Working from home definitely has its share of perks: no commute, no dress code, no interruptions from chatty co-workers. But as peaceful as it might be, remote employment isn’t always conducive to good health. When you’re ensconced in the comfort of home, without the structured schedule or fitness facilities of a traditional office space, you may find it challenging to incorporate physical activity into your day.
It’s been well-documented that sitting for long periods of time (or working in your PJs on the couch) can have a hazardous effect on your health. If you work remotely, it’s important to find ways to fit more movement into your routine.
1. Place things out of reach.
Instead of having all of your daily essentials at arm’s length, place them out of reach to force yourself to move more throughout the day. "Using your printer, file cabinet or bookshelf then becomes an opportunity to get up and squeeze in a few extra steps," says Mary Kutheis, executive coach with MCK Coaching and Training.
2. Set alarms for movement breaks.
Pam Sherman, trainer and founder of The Perfect Balance, advises people who work from home to set their alarms to take breaks. "We all have a finite amount of time we are productive," she says. "Once an hour, get up for a quick bout of movement, like a 10-minute walk, a stretching session, pushups against the kitchen counter or squats."
3. Invest in a standing desk.
As remote work becomes more and more common, many at-home employees are opting for standing desks instead of traditional sit-down desks, says Ellen Mullarkey with Messina Group. The benefits of standing throughout the workday include reduced risk of heart disease, reduced chance of weight gain, lower blood sugar levels, higher energy levels and more.
4. Always "go out" for lunch.
No, this doesn’t mean you have to go out to eat at a restaurant every day—just make it a point to get away from your desk for lunch and, ideally, leave the house, says Jon Hill, chairman and CEO of The Energists. "You can pack up a sandwich and take it to a nearby park, or even sit in your own backyard, just as long as you’re moving around and getting some fresh air," he says.
5. Stretch throughout the day.
As Kutheis points out, when you’re working alone, you don’t have to worry about looking strange while doing stretching exercises throughout the day. "Touch your toes, do some side bends, raise and lower your shoulders, and do a few neck rolls to combat the stiffness that comes from sitting," she suggests.
6. Take posture breaks.
Proper posture is important for any employee, but particularly for remote workers who might tend to hunch over a computer for most of the day. Sherman recommends taking breaks to get up and stand with your head, shoulders and behind pressed against the wall to correct your alignment.
7. Find a "commute substitute."
It’s common for people in traditional work roles to lament their long commutes, but as Hill points out, that trip to and from the office often serves as a natural barrier between home life and work life, and it can be jarring to lose that. "Find another physical activity that can [be a] substitute for your old commute at the start and end of your workday," he suggests. "This not only keeps you active, but helps retain the normal structure of your day."
8. Schedule outdoor walking meetings.
For remote employees, it’s common to meet with clients or colleagues at coffee shops or restaurants. Instead, Kutheis suggests meeting at a park and walking while you chat. Not only will you sneak in some extra exercise, you’ll also eliminate the temptation of extra snacks and sweets. "Fresh air is a remedy for brain fog and general fatigue," she notes. "Just a five or 10-minute brisk walk will boost your energy and clear your head at the same time."
Working from home doesn’t have to mean leading a sedentary lifestyle. With some creativity and planning, you can stay active throughout the day even if your job doesn’t require you to leave the house.