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If you work remotely, chances are you spend a lot of time behind a computer screen. And while this setup can be ideal for achieving work-life balance, it’s not always the best for your physical health.
Fortunately, working from home means you have the power to adopt healthy habits, whether that means using a standing desk or breaking up your day with a midday workout.
Thanks to this flexibility, working from home can help you become happier, healthier, and more productive. If you’re looking to boost your physical and mental health, here are seven ways to stay healthy as a remote worker.
1. Consider using a standing desk
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, with studies showing that sitting for prolonged periods of time without moving can harm your health even more than smoking. Instead of sitting for hours on end, consider getting a standing desk for your home office.
You might put a standing desk attachment on your current desk, such as these ones from Stand Steady. I’m personally a big fan of my Jarvis adjustable desk from Fully, which can function as both a regular desk and a standing one.
Standing while you work can get take some getting used to, so you might alternate between standing and sitting at first. A standing mat under your feet can also make it easier to stand for long periods of time.
Incorporating a standing desk into your work routine can prevent weight gain, lower blood sugar levels, lower stress, and boost energy, according to Healthline. So making the adjustment could be well worth the effort.
2. Be mindful of your posture
Not only can sitting for a long time harm your physical health, but it can also have adverse effects on your posture. If you’re not in alignment, all this sitting can cause back and neck pain, sometimes even leading to a permanent hunch.
Companies like Upright Go offer devices to help you correct your posture while sitting. Getting a standing desk can also help, as can ensuring you have an ergonomic office set up.
Some items to consider when setting up your home office:
- An office chair with good lumbar support.
- A computer stand or external monitor that places your screen at eye level.
- An ergonomic external keyboard and mouse.
Along with placing your screen at eye level to prevent straining your neck, it can also help to have your arms at 90 degrees when using your keyboard. By setting up the right posture while working, you can prevent physical problems before they occur.
3. Take breaks to stretch and move around
Since you work remotely, you can take a break whenever you want to stretch and move. Take advantage of this freedom and incorporate movement throughout your day. Do a home yoga video, dance around your living room, or take a walk around the block.
For extra motivation, consider getting a Fitbit or other step tracker that will remind you to move every hour. If the usual 10,000 step goal is too high, you can always move it lower to match your goals. Or you can set up step challenges with friends or fellow remote employees for extra motivation.
Rather than being a distraction from work, making time to move will probably make you feel refreshed, reenergized, and better able to take on tasks for the day.
4. Pencil in exercise on your schedule
Along with taking breaks to stretch and move, remember to plan exercise into your schedule. You might be able to work a yoga class or gym visit into the middle of your day. If you’re into fitness classes, check out the schedule at the beginning of the week and plan which classes you’ll take.
Write down when you’ll work out, and stick to your goals. If you wait until you have time or inspiration strikes, you might never make it to the gym.
Instead, be proactive about making time for exercise, despite all the other busy stuff going on in your life. Your body and health will thank you for it.
5. Protect your eyes from blue light
Screens on our computers and phones emit blue light, which can strain your eyes if you’re taking in too much. Some blue light is needed for good health, but too much can irritate your eyes and disrupt your sleep.
Some studies even suggest that prolonged blue light can cause long-term damage to retinal cells. Instead of waiting to find out if that’s true, take steps today to protect your eyes from excessive blue light.
Remember to look away from your screen every once in a while, and reduce the amount of time spent staring at a screen when you don’t need to be (e.g., scrolling through Instagram a thousand times in one afternoon).
Light-filtering glasses can also help protect your eyes. Look for blue light-filtering and glare-blocking glasses, such as the ones offered by Felix Gray. These will help protect your eyes while you work online.
6. Plan out your meals in advance
Another challenge of working from home is making healthy eating choices. When you’re two steps away from your kitchen, it’s tempting to snack on ice cream and Cheez-Its all day.
If you want to take control of your eating habits, plan out your meals in advance. Clear out unhealthy snacks from your kitchen, and replace them with whole grains, veggies, and other wholesome alternatives.
Plan what you’ll cook before you’re hungry, or your grumbling stomach will be making the decisions instead of your head. You might also meal prep at the beginning of the week, so your meals are already ready and waiting for you.
7. Unplug at the end of the work day
When you’re remote, you don’t have to stick to the typical 9 to 5 schedule, but instead can work when you’re most productive. Maybe you’re an early bird who gets up at sunrise and is done working by noon. Or perhaps you’re a night owl who prefers to work after everyone else has gone to bed.
It’s up to you to devise routines that work for you. But remember one important rule — it’s important to unplug at the end of the day.
Since you don’t have the typical boundaries between home and office, it can feel like you’re working all the time. But resting and unplugging is essential for your mental health, so make sure to sign off at the end of the day.
Come up with a work schedule for yourself, and communicate that to your coworkers. That way, you and your colleagues will know when you’re working, and when you’re done for the day.
Adopt healthy habits into your remote lifestyle
When you go remote, you can work wherever and whenever you’re most productive. But lots of remote jobs involve online work, which can involve sitting for hours and straining your eyes staring at screens.
Instead of letting your health take a backseat to your job, set some goals for incorporating healthy habits into your workday. Schedule exercise throughout your week, and invest in office furniture (standing desk, external monitor, etc.) that will preserve or even improve your posture.
Instead of harming your health, working remotely can help you improve it. But it’s up to you to integrate healthy habits into your daily routines — and stick to them.