Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Working remotely? Take care of your physical health

Whether it’s a hybrid or a fully remote setup, working away from a permanent office seems like it’s not going away anytime soon. Whilst this gives some workers some much-needed flexibility, improving their mental health, there is a hidden cost in some cases when it comes to physical health. 

In an office, there’s often legislation in place to ensure ergonomic workstations, or even a staff member who is in charge of monitoring this aspect of the company, but at home or in a co-working space, you’re often required to take responsibility for this area yourself. So how can you make sure that you’re taking care of your body whilst working remotely? Let’s take a look.

Use a timer to remind you to take breaks

 

Ever got so engrossed in your to-do list that hours pass without you even realising? Or have back-to-back meetings that mean you can’t step away from your desk? 

All of this sitting and looking at a screen has an impact on your physical health, as well as your productivity. In fact, research has suggested that spending long periods of time sitting down can increase your risk of developing serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

To combat this, set a timer to remind you to take breaks, and follow it. Even if you just get up for a few minutes every hour, this can make a difference. If you find that your calendar is often too full to allow for this, why not try having 50 minute meetings, rather than an hour? That way, you’ll have a short break in between calls. 

Get an ergonomic setup

If you work a standard seven-hour day, five days a week, that soon adds up to a lot of time sitting at your workstation. In fact, if you assume that you’re working for around 47 weeks per year, that’s around 1,600 hours at your desk. So, it’s well worth investing in your setup, to ensure that your posture is correctly supported and to reduce the risk of any strain injurie

Having a proper external screen, a mouse, keyboard and supportive desk chair should be the basics of any remote setup. If you’re a digital nomad, or find yourself working from cafes a lot, you should at least consider a mouse and keyboard, as well as a laptop riser to bring it up to your eye level. 

If you have the funds and the space, a standing desk can also be a good choice – you can keep your work flow going but reduce the amount of time that you spend glued to your seat. 

Take sick days when appropriate

When you work from home, it might be tempting to struggle through when you’re not feeling great – after all, you don’t have to leave the house, and can even have the duvet on you if you’re off camera. 
 
However, that doesn’t mean that you should. Whilst there is still some stigma around calling in sick in many companies, especially in management positions, it’s always beneficial to take a day when you’re genuinely not feeling well. 

Struggling with mental health is equally as important as physical ailments, so be sure to also take a day to rest if you’re feeling low or overwhelmed. Doing so can help to prevent burnout, and save you and your company from a longer period of absence if your mental health deteriorates further. 

After you’ve let the relevant people know that you won’t be at work, make sure to turn off any workplace notifications, so that you don’t feel tempted to check in whilst you’re recovering. Trust your team to cover your work and focus on feeling better.

Healthy eating habits and regular exercise

Taking care of your physical health also encompasses eating well and exercising regularly. With a nutritious diet, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and feel better in yourself day to day whilst protecting yourself from disease. 

Vitamins and minerals found in fresh foods boost our immunity, whilst carbohydrates give us long lasting energy. Be sure to include protein sources such as fish, tofu, legumes or lean meat to get enough protein – and don’t completely emit fats, either. 

Though working from home is often more mentally taxing than physically demanding, keeping your fitness levels up is also important for your overall wellbeing and health. 

Experts recommend that everyone who works at a desk should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. It’s best to break this into daily segments, especially if you find yourself sitting for long periods of time. 

Taking a quick 30-minute workout to break up your working day will do wonders for your health and mindset. 

Stress management

Our mental health has a strong connection to our physical health, so it’s important to keep tabs on yours. Stress takes a heavy toll on our bodies, raising our cortisol levels and blood pressure – and living with chronic stress puts us at higher risk of stroke, heart attack and other health issues. 

When working remotely, be sure to prevent the lines between work and home from becoming blurred, so that you’re able to switch off and relax when you aren’t at your desk. Look for healthy ways to boost your mental and physical health by partaking in yoga, meditation or other calming practices. 

By implementing these tips into your daily life, you’ll be able to stay on top of your physical and mental health whilst being as productive as possible for your remote working role. 

People who read this article also read Working with migraines in the office.

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Arsen Armstrong

Arsen Armstrong

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