Physical Challenges of being a telecommuter
When I've first started remote working for overseas employer back in 2001., I have deeply underestimated effects of lack of physical activity on my own health. I was in my early 20s, so it wasn't generally speaking a big deal. But after eight years have passed, outcome wasn't pretty either.
My employer was 6 hours away from my time zone, and I was young enough to try to adapt to their timezone instead of setting some limits. That made social contacts a bit awkward, although I've had friends with similarly weird daily schedules, so some of them I would meet before I would start working and some of them for a late night hangouts (just as example; one friend was a radio DJ at the time running his own late night radio show, so we would often meet and… um, party, at the radio station).
On days when my friends would have their obligations, I've felt overly comfortable with the lack of necessity for physical activity. There would be some days when I would literally get out of bed, sit in front of the computer (for either work or fun), and in the night when I would finish working I would go to bed.
Back then, I also wasn't so keen on cycling (or any other sport) as much as I am today. And at the time, gyms were not the actual thing in the city where I've lived (yes, I am that old apparently), not that I am a fan of going to the gym today either. I am fairly certain my old neighbourhood where I've lived back then still doesn't have any gym near by.
So, in retrospective I would recommend the following:
Create clear (and phyisical!) separation between work and free/family time by some activity
This advice will appear in other contexts too. And it might sound funny. But I recommend it heavily.
Create strict separation between work and the rest of your life by "going to work" and "coming home from work" even if it's all in your own house.
This can be done multiple ways. Some of them are:
- Before and/or after work take a walk around the neighbourhood.
- If you have some gym equipment at home, use it before or after work. Or both.
- Go to your local gym or for a swim at your local pool before or after work.
Do literally anything but jumping directly from breakfast to your home office workspace.
Do literally anything but staying in front of the computer or going to sit directly in front of the TV after work.
You might think you would look crazy taking an early morning walk around neighbourhood, but you would end up being significantly healthier in the long run because of it.
Find your favorite physical activity
Trust me, I know how it feels not to have sport of your choice. My photo is in a dictionary next to the definition of the term "passive". That is why I know everyone can find his own favorite physical activity.
For the reasons I cannot explain, I love cycling. I have started off with riding a cheap bicycle and ended up buying fairly expensive $1000+ worth all purpose commuting bike. I've ended up buying indoor bicycle to sustain level of physical activity over the winter when I can't cycle outdoors. I simply hate gyms so I don't intend to go to one for indoor cycling, but that doesn't mean my health needs to suffer.
I have found my favorite physical activity, so I know you can find it too if you are physically capable of walking independently. Whether it is about taking a long walks, running in the parks, hiking in the woods, swimming, cycling, playing basketball… There is something you would like to do for your health, for sure. You just might now know it.
Don't eat out of boredom
Things can get a bit slow when you work from home. Partly because your work is more focused, you might use some time between switching the context of different tasks and realize you could go for a snack. And when you eat because you are bored - there are no healthy snacks.
Snacks are hard habit to get rid of, but try your best. And if you must grab an occasional snack to keep your sanity, try to make sure your snacks are moderately healthy - considering your possible dietary restrictions you might have for different reasons.
Keep the structure of your day
When you are in the office, you are likely stepping away from your desk to have lunch. Whether it means heading off to the cantina in the ground floor of the building, or going with your team to the local grocery store to pick up something quickly - there is likely fixed time when you take lunch break.
Keep this habit when you work from home. Take the same amount of time to prepare your lunch or go for a lunch out as you would in the office. It might be counterintuitive, but working from home is a perfect trap for losing some of the positive habits from the office because you feel you need to be more available just in case someone sends you message over Slack.
Take clear breaks out of work, same way you would in the office. Just make sure your teammates are aware of them.
If you can afford it (for example, your employer paying for some home office equipment), consider getting some of the following.
- Chair - get a decent office chair. Sitting on your dining table chair or even laying down in the sofa in your living room is very suboptimal for productive work. Pro tip: Ikea has some very decent office chair options.
- External monitor - it is significantly easier to sit comfortably in front of the external monitor than curling up in front of your laptop. Also, get yourself a decent keyboard and the mouse if you get an external display. I have strong suggestion for some other telecommuting home office equipment you need, but those are not so closely related to your own health, so we will cover those later.
- Gym equipment - In case you are telecommuting due to some escalation, like a global pandemics, you might need to reconsider attending gym. Consider buying some pieces of the gym equipment which you can fit in your house or apartment, to keep your physical activity up.
- Standing desk - Same as in the office, standing desk is always a good idea. Though, this is one of the more expensive things you can end up buying for your home office, so it's a likely stretch for many of the remote workers.