by Krista Rossato –
Home is important: It’s where we start each day, and return to each night. It provides us with joy, security, belonging and privacy. However, we now face a new and unique challenge: our homes have become a place for everything – living, learning and working. Settling into a work-at-home lifestyle is a transition that takes planning and diligence. These low-cost strategies can help you find balance.
Establish boundaries for yourself, and with your family or roommates. Talk to your employer about a flexible schedule based on when you are most productive. This could be during early morning for some, or late evening for others. If necessary, have a sign to indicate to family or roommates when you cannot be disturbed. For time management try breaking your workday into 25-minute segments.
Set up a workspace that is tidy, organized and well lit. If this is your dining room table, put supplies in a box that can be removed each day. Canadians spend upwards of 11 hours a day on devices so Caitlin McKenzie, president and CEO of Monk Office, reminds us of the importance of proper posture and ergonomics to prevent back pain, headaches and muscle soreness. She recommends starting with a quality task chair and a separate keyboard for maximum adjustability. Your arms should rest comfortably at 90 degrees, thighs are parallel to the floor, and feet are flat. Elevate your laptop so your eyes are level with the top of your screen. Books or boxes can create a footrest, and a sliced pool noodle slipped over the table edge can provide a softer armrest. Use your kitchen counter when you need to stand.
Video conferencing invites the world into our private space. Modify your position or remove anything too personal from the background. Lower your chair or elevate the camera so it is pointing slightly downwards as to avoid nostril and ceiling views. If you are shy on video, push the camera back so you don’t appear as large on screen. Face a window which will provide natural light on your setting.
Move, stretch and exercise to replace the activity you’re missing at the office. Linda Walker, from Peninsula Physiotherapy and Massage, reminds us to change positions every 10 minutes to keep blood flowing through our “tubes and filters.” Try walking up and down your stairs for two to three minutes, or moving around your house while taking a phone call. Drink lots of water which will get you up and walking (to the bathroom), or head outside to inflate your lungs with fresh air while stretching your arms overhead to alleviate “computer posture.”
Nutrition expert Nicole Fetterly, a registered dietitian, echoes the importance of an exercise mind-break before heading to the kitchen where treats can be hard to resist. She adds that humans often feel hungry before thirsty so, before reaching for food, quench your thirst by keeping a jug of water or a pot of tea within reach. Nicole suggests starting your day with a nutritious breakfast, a pre-prepared lunch and a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy, guilt-free snacks.
And finally, reach out and connect with colleagues, friends and family. Rather than put the onus on others to stay connected, set up virtual coffee dates or in-person meetings for a change of scenery. If you need accommodations to improve your work environment, proactively discuss them.
These investments in your workspace will help you be efficient, happy and healthy, so at the end of the day you can leave work and return to your “home.”