Although it can be a challenge at times, working from home can have a number of benefits. Once you’ve developed the routines and habits to help you stay on-task with your job responsibilities, you can get a lot of work done in your day. But it’s still important to take care of yourself and practice self-care to prevent burnout and manage stress.
In part four of our “Healthy Remote Working” series, Vivante Health employees offer insights to help develop habits to promote wellness and well-being while telecommuting. In previous posts we’ve covered transitioning to working from home; managing remote staff; and using tech to its full advantage. Vivante, a provider of digital health solutions for managing digestive disease, has over 60 employees working in a virtual environment. “Our team has a lot of expertise not just with helping manage wellness, but in working from anywhere,” says Dr. Kimon Angelides, founder and former CEO of Vivante.
Here are some of our top tips to help keep your body and mind healthy while balancing work and real-life stressful conditions.
Recognize what you need
Have you ever been working for hours and realize you haven’t stopped to eat lunch? Or stood up from your chair? It happens to most of us when we’re engrossed in our work. However, working without breaks can have consequences over time. It’s important when you’re working from home to take stock and cultivate healthy habits.
Being tied to the computer and phone for long stretches can lead to health issues from sitting for too long, plus it can make us feel “off” in general. And when you are feeling “off” it is easier to fall into habits like emotional eating.
Erin Commons, AVP of Care Management for Vivante, says it’s important to stop and identify what you are actually feeling in precise terms. “Take a moment to write out the acronym HALT/BSSS. It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bored, sad, scared, and stressed. These are the most common feelings for emotional eating.”
Commons recommends writing down your own solutions for each of these feelings. In nearly every case (except hungry, of course) there are other non-food-related actions you can take to feel better. “For example, if I’m angry, perhaps I could try kickboxing or journaling. If I’m tired, I can take a nap or work on bedtime routines. If I’m lonely, I can call a friend. If I’m bored, I’m going to make a list of all the things I can do,” she explains. She also recommends keeping this list in a visible place as a reminder.
Over time, Commons says the HALT/BSSS acronym will become ingrained and help lead to more conscious decisions before you open the refrigerator.
For a deeper dive into emotional eating triggers and how to identify them, check out our webinar titled When Emotions Drive Hunger: How to Cope.
Meals and snacks done right
Speaking of the refrigerator, its proximity to the spot where you work at home can become a challenge when trying to curb unhealthy snacking habits. Commons says many people new to working from home have set up home offices in spots with strong associations with eating—like kitchens and dining rooms. “Simply moving the home office to a new, food-free location can cut snacking down quite a bit,” she says.
And when you do eat, it helps to be deliberate in your choices. Michael Dye, Prototype and Data Engineer, avoids buying unhealthy snacks in the first place and also plans out at least two “go-to” meals each day so he’s eating right when he’s busy. “I plan an easy but healthy breakfast and lunch that I can prepare on ‘autopilot’. I find if I’m full of something healthy, I won’t snack later,” he says.
Of course, not all snacking is unhealthy. An advantage to working from home is you can control what you have at-hand (there’s no tempting vending machine in the break room), and you can set up new habits to encourage mindful snacking.
Registered Dietitian Megan McLean says it can help to “brush your teeth or drink a big glass of water before having a snack.” She also recommends keeping fresh fruit in sight and prepped snack-able veggies front and center in the fridge so if you do find yourself wandering to the kitchen, the first things you’ll see are healthy options.
Make exercise a part of your day
Of course, a critical part of health is fitting physical activity into your day. At the moment, most people have limited options (gyms are closed and group activities are not possible), but most employees who regularly work from home find ways to get moving during work hours.
“I like to do some body weight exercises when I’m feeling sedentary,” says Dye. “I stand up, do some squats, stretches, sit ups, push-ups, and other simple movements right next to my desk. I also have a convertible standing desk, which helps me change my body position throughout the day.”
Telecommuting can also be great for those with more advanced fitness regimens. When his schedule allows, Client Success Manager Tyler Goehring uses his lunch break to take 30-45 minute interval runs. “I use the Runkeeper app for tracking and beating previous times. If I have a lot of calls that day I won’t listen to music so I can clear my head.”
As Goehring points out, apps and online tools can be great for creating healthy exercise routines. Wearable fitness trackers are seeing a surge in popularity during these times of social distancing. Many fitness trackers have features to remind you to get up and move once an hour, encouraging you to get out of your chair and take a few laps—even if it’s just around the living room.
Fitness guidance and structure can be found online, too, says McLean. “At the moment, some gyms are offering live classes streamed through Zoom. I personally find this really helpful because (not gonna lie), sometimes I want to quit part way through but I can’t when the trainer is there watching me!”
And exercise doesn’t need to take a whole lot of time out of your busy day, either. Taking your dog for a walk counts, so grab the leash.
If you don’t have a dog, there are other quick options to try. “The 7 Minute Workout can be done in between meetings and doesn’t require any equipment,” says McLean.
The point is to find something that fits into your day and matches your abilities, and get started at your comfort level. Don’t put pressure on yourself, but think of exercise as one more way you are keeping your body and mind healthy while working from your home.
You’re not alone
With COVID-19, we’re living through an exceptional and stressful event. It can be challenging to work alone from home every day, but even the most experienced telecommuter can feel isolated without the option of getting out of the house in this time of social distancing.
In non-pandemic times, many work-from-homers make time for activities, classes and social gatherings outside of their home. It’s common to work from coffee shops or libraries for a change of pace. Without those options, we’re now all improvising and finding creative ways to connect with others and “stay sane.”
Zoom is currently one of the most popular ways to see our friends, coworkers and family. Fortunately, it’s free and relatively simple to use. And don’t forget the simple power of an (old-fashioned) phone call. Just hearing a friendly voice can make a huge difference in your mood.
Being aware of your own needs and concerns is equally important. While stress management and healthy physical habits can go a long way to quieting anxious thoughts, your mind may also require a little self-support. There are a number of strategies to actively train yourself to tune out negativity and attract positive thoughts during this time.
If you’re struggling and need more support, please reach out to your confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if you have one through your employer. If you don’t have an EAP, check out https://www.mhanational.org/finding-help to find a resource that fits your needs.
On behalf of Vivante’s entire team, we hope you and your family are safe and healthy right now.