I've been working from home for over 20 years. In fact, when I first went independent and started my video production company, when we would take meetings with new, corporate clients, we would always try and hide the fact that we worked from home, like it somehow made us less professional.
After Covid 19, the amount of employees working from home has skyrocketed. I wanted to take the time in this article to go over some of the tips and tricks and insights I've learned to help keep your mental health and body wellness in tiptop shape while working remotely and help create a better work life balance.
Prepare a Good Set and Setting For Proper Work Life Balance
The first thing I realized after starting remote working from home, is that the "home" part of it really can be a huge distraction. Sometimes there are friends and family at home. There is a full refrigerator with delicious distractions. There is a big flatscreen TV. There is an internet connection with social media and nobody looking over your shoulder. Distractions galore.
I figured out early on that you need to treat working at home like a job.
- Don't work in your PJs.
- Don't work from your bed.
- Have a dedicated office area of the house where you can enter a work space - think boundaries!
- Maintain a dedicated workday and adhere to it.
You'd be surprised how just changing up these few small things can really make you more productive.
Create A Remote Work Exercise Routine
I try to make time for exercise every day of the week. I think it's incredibly important for my personal physical fitness and mental self care. I do not have a gym membership, but I live in the woods in the mountains, so my main methods of exercise are walking/hiking with my dog, and road cycling.
Plus, as I'm now in my late 40s, bordering on 50s, I'm learning that strength training is becoming more and more important as I age, so I try to do body strength exercises and kettle bell swings in conjunction with walks.
Which exercise I do each day depends on my energy level, free time, and of course, the weather.
Road biking and mountain biking has been a game changer for me. It's the exercise/activity that I crave and I will definitely carve out time for.
I used to think that to be fit and athletic, I needed to run, but I hate running. It's super easy to procrastinate something that is miserable fror you.
When I discovered biking, I definitely started to crave the activity. It's an amazing, athletic endurance sport that has caused me to feel better, lose weight, and lower medical data points like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
If you think you don't have time during the day to exercise, I would say that you might be surprised and wrong. If you're not working in an office, you're saving tons of time with the normal farting around that one does in an office, setting, long meetings, talking to co workers, commute, time, etc.
Simply taking 30 to 45 minutes to go for a brisk walk every day we'll have amazing effects on your health. If you have a dog, they'll thank you, too!
Getting Enough Sleep
I think lots of people think they don't need as much sleep as they really do. The general guideline is 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. I believe my body needs more so I try to aim for 8+ hours of sleep per night. Yes, this means going to bed early, especially when I have to be up at 6 AM to get kids ready for school.
I also am an avid nap-taker. I know naps aren't for everybody, but it's a habit that I started early on in my remote work career and it really stuck.
Tips for successful work from home naps:
- Choose the time of day where your body has a natural lull in energy and you feel like you want to take a nap. For me, this is immediately after lunch.
- Set an alarm. This is incredibly important. If you oversleep you are taking a chunk out of your day end, trust me, you will feel worse than you did before the nap. I set a timer for around 30 minutes, and this works well for me.
Sometimes I don't even fall asleep, I just focus on my breathing and do a "Yoga Nidra" session. This is simply a relaxation technique that still recharges you without going to sleep. There are great YouTube Videos and guided meditations that you can use to do this.
And when I awake from my nap time, I generally feel great, and follow on with a small amount of caffeine, like green tea or kombucha. This sets me up for my second productive period in the day. Which leads me to:
Know Your Productive Times of Day
One luxury we are afforded by not having to adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule as traditional employees is the ability to work when your body naturally has the energy for productivity.
I've learned over the years that my best productive times are 8 AM to 11 AM, and then another burst from 3 PM to 5 or 6 PM. I rarely work after 6 PM unless there's some sort of client emergency, and just staring at a screen late night robs me of my sleep and relaxation.
What do I do during the times that I feel a natural lull in my productivity? I take breaks or I make sure I am doing tasks that are easier like answering emails or making phone calls. I have even been known to vegetate a bit or take a nap.
Trying to force high-level work into a time when your mind and body doesn't want to do it just yields mediocre results.
Make Some Changes to Diet
I do not adhere to any formal type of diet or fad diet. I try my best to adhere to a simple diet, like the one promoted by the author, Michael Pollan: Eat real food, mostly vegetables, and not too much.
Or, even stated more simply: eat less, move more.
The changes I've made over the years are:
- Don't eat fast food. Occasionally I will break this rule because I have a soft spot for Chipotle. American fast food is designed to be high in fat and calories and salt. Learn to cook and make yourself real food at home.
- Watch your simple carbs. Eating too many white carbs like potato chips, white bread, etc. just packs on the pounds. I tried to eat a lean, mostly vegetable-based, high protein diet as much as I can
- Eat less meat. Not only is it better for your body, it's better for the environment as well. There are no meats that I don't eat, but I try my best to eat mostly fish / seafood or organic, humanely raised, locally sourced meats.
- Limit your alcohol. This one is very hard for me, I am a huge fan of beer. During the pandemic I definitely crept up to drinking 2 to 3 drinks a night, and usually more on the weekends, and this reared its ugly head in my gaining weight and getting a bad report on my triglyceride levels. More than one drink also clearly interrupts my deep sleep.
I do understand that there is a mental benefit to having a drink after work, I try my best to limit myself to one beer or one glass of wine in the evenings during the week. If you can do zero, great, but that is nearly impossible for me. :-)
Start a Meditation Practice for Mental Health
Meditation is all the rage lately in some circles. I'm not surprised when I hear people say they've tried it but it didn't work or they just sat there daydreaming.
I firmly believe some form of meditation is necessary to help reduce stress, lessen the impact of challenges, and support your overall mental wellbeing.
I look at meditation like I look at exercise:
- You have to stick with it to get the benefits.
- You are doing reps. Sitting there meditating and find yourself lost in thought? Return to the breath (or mantra, or whatever). One rep. Repeat.
- There usually isn't a dramatic effect. After meditating 1-2x daily for a few weeks you'll likely find yourself more even-keeled and not reacting as strongly to stress as you had previously.
- It's free. You don't have to join a meditation class (like a gym) to reap the healthy benefits.
I try and start my day with a 10 minute mindfulness meditation followed by a few minutes of positive visualizations . . . going over my tasks for the day in my head and visualizing positive outcomes. It puts me in a great frame of mind for the day.
Then I end my day with a 10-15 minute quiet mindfulness session that stops the inner chatter and primes my mind for rest.
Connect With Others For Social Self Care
One thing you'll definitely miss with remote work is the team dynamic and social interactions. This is easy to remedy so you don't feel so isolated all the time.
Have a virtual meeting with your company co-workers (you probably do this). Or meet up with other remote work friends in real life for lunch or an after work social time.
Having social time goes a long way to combatting any feelings of loneliness or isolation you get while not in a corporate workspace.
So those were my tips for remote work wellness. I hope you try a few and have good luck life I did. You can be a great employee and yet still thrive in the work from home environment.