Remote workers, this is for you!
Are you part of the new remote workers army? 2020 has seen an exponential growth in remote working, a trend that looks it is here to stay and to which many have still to adjust.
With another lockdown looming here in the UK and the cold and wet weather, many people will be soon confined between 4 walls for most of the time.
This is very concerning, also considering that a new study published in the journal Obesity has found that the lockdowns have led to:
- Greater anxiety
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased consumption of junk food
- Reduced physical activity
Clearly these factors will reduce mental wellbeing and surely increase the risk of being an easy target for infections and disease!
The truth is, remote workers do require a good amount of discipline. Without the 9 to 5 routine, an organized office space and the social interactions with colleagues, many people are struggling to stay productive and motivated, feeling isolated and easily distracted. This easily also leads to making the wrong choices about physical activity and diet.
Let’s have a look at how to keep productive and sane while working from home.
Remote Working Space
Try to physically separate your working space from your living space – Not many remote workers are so lucky to have a spare room for office use. I am seeing many people sacrificing their kitchen table to computer and papers – forgetting to eat! -, slouching on uncomfortable sofas with laptops on low coffee tables, or worse, pulling the laptop on the bed in the morning and spending all day there… for months!
It is really important to create a space that is your “workspace”, even a corner of a room will do. In this way you will be able to “arrive” in the morning and “leave” at the end of your working day, without blurring the line between work and home life.
Declutter – Studies have found that clutter can be distracting, over-stimulating and raise stress levels, something none of us needs especially now. So put your favourite music on and do a proper Winter clear out!
Sit near a window – If you can, sit near a window and open all the curtains to let maximum light in. Make sure the windows are cleaned inside and out, you will be surprised to see how much more light you get.
Having a view of nature can work wonders on our stress levels and focus, giving our brain a break without over-stimulating it; if your view is not that green, you can bring Nature in your workspace, by using plants and other Nature’s gifts, like stones and flowers.
Ensure that you have the best ergonomic set up possible, most importantly comfortable. No one wants a back ache!
Make sure the screen of your computer/laptop is positioned approximately at your eyes level (place a box or few books underneath if too low), so that your neck and back are not hunched over.
Support your back when sitting on a chair by rolling a small towel and placing it in the small curve of your lower back. Place a cushion or a low box on the floor to support your feet if needed
Use a standing desk – or transform a shelf into one. Stand when making phone calls or listening to online meetings. Make sure you still take breaks to move around, stretch and get blood flow going at regular intervals.
Use a “balance ball” to sit, it will allow your body to stretch through micro-movements while you work.
Adjust the temperature and artificial lighting – It’s tempting to keep the heating on all day, but working in a warm room is not the best environment for concentration, it will make you feel rather lethargic. Our brains need oxygen to focus, so make sure to have a good air flow by opening the window often, to breathe in fresh air. Keep also in mind indoor pollution!
Same for lighting. It is not natural to be exposed to that cold artificial light all day long. Yes, there is no sunshine in the sky to see in this part of the world, but make sure to get the most out of what there is! Switch on artificial lights only when absolutely needed.
Look after your eyes… – Our eyes are not designed to be glued on screens for hours and hours: computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones are no good for our sight.
To avoid eye strain and fatigue, make sure to look away from your screen often and look at something in the distance for a minute or so, ideally outside a window. Looking outside or going for a short walk to the nearest park will work wonders on your eyes, the green colour of Nature will allow our tired eyes to rest and relax.
… and your ears – If possible, use loud speakers for your calls or zoom meetings. If you have to use headphones, invest in a good quality type with background noise canceling features, and make sure to keep the volume on a safe level.
Use EMF protection for electro-pollution from computers, tablets, laptops, phones and wireless routers.
Give Structure to your Day
It is tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning, there is no train to catch after all. Try to avoid this and get up at the same time as you would normally. Researchers at Canada’s Western University found that oversleeping can dampen your cognitive function just like sleep deprivation can.
Don’t skip the shower and get dressed! – It might sound comfy to wear a pijama while working, but what you wear can have an impact on how motivated you feel. Dress as you would when in the office, it will help to put your brain in work mode. Don’t forget to change clothes immediately after your working hours end!
Stick to your regular office hours and make sure to “leave” the office at the end of your working day – Anyone still answering work related emails at 9pm? No good. Instead, at the end of your working time, log out and close all your accounts and programs related to work, put papers aside and leave that corner of your home until the next day, as if you were leaving your office.
Remote workers, keep moving!
Working from home also means no more commuting twice a day, which is wonderful. Who wants to be on smelly and over crowded trains and buses or stuck in traffic breathing in cars fumes?
But this also means not walking to the station or bus stop, not moving around a building for meetings and so on. Don’t forget we are animals, we are born to move, not to sit and slouch! Going from bed to desk to sofa and back to bed is a real danger for our health.
The solution? Try to use your usual morning commuting time for some movement like a run, a cycle or a simple walk. The change of scenery, fresh air and exercise will work wonders on your well-being, boosting your feel good hormones and improving your focus for the working day ahead.
Do the same when you “leave” your working space. Your commute at the end of your day was also a way to “decompress” and to clearly separate your job from the rest of your life… Go for a walk!
Online classes or youtube videos are a good choice if the weather is dull and unwelcoming or your gym is closed. Alternatively, if you are short of time, invest in a rebounder (trampoline), exercise ball, hula hoop or dumbbells and use them daily. Even low-intensity activity can boost your energy levels.
Take regular breaks during your working hours to help you focus and don’t feel guilty about it! Set an alarm for regular reminders and get away from the computer as often as you can. Move around the house, do some stretches or a yoga pose for few minutes or some breathing work.
Dance – When your timer goes off for your break, put some music on and dance away for a couple of songs.
Use the dog as an excuse. Do you have a dog? Great! Instead of trying to get your best friend stop staring at you while you work, use your puppy as an excuse for some playtime outside
Go out at least once or twice during the day even if only for a brisk 5 minutes walk around your block or to the local park. Place your feet on the grass to ground yourself and reconnect with Mother Earth’s energy. Be in nature as much as you can!
Start the day right by taking advantage of the fact that your kitchen is just there! It will take you few minutes to put together a healthy and nourishing breakfast that will also keep you from mid-morning snacking.
Same for lunch. You have an hour lunch break and the kitchen is not far at all: make food! Eating a balanced meal will help keeping you focused and well energized in the afternoon. It takes literally 5 minutes to assemble a light and nourishing salad for example. You can also do some batch cooking at the weekend and freeze ready portions for the week ahead. Soups are a great work-from-home lunch.
Check our Recipes blog for quick and delicious breakfast and lunch ideas!
Do not eat in your working space!
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, the benefits are huge. All our body organs need hydration to work properly, and the brain is no exception. Ever felt fatigued with a foggy head, and a glass of fresh water was all your body needed? Water boosts mental performance! Have a jug filled with water on your desk, add some slices of lemon or few mint leaves and make sure to drink it.
Instead of multiple cups of instant coffee or boring tea, make a fresh juice like this one for example
You can also use essential oils to recharge instead of an extra cup of coffee. Put a couple of drops of peppermint or citrus essential oils on your temples or breathe in from the palms of your hands, for a quick lift-me-up.
Learn something new
If your work has slowed down a lot this year, think about using this free time to learn something new. Maybe a language? a new skill? or whatever you always wanted to learn but you never had the time to actually make it happen. It will also help to keep your brain active and your sanity intact! Surely much better than watching the news or Netflix all day.
Don’t forget to rest after learning, so that your brain can process and consolidate the new information.
Many people were getting the majority of their social contact from office life, and even a quick chat at the coffee machine or in the lift meant a lot. All this suddenly disappeared with the lockdowns, remote working and the constant message to avoid social gatherings.
The truth is, we are social animals, and feeling lonely or isolated can lead to poor mental and physical health.
Do not isolate yourself: stay connected with colleagues, neighbours, friends and family and try to meet them in person as often as you can.