In today’s digital world, more and more people are working from home - either remotely for a larger company or client, doing freelance work, or running a business without the traditional business address.
In some regards, this new style of work tends to offer more flexibility for healthy practices than the typical corporate office environment. But there are also unique “workplace wellness” challenges faced when working for yourself and/or from home.
As a freelance graphic and web designer, I’ve worked from home either full-time or part-time for the past nineteen years. For some of that time I’ve had a dedicated home office, and for some of it I’ve worked from the kitchen table, couch, bed, etc. I’ve enjoyed some healthy practices afforded by being on my own schedule (mid afternoon gym workouts!), and I’ve also gone to a osteo for the neck and back problems caused by my work-from-the-couch exposure.
Fortunately, over the years, I’ve learned various tips on maintaining good physical and mental health while working from home.
Here are a few ways to prioritise wellness in your home “office”:
CREATE AN INTENTIONAL OFFICE SPACE
Whether this is a dedicated room in your home, or a re-purposed space that’s used for something else when you’re not working, it’s worth considering what you need to be focused and productive.
Do you need a quiet space? Plenty of natural light? Do you need desk space to write on, a place to easily access paper files or documents?
Though it seems simple, intentionally choosing and setting up your workspace can increase productivity and reduce stress down the road.
PRIORITISE AN ERGONOMIC SET-UP
When working from home it can be tempting to work from your couch or bed. But working on a laptop in these positions can (and mostly likely will) wreak havoc on your body over time.
It’s best to set up a desk, chair (or yoga ball), monitor and keyboard situation that is ergonomically correct.
GET UP FROM YOUR DESK REGULARLY
I know - so hard, I get it. Ideally (for your health) you should get up from your desk at least every half hour. For some people this is near impossible, or breaks focus and diminishes productivity, so play around with what works best for you.
It’s helpful to set reminders that prevent you from “forgetting” to get up. I like to set an alarm on my phone for 30 minutes. Even if I just stand up and walk around the room for a few seconds as I’m turning it off, that counts as movement, which is good!
20/20/20 VISION RULE
Computer eye strain is real—and can lead to dry eyes, blurry vision and headaches. When working on a computer it’s a good idea to follow the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Good health is good business. KNOW WHEN & HOW TO UNPLUG
The work schedule of an entrepreneur is a fine balance. Though there tends to be much more flexibility in an entrepreneur’s schedule than that of someone who works a corporate 9-5 job, there’s also a downside: being able to work anytime, anywhere can lead to working all the time, everywhere.
This is particularly true during busy or start-up phases of the business, and especially for solopreneurs who have the responsibility of “doing it all.”
A healthy work/life balance means different things for different people, but in general it’s a fulfilling mix of both work and play. For some people this means keeping fairly strict 9-5 office hours and then shutting down work and spending time with family or friends outside of that. For some people it means working long, intense hours and then enjoying a longer period of time off.
Work/life balance is not about achieving an exact ratio, but rather finding the mix that works best for you—maintaining a division of work and play that feels balanced.
In addition to knowing how often to step away from your work, it’s also important to know what’s needed to step away: Do you close your office door and not enter again until the morning? Do you turn off work notifications on your phone? Do you leave your laptop behind on a family vacation?
HAVE SOME SOCIAL INTERACTION
One side effect of working from home is that you may not see or interact with as many people throughout your day as you would if you were in a larger, shared office environment. Because of this, some people who work from home can get a little lonely (whether it’s conscious or not!).
But even if it’s not yet “bothering” you in the loneliness sense, social interaction is still hugely important for overall health, as well as a great spark for creativity and problem-solving.
Adding more social interaction into your solopreneur lifestyle could mean: making a special effort to plan social events with friends or family, joining professional networks, or spending time working in a co-working space.
TAKE A WALK / GET SOME EXERCISE
One of the work-from-home tips I find most helpful, both physically and mentally, is to get outside during the day to take a walk or run. Not only does this help boost energy and creativity (particularly in the afternoon!), but it’s all-around good for your health to get some vitamin D and fresh air. I also love heading to the gym and lifting some weights, it definitely helps with mental clarity.