WFH: life and health hacks in a home office
Many people have been working from home for months. What should we be paying particular attention to when it comes to looking after our health?
Bianca Suter: There are some ergonomic factors that are essential. If you don't follow these, you can risk damaging your health. This can manifest itself in a number of ways. A few classic examples are eye problems, difficulty concentrating, headaches, pain and tension, inflammation in nerves, tendons and the joints in your hands and arms. And we shouldn't overlook the impact being isolated from our colleagues and team has on our mental health. Not only that, it's harder to keep work time blurring into free time when we're WFH.
How can we combat this?
The better your home office is set up, the less likely you are to have these kinds of problems. Some of the most important things are a large enough desk (160 × 80 cm is ideal), a height-adjustable chair, an extra monitor, a separate mouse and keyboard (not the one built into your laptop) and a well-lit space to work. You also want to make sure you have natural light, enough room around you to move and nothing you're likely to trip over. There's a lot to consider.
Office chairs are always a hot topic. What do you recommend?
First off, you need an adjustable chair. Alter the height of the chair so your feet can comfortably sit flat on the floor and your knees are at an angle slightly over 90°. Make sure you're sitting right at the back of the chair. As far as seat depth goes, you'll want to set it so you only have two to three fingers' space between the back of your knee and the edge of the chair. The thing to check with the back rest is that the lumbar support is at the height of the lower back or the lumbar spine. Set the resistance of the back rest so you can lean on it without any pressure. It should have a few centimetres' give. In terms of the arm rests, they need to be at the height of the elbows when your shoulders are relaxed, almost slouched. And last but not least, if you also have a height adjustable desk, make sure it's elbow height so you can use the keyboard easily with a relaxed posture.
You mentioned natural light. What should we do if we only have a small window in our office?
Your eyes need good light when you're working. It helps avoid headaches and feeling tired. Natural light is better than artificial light. But if you don't have enough daylight at your desk, you can opt for artificial lighting and a desk light that mirrors natural light. Just make sure you don't get any glare or reflections on your screen.
I often catch myself being so sedentary when I'm working from home. What can I do to change that?
One of the main causes of general health problems, such as aches and pains, and heart disease is lack of movement during the working day. You can hardly make up for it with a stroll in the evening or doing some exercise at the weekend. But what you can do is take short breaks to bring some movement to your day. For instance, standing up while you're on the phone, using the rocker function on your chair now and again or going for a short walk at lunch are all great ways to combat a sedentary lifestyle. If you've been at home all day, it's worth forcing yourself out in the evening on your bike or for a walk with the dog.
Around the world, the recommendation is to have a 60-30-10 split in your day. That means allocating your work day, or preferably each hour, into 60% sitting, 30% standing and 10% walking.
We've covered ergonomic workspaces, natural light and keeping active. What else is important?
When we're working from home, healthy eating is often the thing we neglect. But it's so important, as a healthy diet supports both our physical and mental health. The best way to get around this is to make sure you have enough healthy snacks in the house, such as fruit, nuts and vegetables. It's also a good idea to plan your meal times. Start your working day with a full breakfast. Have a light lunch and then enjoy a good dinner after work. Try to avoid eating at your desk. And always take time for your meal rather than multitasking while eating. Another important tip: don't forget to drink plenty of water. Keeping a water bottle on your desk helps remind you to drink one to two litres a day. Keeping any unhealthy snacks well away from your desk also helps avoid temptations.
WFH can also have an impact on our mental health. What's the best way to combat isolation
Friendships and social connections at work have a positive effect on stress management and our wellbeing. So if you're working from home a lot, it's a good idea to include regular team days where you meet up in the office if that's possible. I also prefer video calls over traditional phone calls. It lets others see you and your emotions. And it gives a feeling of closeness. Don't forget to talk to your colleagues about your day. After all, that's what you'd do if you were in the office.
How do you get a good work-life balance?
For me, work is part of life. That's why I call it life balance. Obviously, working from home gives you more of a say in how your work and private life fit together. But it can lead to free time and work time blurring, with no clear distinction between them. That's why it's important to set working hours. When do you start? When is your working day over? Talk about it with those around you and let them know when you're available and when you're not. Get dressed for work – don't stay in your pyjamas all day. Some people are also more easily distracted at home. So it can help to be more disciplined with yourself and work through a to-do list. But when you're having a break, make sure to take one. Leave your desk – maybe even go outside for some fresh air. And importantly, set a clear cut-off at the end of the working day. For example, an end of the day routine that involves shutting down your computer and tidying your desk. I know WFH requires you to take more responsibility. But I hope these tips help to give you a healthy routine at home.
Thanks for the tips, Bianca
Senior Communications Manager, Zurich