With many workplaces requesting that employees work from home for the time being, here’s our guide to staying well while you work from home.

Man using his laptop to make a Skype call while working from home.

The likelihood is that you’re currently reading this from your ‘home office’. Following government advice, many workplaces have requested that their employees work from home, so making sure that you set yourself up for a healthy and productive day has never been more important.

Working from home can present a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to your health. A lack of social stimulation, the temptation of alluring snacks just a few feet away or the lack of an ergonomic workspace can add up to sabotage your best intentions for a healthy and productive day.

If you’re not used to working from home, the change in routine and environment could lead to feelings of anxiety and loneliness. While it could take some time to get used to, we’ve put together some suggestions to help you stay healthy and happy during this time of change.

Remember, if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it’s always best to seek professional advice. Beyond Blue have plenty of resources to help you cope with feelings of anxiety, distress and concern you may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19). If you’re a Medibank member with hospital cover* you can call our Mental Health Phone Support line to speak to a mental health professional for confidential support, advice or information.

Here’s our guide to staying healthy when going into the office isn’t an option.

Set up your workspace

Find a quiet, light space to set up your workspace if you can. It doesn’t have to be an entire room: just a separate space that you can designate to work only, like a quiet corner. It’s also a good idea to try to separate areas like your couch or bed from your workspace to make it easier to switch off and relax outside of work hours.

Once your have your space, think about how to set yourself up. If you can, invest in an ergonomically sound chair that will keep you aligned for the work day. Propping your laptop up to eye level or adding a monitor can also help your alignment.

Set a schedule

It can be tempting to work odd hours or sleep in longer than you would, however, setting a schedule and sticking to it could benefit your mental health and give you the structure of a routine. Act as if you are going into the office and get up when you usually would, shower, have breakfast and then sit down for work.

Make time for exercise

While a schedule is important, you can use the flexibility of working from home to your advantage and get in some exercise. Working from home can mean moving around a lot less than in the workplace, so making time to exercise is important. Why not schedule a run for first thing in the morning, or do some yoga in the garden at lunchtime?

Get some fresh air

Much like exercise, getting some fresh air and taking a break from the screen can make you feel better when working from home. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re not sitting down inside all day.

Meditation and mindfulness

Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress, help control anxiety and promote emotional health1. Try sitting in a comfortable place with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing for five minutes. Or try one of the excellent meditation apps out there, like Smiling Mind. Doing this before you check your phone or open your emails could give you a much-needed moment of calm before you start work, or give you a ‘reset’ during the day if you’re feeling stressed.

Take regular breaks

Meetings and coffee breaks are part and parcel of working life, and it can be easy to find yourself stuck to your chair for hours on end. Set an alarm on your phone for every hour to remind you to get up and stretch your legs and take a break from your screen.

Work collaboratively

The same meetings and coffee breaks that are part of work are also social stimulation, so working from home can feel a little lonely. Schedule meetings with your colleagues to catch up and brainstorm ideas over the phone or through video conferencing. Working with your team like you would in the office can help combat feelings of isolation and help you feel supported in your work.

*OSHC members should call the Student Health & Support Line on 1800 887 283.

1 Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68.

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