It seems so easy at first. In some ways too easy. No morning commute, no need to check the morning traffic report, no waiting in the rain at the bus stop. Just a quick jog up the stairs and you’re in the office – perhaps with your slippers on and a steaming cup of coffee in your hand. Bliss. Unfortunately, the convenience of working from home can be not-so-hot for your waistline. The biggest risk factors for weight gain while working from home are a lack of incidental movement (like walking to the bus stop, or walking to your boss’ office) and food availability.
Consider this: The average Kiwi walks just 4582 steps a day, making us one of the least active countries in the OECD. Now, numbers like this with nothing to compare them to are meaningless. So, let me put it in a little perspective. If you go for a half-hour walk at a normal pace, you should hit around 3500 steps.
The World Health Organisation considers 6000 steps a day to be ‘active’. A popular goal for those wanting to get fit is 10000 steps a day. It sounds intimidating, but when you really count every step you take in a day it quickly adds up.
So, how do you best keep track of your steps? You may have heard of the increasing-popular Fitbit – a wristband that, depending on the model, tracks your steps, monitors your heart rate and tells you how many calories you’ve burnt. It can even monitor your sleep quality. It’s small, light, and transmits data to your phone. If you’re not keen to invest in something like this, then perhaps a pedometer app on your phone might do the trick. There are numerous free and cheap apps to choose from.
Incidentally, studies show that the act of tracking movement is enough motivation for most people to move more. So that’s an easy win. A simpler, low-tech way of ensuring you move during the day is to set an alarm to go off every forty-five minutes. This is your cue to get up, walk around a bit, and maybe make a cuppa. Of course, you may not want to get up if you’re in a good flow, but chances are, it’ll be a good break.
Build a morning exercise routine
Working from home is great. Nobody to bother you, no corporate clothes, no shoes! Therein lies the danger. It might be tempting to stay in your PJs and curl up on the sofa with your laptop, but it’s probably not going to be a long-term way of working.
Getting out in the fresh air before you sit down to work is a great way of getting your brain into gear. It wakes you up, gets the blood pumping and helps to increase your productivity. Morning light has also been shown to help regulate your melatonin levels to increase your chances of a better sleep.
A 20 minute walk need not feel like wasted time. You could put your headphones on and listen to a work-related podcast, or dictate a to-do list onto your phone. Or, you could simply spend the time getting your thoughts in order for the day.
Creating and sticking to a routine means that you will have fewer decisions to make each day, meaning less stress and greater productivity.
Organise your food
It’s so tempting to hit the biscuit tin at morning tea time. You wander into the kitchen looking for something, stare at the pantry, and get over- (or perhaps under-) whelmed at the choice. So you reach for the Tim Tams.
Try planning ahead a bit and organise your snacks for the day while making breakfast, or making the kids’ lunches. Slice up some cheese and tomato, pop them into a container in the fridge and put the crackers out on the table. Or take out the Tim Tams, but just put one on a plate with an apple. Whatever you choose, the idea is to not have to think about it when you’re already hungry. You’ve already made a healthy choice, so when break time comes you don’t have to think about it.
I know, it’s a buzz word, but eating mindfully just means being aware of what and why you’re eating. Don’t just go and peruse the cupboards because you’re stuck on piece of work, or you’re waiting for a phone call. Instead, just eat when you’re actually hungry. For extra help with this one you could try a checklist on your fridge door. Am I hungry? Or am I tired, or frustrated, or bored?
Once you’ve covered moving and eating, the last part of the trifecta is sleeping. Again, it’s nice to have the flexibility to be able to make up work hours in the evenings, perhaps once the kids are in bed. However, working on your computer until the wee hours can impact on the quality of the sleep you finally do get. Experts recommend at least half an hour away from screens before going to bed.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every single day may help improve the quality of your sleep, giving you more energy and making you less likely to choose the chocolate biscuits over an apple at morning tea. In essence, the key to staying healthy while working at home is to create good routines and habits. Set yourself up for success by making it easy to make good choices.
Working from home has a lot of lifestyle advantages, make your health a priority and you’ll see the flow on effect in the quality of the work you produce.