Staying Healthy while Working from Home

 

As working from home becomes more common due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it can be harder to focus on actually working. While the prospect of home working may appeal to a lot of people, usually, in the workplace, you don’t have to deal with distractions like family members, pets and easy access to Netflix.

Although there are a number of challenges that can require adjustments, there are ways you can ensure you are being productive, healthy (both mentally and physically) and potentially happy while working from home.

Here are some suggestions to make it more manageable.

 

Maintain regular hours

Working from home offers greater flexibility with your personal schedule, but not everyone responds well when their routine is disrupted. We are creatures of habit and routine helps us prepare both mentally and physically for our day.

To offset this disruption, try and develop a schedule where you work during set hours and finish work when those hours are up.

One mistake when working from home is to work longer. There may be many reasons for this, feeling guilty, boredom, or even feeling isolated, but having set hours can allow “work” to feel more like work and reduce the likelihood of spending long hours at the desk.

Establish a dedicated work area

Set up a dedicated space for working from home. Take time to identify a dedicated place to work from. This reinforces the perception that you are at work, limits distractions and promotes the mindset that when you leave that place, you’re off the clock.

Take scheduled breaks

Just like any working environment, taking breaks when working remotely is important. It lets your brain relax and breaks can actually improve your productivity levels and your ability to focus.

Socialize with colleagues using video conferencing

For many of us, in-person contact with co-workers is important. We are able to read social cues when talking with someone, if we can’t see them, then feelings of disconnection and isolation can occur. Video conferencing services like Zoom, Webex or Teams allow you discuss various aspects of work in a face to face setting. The use of screen-sharing and the ability to have instant feedback can reduce the feelings of disconnection.

It also provides managers with the opportunity to check that their employees are doing okay, and offer any support that is needed.

Manage your distractions

For many people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, unanticipated co-workers (the family) can be a significant distraction. You may need to be a bit creative to manage children and be productive at the same time. The flexibility provided when working from home can be a huge asset with this.

If you have young children, take advantage of nap time. Whether your child sleeps for one hour or three, use this time to finish work that requires your complete focus and concentration.

Prepare activity play stations. Set up beads and string, paper and paints or colouring pens, salt dough and cookie cutters. You may be able to set aside some special toys that your children can play with when you need to focus, or arrange a special movie viewing.

Setting up snack stations will stop you being bombarded with requests for food. Pre planning is the key.

Exercise

Exercise is essential for overall health, and working from home might mean you are doing less of it. You may spend less time walking because you are not travelling to and from an office, going up and down stairways to meetings and so on. You need to ensure that you make time to exercise when working at home. It can be as easy as going for a short walk, using a home gym, doing some yoga, following a YouTube exercise class and many more options. Be creative, but remember, the important thing is to do something.

Employers' responsibilities

While employers’ responsibilities for the safety and health of their home workers is less than expected for those in the office or onsite, they do still exist. The steps an employer can take to minimise risks at a worker’s home will be different to those they apply at the usual workplace.

You will still need to do what you reasonably can, to manage the risks to a worker who works from home.

Employers should consider providing some basic training around safety in the home and good ergonomic work station set up. They should also consider that not every employee actually wants to work from home, and this change can be stressful for some people. For those employees, it is key that they keep in touch and communicate as much as possible to help any employees struggling with the change.

And finally

While working from home requires some adjustments to your habits and routines, it’s often about creating boundaries between work and personal life. That can be a difficult adjustment, but keep these tips in mind, and remember that mental and physical health are just as important for those working from home as those on-site workers.

It feels like John Quinn has been involved in safety forever. He started as a union safety representative, then a firefighter, an occupational health nurse, and for the last 18 years an HS&E advisor for a range of industries including Nuclear, Aerospace, Construction, Social Services, Marine Transport, Smelting and Demolition. John is the co-creator of www.safetyknowledgehub.ca