From the outsider’s perspective, working from home probably seems like the ideal set up. You don’t have to worry about the daily commute or office politics, you have flexibility over your working hours, and you can freely work in your pyjamas if the mood strikes. The laptop lifestyle most certainly has its perks.
But while there are health benefits of working from home, such as reduced stress and more sleep, it can equally become harmful to your mental wellbeing if you don’t look after yourself properly.
Loneliness and social isolation top the list of issues faced by homeworkers. Freedom away from colleagues creating distractions may feel like a good thing at first, but this lack of social interaction can be detrimental to your mental health, productivity and general wellbeing.
Further to this, by working from home you’re at risk of blurring the boundaries between your home-life and work-life, which can interfere with your ability to truly relax and turn ‘work mode’ off during your free time.
Occupational health specialist Gail Kinman advises homeworkers to, “avoid being ‘always on’, as downtime is essential for mental and physical health and effectiveness at work,” adding that, “a lack of boundaries between work and personal life (physical and psychological boundaries) can prove a challenge.”
Following on from Gail’s recommendations, here are a few more tips for staying happy and healthy when working from home.
Create a dedicated ‘home office’
By setting up a dedicated space in your home to act as your ‘home office’, it will maintain a clear segregation between your job and your personal life. Working from your bed may be the cosy option, but by doing so you’re at risk of developing a sub-conscious association between a place that is supposed to be relaxing and the stresses of work.
Creating a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing workspace away from your bed or sofa will do wonders for your productivity and creativity as well. Factors such as an ergonomic chair, a tidy, clutter-free desk, and a calming colour-scheme can all positively contribute to your mood, focus and motivation.
Interior designer Catchy Phillips explains that, “having everything in its place, and furniture arranged in a pleasing and practical way, will make for a calming environment. If you can’t find what you need, or you can’t reach that all important file, your mood is bound to be affected.”
Stick to your morning routine
You’d be amazed how much something as simple as having a shower and getting dressed can alter your mindset and prepare you for your day ahead. The temptation to bypass the morning routine is understandable when you don’t have plans to leave the house, but an invigorating shower and a clean set of clothes will leave you feeling refreshed and energised. On top of that, opening the door to the postman needn’t be an embarrassing experience if you’re not sporting your PJs at midday – save this for the weekend!
Set a routine, so that you wake up at around the same time each morning and get ready as though you’re leaving for the office. One of the luxuries of working from home is flexibility but sticking to a rough routine will help you avoid too much procrastination, which can leave you feeling lethargic and demotivated.
Arrange to see friends and family
Research from Acas found that around a fifth (20 percent) of homeworkers often feel socially isolated – a worrying statistic considering more people are telecommuting today, than ever before.
If you spend long hours glued to your desk, make the effort to arrange regular plans to see friends and family throughout the week. It can be as quick as a coffee in a local café or joining a friend on their lunch break from work. Just a short period of social interaction each day is sure to give you an emotional boost.
Desk jobs can encourage sedentary lifestyles, which can not only have negative consequences for your physical health, but also your mental wellbeing. For those whose jobs don’t require you to get up and about, it’s crucial that you’re proactive about fitting some sort of exercise into your day.
If your arrangement allows for flexible working hours, why not incorporate an exercise class or morning trip to the gym into your routine? If the gym isn’t your cup of tea, a jog or brisk walk around the block will provide you with a healthy hit of fresh air and mood boosting endorphins.
Gail says that the key to maintaining good mental health is, “taking regular breaks away from the computer, preferably in a different environment and doing something different to what you do in your job, for example going for a walk.”
Introducing a canine companion to the home is a great way of encouraging yourself to get out of the house and exercise, as they need their daily walks as much as you do. Dogs also provide fantastic company if the feelings of loneliness creep in too.
Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy food
Having the kitchen in arm’s reach is both a blessing and a curse. If you buy lots of sugary or salty snacks, it’s likely you’ll give into the temptation and develop unhealthy habits, whereas stocking your fridge with the ingredients to make a healthy lunch will keep your energy levels up and your body nourished. A healthy body equals a healthy mind, after all.
By incorporating a few of these pointers into your routine, you’re sure to reap the benefits of working from home, while staying happy and healthy. For more tips on creating your home office heaven, you can also take a look at this article.