As an Occupational Therapist, I am frequently called into offices to undertake workstation assessments and to provide advice on the most ergonomic setup for employees. I tell people in an office that they need to get up and move every thirty to forty minutes, one hour at the absolute most. I suggest they walk to the front of the building or go down and up a flight of stairs, or walk across the office to that person they were going to send an email to or phone.
But what about those of us who work from home? How can we maintain our health and wellbeing?
In my job, I spend 50% of my work day in my car, the community and visiting workplaces and the other 50% is spent in my home office writing the reports that are generated from those visits. Sure, I have a desk and an adjustable chair and footrest, and perhaps my understanding of appropriate workstation setup is greater than most. But, was I moving every thirty minutes, or even every hour? No. I was sitting at my desk for up to four hours at a time to turn out those reports because someone was waiting on them.
I’ve often questioned my ability to live what I preach. I found myself becoming unhealthier in my practices, spending longer times sitting; putting on weight and eating food that I wouldn’t normally choose to eat. So, I decided to be proactive and turn my bad practices around.
It started when a colleague who recently entered into private practice told me how difficult it was for her to manage her time working from home. After all, there are so many other things that needed to be done around the house, such as gardening, laundry and dishes. This is a common challenge for many people working from home, so I got to thinking, how can we manage our household, health and well-being, and productivity?
The environment within one’s home office is substantially different to that of a regular workplace office. However, the opportunities for incidental activity and postural breaks are almost endless – and surprisingly easy. I rearranged my routine so I could keep on top of my household management tasks as well as my job. The key was to incorporate both into my day. Now, when I prepare my daily To-Do List of desk work, I also think about what I need to do around the house. I get a load of washing going in the machine then I have around forty minutes to read and respond to emails. By that time, the washing cycle has finished and I can get up, pull the load out of the machine and pop it on the washing line. Back to my desk for another half hour of report writing and then I get up again to do the dishes. After that, I can get a few reports done for another forty minutes and then vacuum the lounge room.
This has been my typical day for a few months now and works really well. When I’m not doing laundry or washing dishes, I’m putting on a slow cooker or a roast meal, dusting the house or cleaning the bathrooms.
All these tasks collectively may take me a couple of hours, if not more, each week. However, by spreading them throughout my workday, I have the opportunity to vary my postures, increase my metabolic rate, and keep healthy and productive. The knock-on benefit to this strategy is that, in the evening when my partner comes home, we are free to relax instead of doing housework. My weekends are free. I can do what I love. I have more quality time with the people and relationships I value the most.
Give it a try, and if you feel this method of combining home and work isn’t suitable for you, get online to eBay or Gumtree and buy yourself a second-hand exercise bike, cross trainer or treadmill. Set it up next to your computer and set yourself goals of doing 15 minutes twice a day.
“Whatever it takes” should be our mantra. Whatever it takes to include activity into our workday will ensure that we maintain health and productivity even when working from home.
How creative can you become?