Online Coaches: Looking after your Health when Working from Home
By Kyle Riley BSc (hons).
Working from home has increased over the last few years for reasons we are all aware of, but recent statistics show that this change in working environment could well be here to stay. According to projections, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022. Additionally, sudden changes in lifestyle as a result of the pandemic have led to mental and physical health issues among the global population. This factor has dramatically increased awareness around behavioural and mental wellbeing and created huge demand for health coaching to the point that the global health coach market size is projected to be worth around US$ 27.8 billion by 2030.
Put simply, there is a growing demand for Health and Wellness coaches, many of whom can now successfully operate their businesses from home and whilst there are many benefits to this new way of living, there are a number of challenges that can arise from the blurred line created between your work and home environment that may negatively impact health.
Working from home challenges:
- Irregular working hours
- Feelings of isolation
- Maintaining a proper sleep routine
- Poor nutrition/eating habits
- Getting the recommended level of physical activity
- Less time spent outdoors
- Trouble staying motivated
As health professionals, it is important that we are aware of such issues and have ways to deal with them so that we can effectively take care of our own health and that of our clients as more people step into the working from home space.
Here are some tips to stay on top of your daily habits and reduce the negative impact of working from home:
1. Find ways to move throughout the day
For many, the routine of working from home means less non-exercise related daily activity and you would be surprised at how much the walk to the bus stop, up and down the stairs of your apartment and other activities of daily living really add up. It has been found that sitting all day can even offset the health benefits of exercise, which means that even if you are working out a couple of times per week, sitting down for 5+ hours per day can actually eliminate some of the health benefits gained. To counteract this, try to get 10 to 12 minutes of movement for every 45 minutes of desk work spread throughout the day (preferably some of which is outdoors to achieve the benefits of sunlight). A stand up desk can also be used to support your goal to increase activity and offset the risks of long term sitting. The optimal ratio seems to be about 1:1. Meaning for every 30 minutes you sit, complement it with 30 minutes of standing. Switching regularly is most beneficial as long periods of standing for some may feel uncomfortable and aggravate niggles and injuries.
2. Create a predictable pattern of eating
The body loves to work off predictable rhythms and one of the benefits of the daily commute is that it forces you into a daily pattern at least 5 days per week. When working from home, you have the luxury of having breakfast or taking a lunch break whenever suits since some days you don’t have to worry about arriving anywhere by a specific time. Research looking into regular vs irregular meal timings has shown that those who are inconsistent with the times they eat their meals and the number of meals they have each day will have more issues with their blood sugar and weight control compared to those who eat on a set routine with a regular eating pattern. As a result, it is important that you create a daily routine that allows you to have the same number of meals around the same time of day to reduce the metabolic affects of meal timing irregularity.
3. Try to sleep and wake at the same time each day
Similarly, sleep quality is not only affected by the number of hours you sleep but also the regularity of the time you go to sleep and wake up. It can be easy to continue to work for that extra few hours, or watch another couple of episodes of your favourite TV show, knowing that you can balance it out with a few extra hours in bed the next morning. But this irregular sleeping pattern can contribute to a host of disorders such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and blood sugar. Setting yourself a regular working schedule can ensure you go to sleep and wake at a similar time each working day to support the metabolic system.
4. Make time for social activity
Working from home means less time ‘at the water cooler’ and as a consequence, lower socialization. If you share a home with others, ensure you spend time with them to talk about things outside of work. Invite friends over to share a meal or schedule time to catch up outside of the house to reap the benefits of nature and social time. If friends and family are far away, scheduling time for regular phone calls or visual meet ups can be a great way of reducing feelings of isolation and improving overall mental wellbeing.
5. Create clear boundaries between work and home life
It is important to create separation from your working environment and home life. Where possible, try to set up a space in your home to use as an office where files and work related technology can be stored and distractions minimized. This will ensure a greater level of productivity, lower stress and make it much easier to develop habits and work routines that are separate from your personal life.
If you live in a smaller place and do not have the luxury of a spare room for an office, designate an area of the house to use for work hours and create small changes that allow you to differentiate between when that area is in use as an ‘office’. It could be as simple as turning your dining table into a desk during the day, with your laptop on display and other visual cues, then at the end of the day packing it all away, to return it to a dining table once more. The simple act of setting up at the start of the day and packing up at night can be an effective way of helping you to switch off and establish a work-life pattern.
Whilst there is a sense of freedom associated with working from home, creating structure and routine will help to develop clear boundaries between work and home life as well as the development of regular healthy habits that can help to reduce stress, burnout and other health pitfalls associated with working from home. Give the tips above a try and feel free to share with any clients who are currently struggling with finding balance at their home office.
Sitting and exercise: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/22/1277
Sleep timing and health: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/study-links-irregular-sleep-patterns-metabolic-disorders#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20has%20found,sugar%20and%20other%20metabolic%20disorders.
Meal timing and health: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/meal-irregularity-and-cardiometabolic-consequences-results-from-observational-and-intervention-studies/1969DB83C64B09E221A4B8929B7D8A8C