How can we work online from home, stay connected and keep mentally and physically healthy?

Those of us working from home are now firmly ensconced, tapping away on keyboards in studies and on dining tables and kitchen benches as offices close their doors due to social distancing required by the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

And while flexible work arrangements and remote working was once a privilege – an opportunity to skip the peak-hour traffic, avoid the hump-day office small-talk and not iron that shirt – the sudden shift to full-time working from home can disrupt workers’ healthy routines and be isolating. Below are some tips and advice to keep your life healthy, productive and stress-free while working from home.

Create a designated home office space

Working in areas generally associated with leisure activities – the sofa, the kitchen bench, the bed – can blur the lines. If you have a space you can go to specifically to work, it’ll help you get into the right frame of mind and to mentally switch off when the work day is done. It will also remove distractions like the TV. Nowhere to go? Create your own corner of a shared space.

Ensure a Healthy Workspace Setup

Used to think you worked in an uninspiring office? You may be ready to take it all back after a day working from a dining chair on a tiny screen. Without an ergonomic office chair or standing desk and a computer set at the correct height, various parts of your body will begin to complain pretty quickly.

To sit comfortably at your remote working workspace set up, make sure your chair is positioned at the correct height and supports your back. You should be able to place your feet flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to the ground. If you can’t, find a shoebox or a pile of books to rest your feet on. Ensure your hips are flexed at about 90 degrees and keep your lower back supported with a cushion.

Invest in home office tech

If you’re working from a small laptop, tilting your head down to look at the screen will become uncomfortable. Invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse and set the laptop on a pile of books or a stand so it’s at eye-level. A larger monitor will minimise strained eyes.

Take Regular Breaks

Step away from the computer for both your mental and physical health. Get a reminder on your phone every hour or so to stand up and take a walk in the garden if you have one, or do some yoga stretches in the living room. Use phone calls as a reason to walk around, too. Designate time to take a proper lunch break and eat something nourishing – a bowl of soup, a salad or some leftovers. If you’re feeling anxious or having trouble switching off, try meditation.

Get Moving

Incidental exercise adds up. Without that stroll to the cafe, visit to a colleague’s desk and walk from the train station, you may find lethargy sets in. And the proximity to the biscuit jar doesn’t help. Make some time to exercise each day to ensure you’re physically active and keep a healthy lifestyle. In your lunch break, try doing a half-hour workout (there are plenty of free exercise videos on YouTube) or a yoga routine.

Use Technology to Stay Connected

The social aspect of work is important – colleagues are there to bounce ideas off, go for coffee with and enjoy a break with. Keeping these collaborative relationship going while working from home helps you combat feelings of isolation and makes you feel supported. Try a WIP meeting first thing, then make time for a 10-minute coffee-break together via a video chat. Stay connected and schedule Friday night happy hour drinks via video chat as something to look forward to – and a reason to change out of your pyjamas.

Definitively End Your Workday

Choose a time – 5:30pm or whenever you’d usually leave the office – and log off. You might have anticipated that working from home would engender more work-life balance but instead find that your work life blends into your home life and you’ve returned to the computer at 10.30pm. Maintain the boundary between your work and your personal life so that you can completely relax outside of work hours.