gots to work with what you gots to work with.”
— Stevie Wonder
His home work station is cramped and not ergonomic. There isn’t very far to go in an apartment with three rooms, especially when his girlfriend has her workspace set up in the bedroom. She has similar challenges since getting herself permission to work from home.
What’s the bottom line? Andrew runs the risk of gaining weight and getting flabby. He needs to spend time on self-care.
It’s up to him to make it a priority. Otherwise, he’ll get old early.
Are You Getting Flabby?
You need to assess your situation. It’s a matter of taking some small steps now while it takes less effort. Past a certain point, you will need a massive intervention after you slide down the slippery slope of inactivity for a few years.
Imagine what the consequences of doing nothing might be. 30 lb weight gain? 4 pant sizes?
It gets worse. A bad back with crippling pain and hips seized solid. Diabetes from never using all the sugars coursing through your veins.
Cardiac troubles. Other scary words starting with C, like cataclysmic gas attacks from a poorly functioning digestive system.
Take a hard look at your daily activities now. Don’t wait until you blob out. It’s so much easier to fix this problem before it changes from a tiny molehill into a soul-sucking mountain.
What Are You Putting In Your Face?
When I had a job to go to, I used to pack a lunch. I tried to pick healthy options. Even though sometimes we ordered food or went for lunch, most days I ate what I brought.
Andrew did the same. He brought pasta and salad, or chili, or sandwiches and fruit. His food intake was limited by what he packed in his backpack.
Now that both of us are at home, we’re like free-range cows. We can just graze all day. Go to the kitchen or pantry and grab some crackers. Bring a bag of Cheetos right to the work station and jam those tasty bits in without even leaving the desk.
Is your work station surrounded by drink cans and chip bags? That’s a troubling sign.
What to do:
Take the time to make a food list of good options and stock your fridge with healthy snacks. Buy less junk.
Set an eating schedule. If you worked in a place of business before, then just borrow their setup.
For example, take regular breaks away from the laptop at 10:00, 1:00, and 3:00. Decide beforehand what’s on the menu for breaks and lunch.
While in planning mode, figure out supper too. This will avoid you ordering in every single night because you forgot to think ahead.
Having recurring meal nights like Taco Tuesday makes scheduling a bit easier and gives you something to look forward to.
Consider big batch cooking and save portions in the freezer. This could help with simple lunch options. Just pull a container out and let it defrost while you work, so it’s ready for mealtime at noon or supper.
Are You Moving Around Enough?
Your home setup might be a lot like Andrew’s. Get out of bed and go to another room 20 steps away. Sit down in front of that screen with your coffee or drink and get to the emails.
Having your work at home gives you the opportunity to start first thing. You don’t have to get even minimal amounts of exercise that going to the office required, like walking out the front door.
There’s no need to put on pants or pack your lunch anymore. But dressing for work and getting out the door used to the blood flowing. It burned calories and made your heart rate rise above resting.
Same thing if you used to work in a cubicle. You would have had trips to the washroom, printer, boardroom, and lunchroom. The steps added up.
Commutes required tasks like standing and walking. Believe it or not, your body needed these movements to stay strong.
What to do:
Consider putting a home workout into your daily schedule. You could start the day with half an hour of yoga or a quick jog, for example.
If you have any exercise equipment, why not do a workout at lunchtime? It would be a good way to break the day in half and make sure you get that blood flowing while burning a few calories.
And don’t stay inside all day! How about a short jaunt around the block on your afternoon break?
Plan a walk. After work is done, head outside and see the sky. If you can, spend a little time in nature and decompress.
This walk will signal to your brain that it’s time to let go of your daily grind as well as give you much-needed exercise. You will be able to actually relax when you get back home, instead of having the day still hovering on the edge of your mind because you never really left it.
Does Working At Home Give You Secret Stress?
Some of us are piling the stress on because we feel trapped by circumstances. The four walls are closing in, and we have no choice but to tough it out. It’s just another kind of daily grind.
If this is you, you might be storing that stress in your body and brain and never relaxing completely. It’s almost like the subliminal stress of seeing clowns in random places, like Walmart.
Even though you might play a game or watch some mindless blinky box, you still have the stress. It just floats through your bloodstream as cortisol and builds up as tension in the muscle tissues.
“I don’t worry about stress. I create it.” — Jim Mattis
Andrew’s work is in programming. He likes to take his breaks by doing some surfing online or gaming. It all happens at his desk, on the same screen. He doesn’t leave the work zone. This is a recipe for secret buildups of stress.
Long term results are cardiac problems and high blood pressure, as well as pesky issues like depression or burnout.
What to do:
Having regularly scheduled breaks from your work is important. You need to walk away and do something else. The industry standard is two coffee breaks and a lunch break. If it works everywhere else, why not do this at home too?
You will be more productive, happier, and less stressed. Get away from that screen!
Meditation is a great tool to distress. You could use an app like Headspace. Or follow a guided meditation on YouTube. These are a place to start that’s easy to follow along with.
A Sample Routine to Keep You Out of Trouble
This is just an idea. You might not be an early riser, or maybe it totally doesn’t fit your personality. Feel free to do whatever you like. Just try to get some breaks in there, alright?
- 6:00 AM Yoga, half-hour
- 6:30 AM Meditation 20 Minutes
- 7:00 AM work
- 9:30 Coffee Break — Kettlebell or dumbbell workout 20 minutes
- 12:00 Lunch.
- 2:00 Afternoon break
- 3:30 I’m done work, baby! Time for a walk.
Working from home is a great opportunity for most of us. We’re living the dream and setting our own schedules.
But with great power comes great responsibility. It’s up to you to make sure you take care of number one. Don’t grind your body into dust by overworking in front of a screen, and under-working it in every other way.
Stop yourself from aging prematurely while working at home. Put just a little effort in these three areas:
- Make sure you eat healthy most of the time. Don’t stress about all your food, but make an effort to avoid the junk
- Move around more! Yoga, home workouts or walking will keep you from flabbing out.
- Lower your stress levels. Don’t let it build up until it erupts in a volcano of mental, emotional or physical problems.
- Watch out for clowns. They’re everywhere, man. Seriously.
This will be the first time humanity existed in these circumstances. We have more work freedom than ever before. Let’s meet the challenges of the times together and come out on top.