I want to take some time to explain how I stay fit while working from home. One of the things that I really value is being healthy and sometimes working from home is a challenge because I am less active. I spend a long time at my l shaped desk or sitting in front of my computer and need strategies to stay healthy in this environment. I want to pass on these strategies – and best practices – to you.
It’s really important for me that I build a schedule that prioritizes my health and well-being. My guess is that you feel the same. This includes improvement to my physical and mental well-being. So how do I do it?
Build in Breaks
Firstly, I built short breaks into my calendar in between meetings to take walks or to lift light weights. I recently purchased some light weight gym equipment and exercise bands and a kettlebell. These tools help me maintain physical exercise even while home. They keep me fit and strong and confirm my belief that there is a lot to be said about maintaining mobility and being flexible even when working remotely.
Physical health is not only about how strong you are or your aerobic capacity. It also includes your mental flexibility and dexterity. Recently one of the things that I found to be helpful is to take scheduled breaks in between meetings to stretch. I find that this lifts my mood and makes me feel more comfortable when engaged when having business conversations. It also releases endorphins which helps me think more clearly and feel more optimistic. Nature’s drug.
Your Mind Matters
Preserving mental health is also very important when working from home. This is because working from home can lead one to feel isolated. I remember my first work-from-home job: I would go one or two days without interacting with other people. I was a sole contributor and I was able to focus on adding value through my labor. Even though I’m not an extrovert and can derive great pleasure from limited interactions with others, I still valued human connection.
How do I stay mentally strong even when isolated? My favorite routine is to not turn my phone off of airplane mode when I first wake up in the morning. I take time to write and stretch and think about what I want to achieve in the day. I think about what I accomplished yesterday. One of the things that this practice enables me to do is to pause and think holistically about how I’m spending my time and course correct if I am astray.
Breath and Practice Active Listening
Recently I’ve been practicing two traits that seem easy but are actually quite complicated. One is deep breathing. The other is listening. When working from home it is increasingly important to be a strong and active listener. This is because you need to pick things up in meetings and you want to hear what people say but you don’t always get a chance to ask clarifying questions. As a result, you really need to make sure you understand what people are saying the first time. Active listening is similar to breathing; both take practice and time to improve. It is a skill set that people think is easy but in fact there are varying degrees of nuances of aptitude in this domain.
Do What You Need To Do
I have a friend that bought a kettlebell and uses this weight in between meetings to exercise. This is not always my approach but I respect it. Do what you need to do. It wasn’t self-evident to me how much I walked around when I was in an office. I would get up to go to the bathroom, I could go to lunch, I’d walk over to a conference room or someone’s desk to ask questions or attend a meeting. I also had to commute to work which required me to walk to a train and walk up and down stairs. In short, I was once more mobile and active.
When working from home my commute is only three feet from my bed to my desk. Naturally I’m moving a lot less. Now this might seem obvious (and is definitely a perk of working from home). But I need to counter the urge to start working immediately after waking up, and you likely do too.
If you are planning on working from home for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years you need to realize that working from home is a marathon and not a sprint. It is incredibly easy to take meetings at all hours of the day or go to bed staring at your laptop screen because your day and night blur together. Taking time to exercise your body and your mind is very important.
There are a number of exercises that can be done which require little space and no weights. I love to do sit-ups and push-ups as well as the occasional air squat. Find exercises you enjoy and do them. It is easy to get burned out if you do not take care of yourself. Take time to reflect and journal, and be true to what is most important to you.
In addition to exercise and meditation one of the most important investments I’ve made in my health which has benefited my remote work is to get a sit-stand desk and a good quality chair (side note, a kneeling chair is also a great option). Standing makes me feel lighter on my feet and more agile. It fills me with energy and helps my back stay straight. Oftentimes I find that when I sit for too long I am hunched over which hurts my shoulders, my neck, and makes me feel pain along my spine.
In conclusion, working from home is going to tax your body in new and different ways. You need to be aware of this and plan ahead if you want a better work from home experience. This includes forcing yourself to exercise, to schedule in brakes, to mediate or engage in positive thinking, and to think holistically about your body and your mind. You also likely want to force yourself to stand up and walk around and take fresh air brakes more often. Make sure to invest in your body and your mind and equipment. These investments will make you more effective at work. It will not only help you perform better and more efficiently, but it will help you sustain home office work for the long term.