Working from home may seem like a dream. You have no boss popping up behind you. No employees to interrupt you with the latest office gossip. No donuts to avoid. But, working from home—with all of its perks and pluses—also presents some unique challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. From temptations in your fully-stocked fridge and pantry calling you, to the mindset of always being ''at work,'' to having a schedule that's almost too flexible, working from home can make staying healthy difficult in some ways. Here's how to stay fit when your home doubles as your office.
1. Choose your ''office chair'' wisely. One of the great perks of working at home is that you can work where you want to, as long as you have a laptop (which many work-at-homers do). At a desk? At the kitchen table? On the couch? In bed? Outside on the patio? Yep, you can pretty much set up shop anywhere. But, you're still sitting on your duff, and possibly more inclined to stay sitting because you have few work-related reasons to stand up and move. Plus, where you're sitting at home is probably more comfortable than a typical office chair and, therefore, more appealing to sit in for hours on end. So, choose to sit in a chair that's less comfortable and requires better posture than a recliner chair. Sitting on an exercise ball is a great way to make your workday a little more active. You could even consider investing in a treadmill desk or a standing desk, where you don't sit at all!
2. Set a timer. For those who don't have a treadmill desk or a standing desk, make it a point to stand up and walk around at least once every hour. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods may decrease your metabolism, hurt your heart health and even increase your risk of cancer. One easy way to sit less is to set an automatic timer on your computer or phone to alert you once every hour. As soon as you hear that alarm, stand up and get moving for a couple of minutes. You can do jumping jacks, walk the stairs in your home, stretch, do some yoga poses, take the dog outside—whatever you like to do. Just move! Making it a priority to get up and move once an hour will help your health and your weight-management efforts, and it'll even give you a mental and emotional boost to help you get more done.
3. Create a routine. It's easy to get a little loosey-goosey with your routine when you work at home. You'd never show up late or improperly dressed to an office job; when telecommuting, however, you might be tempted to roll out of bed at the last second and work in your pajamas, or skip your usual lunch workout at the gym for some daytime TV. While this can be OK every now and again, it's best to have a routine when it comes to your health and fitness. Try to get up and get ready for your day just as you would if you were leaving the house to go to the office. Schedule your lunch break and try to quit working by a set time. And definitely schedule—in pen—half an hour to an hour of time to work out each day. With all of the temptations at home, it's best to have a routine that you follow day in and day out.
4. Set boundaries. One thing that many telecommuters do is overwork. Because you don't have a commute, it's easy to begin your workday earlier, work through lunch (there are no co-workers there to remind you it's lunch time!) and not stop until the sun goes down. But overworking and not taking time for you can be detrimental to your health, your well-being and even your work performance. Not to mention that when you don't break for meals and mindlessly at your desk, the calories can add up—fast. Set some rules, such as:
- Don't work on weekends unless you absolutely have to.
- Don't eat at your desk (or in front of your computer) so that you can focus on your food and fullness signals.
- Log your hours to keep yourself honest about how much time you're actually spending working.
5. Use your kitchen. While you definitely don't want the kitchen calling to you too much during the day, you do want to make the most of your fridge and stove when you work at home. Keep it stocked with healthy, fresh foods and enjoy the fact that you can whip up a healthy and satisfying lunch without having to pack one. Woohoo! However, don't stock your kitchen with empty-calorie sweets and snack foods. When you have unlimited supplies on hand, it can be way too tempting to avoid them.
6. Get outside. Being outside is great for the mind, body and soul! Not only does sunshine give you vitamin D, but studies have also shown that being out in nature can boost health and decrease stress. So whether you go outside for a jog over lunch (healthy bonus points!) or simply go outside and smell the flowers when the sun is out, make a point to step outside of your ''workplace'' a few times per day to reap the benefits.
7. Wear workout clothes and tennis shoes. Working at home means that you can pretty much wear what you want, when you want. So why not wear clothes that make you feel like moving more? A few mornings a week (or every day if you wish), put on your best workout clothes and lace up those tennis shoes. When you're dressed for the part of being fit and active, you're more likely to act it out!
8. Have craving-busters on hand. Though you might be too self-conscious to open a bag of M&Ms and devour them in an office, you can overeat without anyone noticing when you work from home. If you're prone to ''secret eating,'' working at home can be tough. So, instead of fighting cravings (we all have them!), be smart about keeping healthier options on hand. If you're a chocoholic, try sipping on some sugar-free hot cocoa. If you're craving salty foods, pop some low-fat popcorn. If you want a creamy treat, enjoy some non-fat Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Also, be sure that you're truly eating according to your hunger—and not just eating because you're stressed, bored or lonely while working at home.
9. Get an accountability buddy. In a regular office, you have the support and camaraderie of your coworkers each and every day. But when you're working from home, you just don't get quite as much interaction—even if you're on the phone a lot. So find a friend or other telecommuter who is interested in being healthy, and make a pact to keep each other on track. Whether it's calling him or her when you feel like eating out of stress, or reaching out when you need someone to virtually high-five when you worked outl, the buddy system works!
10. Make the most of your situation! Working from home gives you more control of your schedule and your time. So, as long as your boss is cool with it, work an hour earlier so that you can make that Zumba class that always fills up at 5 p.m., or take a slightly longer lunch to put a healthy meal together in the slow cooker for dinner. When you're super stressed at work, take a 10-minute break to do some yoga or meditation. Make your schedule work for your healthy lifestyle!
Staying healthy while working from home does have its challenges. But with a little planning, it's completely possible to face those challenges head-on and set yourself up for success.