A Healthy Transition To Becoming a Remote Employee

A Healthy Transition To Becoming a Remote Employee

Who doesn’t love the idea of working from home? For many, it is an actual dream come true.  Whenever anyone asks what I do for a living, I start off telling them that I have recently started a new job as a project manager with a company focused on enterprise content management and end by telling them that I get to work from home every day. Jealousy instantly sets in, and they comment on how great it must be to never have to go into the office, sit in rush hour traffic, get out of my pajamas…  I mean who wouldn’t love that? I can honestly say that making the transition to a remote employee has been wonderful yet challenging at the same time. Having the extra two hours in my day to be productive at home rather than sitting in my car in stop and go traffic, not having to worry about getting caught up in an accident, or better yet – not having to drive in the snow, ice and rain is wonderful. But adjusting to the quiet days and reduced interaction with coworkers has been challenging at times. I have noticed small, subtle changes over the past few months including a decrease in my energy level, lack of focus, a decrease in my social interactions and/or motivation to attend social engagements, and I find that the work day is longer. Transitioning from an office environment to that of a remote employee can affect both your physical and emotional well-being.

As a remote employee, it is important to keep your physical and mental health in check.  There’s no doubt that working from home brings a lot of benefits both professionally and personally. But while the advantages may come easy, keeping yourself healthy when you work from home isn’t always as easy. Since you don’t have to go into the office and be around other colleagues, your exposure to the yearly flu bug, cold germs or any other viruses that may be looming on the door handles, conference room tables and chairs, or just in general passing is greatly reduced, but you may find that your health is affected in other ways you hadn’t considered. For example, you can get so wrapped up in your work that before you realize it, lunch time is approaching, and you haven’t left your computer all morning. A headache may be setting in due to the eye strain from not looking away from your computer for long periods of time, or your muscles and back begin to ache from sitting for extended periods of time.  

Many remote workers find a decrease in their physical activity which can lead to reduced energy levels, weight gain, higher blood pressure, and more serious health conditions.  In an office environment, you often get up and walk around to talk with co-workers, join colleagues in conference rooms for meetings, head to the break room for a quick cup of coffee, etc…  All of these things, even if just brief, keep you moving. In order to maintain your physical activity level as a remote worker, it’s important to get up and move around. Schedule time on your calendar to go outside to get a bit of fresh air, go for a short walk or run, stretch, climb the stairs, or do a few jumping jacks to keep your circulation going. Even stepping away to run a quick errand will help to keep your physical activity in check. Use the extra time that you have gained in your day by not having to commute to exercise or move. Adding a few of these things to your daily routine can have positive and lasting health effects.  

In addition to keeping exercise in your routine, you need to plan ahead for meals and make sure you have your kitchen stocked with healthy foods. It’s all too easy to grab a bag of chips from the pantry or a package of cookies to eat while you’re sitting at your computer rather than taking a few extra minutes to grab a healthy snack or lunch. One way to ensure you incorporate healthy food choices in your day is to make sure your grocery list includes healthy snacks: fruits, yogurt, granola bars, fresh vegetables with hummus, and make sure they are easily accessible when those pesky snack cravings hit or you need to grab a quick bite to eat between meetings. Be sure you schedule time in your day to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch in order to avoid the urge to snack on those sugary treats. This can help to keep your energy levels up and keep those extra pounds from sneaking on. Scheduling time for lunch and snack breaks also provides the opportunity to de-stress and recharge for the rest of the work day.

When seeking to improve your health, remember that wellness is about a lot more than just the physical aspect. Mental and emotional well-being is just as important as your physical well-being and should definitely be a part of your focus as a remote employee. Being a remote worker can take a toll on your mental health. Your social interactions are reduced, your work is always around, the boundaries between work and family life often become blurred. Many remote workers often feel more pressure to be available around the clock which can lead to increased stress levels and quickly lead to burnout. One way to avoid this is to make sure you set a daily work schedule in which you are completing your required tasks and responding to emails and stick to it. There are always those unexpected issues that arise that may require a longer work day, but you need to be sure it isn’t occurring on a daily basis. Making sure you fully disconnect from your work is crucial when your work life and home life are blended together and is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Be sure to set aside a dedicated area for your workspace and commit to using it during work hours. It can be all too easy to work from your couch in front of the tv or from your bed, but this often leads to unproductivity and makes it hard to keep your work life separate from your personal life. Keep your office area clear from clutter. This will help to reduce your stress and anxiety levels when looking for those all important meeting notes or other key paperwork.   Make sure you have plenty of sunlight to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. If the weather is ideal, open the windows for some fresh air. Surround yourself with things that make you happy – candles, plants, pictures of family and friends, or even some of your favorite artwork.

Many remote workers find they spend their entire day working and never leave the house.  This can definitely take a toll on your mental health if this becomes your daily routine. It is especially important for remote workers to make time for social interaction, whether it be with family, friends or other social connections. Schedule time to run to Starbucks or a local coffee shop near your house to grab a mid-morning cup of coffee, tea, smoothie or protein shake. Schedule a weekly lunch date or happy hour with a friend or fellow remote coworker.  Another option is to schedule video conferences on a regular basis with other remote coworkers, your project team and customers. If your meeting schedule allows, spend a few hours working from the local coffee shop or bookstores offering free WiFi. This can provide a sometimes much needed change of scenery and the opportunity for additional interaction. Human interaction is a key part of your emotional well-being and it shouldn’t be neglected.

Work-life balance is different for everyone and finding the balance that works for you is key to your success both professionally and personally. Finding time in your day to focus specifically on your health is one of those good intentions that remote workers have but many don’t make it a priority. Incorporating just a few of these things into your daily routine will increase your energy levels, enthusiasm and ultimately lead to increased productivity and efficiency in the workplace and home, as well as promote your physical and mental well-being. It’s a win-win for both you and your employer!

— Sherri Knipp

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