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The ABCs of Working from Home

Published in Lifestyle Health, Weight Management Author: Clinical Dietitian Kayla Girgen, RD LD, CentraCare Weight Management

In a time before coronavirus, working from home was considered a luxury, but now, it could be the closest resemblance to our “new normal.” With continued precautions surrounding COVID-19 outbreaks, more employees find themselves working within the confines of their home, and it is difficult to say what work life will look like post-pandemic.

Some experts predict that by the end of 2021, 25-30% of the workforce will work from home multiple days per week. This compares to a mere 4% of Americans who worked from home more than half the time prior to the coronavirus. Undoubtedly, the future of what we know as “work” is forever changed.

While this new virtual way of work brings with it many positives like saved time from traffic commutes, several challenges may arise such as decreased physical activity, a blurred work-life balance and a lost sense of social connection. Follow the “ABCs” below to maximize your work performance while maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

Prioritize Activity

Working from home brings with it a multitude of changes, but one thing is for sure, there is less opportunity to move. Increase daily physical activity by implementing one or more of the strategies below.

  • Count your steps – Use a step tracking app or fitness device to track steps. Start by observing how many steps you average per day over a three- to four-day period. Make it a goal to add 200-300 steps at a time until you reach up to 7,500-10,000 steps per day.
  • Plan ahead – Schedule a workout as if it were a meeting. Explore which time of day works best and add it to your calendar.
  • Find a buddy – Pair up with a family member, friend, or co-worker to help keep each other accountable. Share your activity through phone apps like Apple Health, Google Fit or Fitbit.
  • Get outside – Fresh air can help relieve stress and promote feel-good hormones. Take a break from your screen and walk over your lunch break when you can.

Set Boundaries

To stay sane working from home, setting boundaries with space, time and others in the household is crucial. Follow the suggestions below to help turn your work-life balance into “life-work” balance.

  • Set work hours – Consider what time of day you work best and commit to working only during designated work hours. You no longer have the option to “leave” work, so be mindful of maintaining a manageable life-work balance.
  • Create a designated workspace – Carve out space where you can in order to make a comfortable office space. To minimize unnecessary stressors, decorate with a plant and keep the space clean and free of clutter.
  • Notify family members of meeting times – Save on frustrating interruptions by notifying others in the household of your agenda and daily meeting times in advance. Post a schedule or a “Do Not Disturb” sign to minimize distractions.
  • Keep work and personal tasks separate – Forego temptations to multitask and avoid taking on personal tasks in the middle of the workday. Intermingling too many tasks at once can crush productivity. This means no laundry or Facebook during work hours!
  • Shut down to shut off – Power off computers and work devices outside of dedicated work hours. Stay fresh by disconnecting from work tasks and resisting the temptation to check your email.

Stay Connected

Working from home can be isolating. Maintain focus on the big picture by reaching out to co-workers to foster positive relationships and create a sense of connection, improved work culture and productivity.

  • Overcommunicate – Messages can easily be misinterpreted when working remotely, so be sure to communicate with your peers and supervisors frequently and thoroughly. There are many modes to communicate such as email, instant messaging, phone, or video chat. If a colleague prefers instant messaging over email, use this to initiate productive conversations.
  • Opt-in for video versus phone calls – Increase “face-to-face” time through video services like Zoom, Webex, FaceTime, Skype, etc. This also will force you to keep up on grooming and proper work attire.
  • Organize a virtual happy hour – Invite your colleagues to a video chat outside of work hours to catch up and increase connectivity. Try a coffee catch-up before work hours or happy hour after you punch the clock.