As we move forward into the future, working from home has become less of a dream and more of a reality for many people out there. With the advance of technology, we’re being exposed to jobs that didn’t even exist ten years ago—and more people are leaning into the home office lifestyle.
We’re tempted by all the good things that working from home has to offer—the flexibility to make your own schedule, the freedom from a frustrating commute, and the ability to spend more time with the family.
However, many people may not realize that transitioning into a work-from-home lifestyle isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Without rules and boundaries in place, you may find that you actually have less free time than you did before, that your waistline is expanding, your lower back is aching, and your mental health is suffering.
Luckily, you can make sure that doesn’t happen with these ten tips for maintaining a healthy home office.
1. Establish A Schedule—Your Time Is Valuable
Whether you’re a freelancer or an employee, it’s easy to become a slave to your work when you work from home. Some clients may expect unrealistically quick turnaround on difficult projects, and you may be inclined to comply in order to keep them happy. That will require you to work nights, weekends, and other inconvenient times in order to meet unnecessarily demanding deadlines.
Let your employer or clients know from the get-go that just like everyone else, you have set work hours in which they can reach you. You are unavailable to work or answer calls on nights and weekends.
With an already established client, you may wish to bend the rules once in a while for an emergency project with a tight deadline—but let them know you’ll also charge double.
2. Get Dressed
You wouldn’t show up for an important meeting with investors in your pajamas, so why show up to work that way? Treat your job and your professional self with respect, and you’ll find that your work follows suit.
When you stay in pajamas all day long, you end up feeling slow and sluggish, and you may even be tempted to crawl right back into bed. Instead, set your alarm for the same time each morning and start your day off with an invigorating shower. Get dressed, and you’ll approach work feeling focused, energized, and ready to conquer the day.
3. Get Organized
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to set up systems in both your work life and home life that will help keep you on track.
If you’re a procrastinator, working from home may be especially challenging for you. Fight that tendency with templates and work schedules that keep you on track throughout the month so that you won’t need to cram right before big deadlines.
Make sure that all your invoices, receipts, tax paperwork, and other important documents have homes and that you can access them quickly and easily.
Apps can help to keep your clients, projects, deadlines, and other general information in order.
As for your home life, nothing is more helpful than a shared calendar in which you can log doctors’ appointments, parent-teacher meetings, family events, and birthdays as well as reminders and notes according to each family member.
4. Make Your Workspace Ergonomic
One of the most common complaints related to work is back pain. This comes as no surprise, considering that most people sit in chairs all day that aren’t properly adjusted. They also go without stretching or walking for hours on end. The human body simply isn’t built to sit in one position for an extended period of time.
Adjust your work space and make it perfect for your needs by hiring an ergonomist or occupational therapist for a consultation. You’ll find out exactly what type of office chair you need, how to adjust it to your body type, and how to set up your desk so that you can easily maintain good posture throughout the day instead of ending up with back pain, neck pain, or headaches in the long run.
Set a timer for once an hour for a 5- to 10-minute stretching session. You may even want to set up a standing desk in your office that you can switch over to every once in a while to keep from sitting all day long.
5. Create Steadfast Boundaries at Home
Anyone who asks why your kid is in daycare if you’re “home all day anyway” has either never had kids or has never had a job.
If you want your family time to be sacred, your work time should be sacred as well. You need to fully focus and commit yourself to work in order to be effective at all. That means office door closed, no distractions, and no interruptions. Little ones need proper daycare or supervision (that isn’t you) during your working hours.
6. Don’t Push Off Lunch
One of the most important factors in having a healthy home office is your eating schedule. Because you’re working on your own time, it may be easy to get distracted by a project and push off lunch, which can lead to overeating the rest of the day.
Your proximity to your kitchen can also lead to unhealthy eating habits, and you may end up snacking on unhealthy foods more than you should be.
Make a regular eating schedule and stick to it. Eat a hearty breakfast before you get to work and set a timer for lunch. Put your work aside and eat a filling lunch with protein, whole grains, and vegetables, and you’ll have enough energy to pull through the afternoon without needing a reboot.
7. Stock Up on Healthy Foods
If you have unhealthy snacks in the pantry, you may be tempted to grab a handful when the mid-afternoon craving strikes.
Instead, make sure that you always have healthy snack options available and ready to eat when you need them the most. Prepare veggie sticks and cut-up fruit and keep those snacks at eye level in the fridge so that they’re the first things you see when you want to graze.
8. Make Exercise Part of Your Routine
Don’t let the shuffle from your bed to your desk (and back again) be the only physical activity you do today.
Whether you enjoy exercising early in the a.m., in the mid-afternoon, or late in the afternoon, you can make it happen with your at-home work schedule. You just need to plan in advance.
When you sit down to make your weekly or monthly work schedule, plan for four workout sessions per week, allowing yourself an hour of workout time each session. Not only will this habit keep your body in good shape, but your energy levels, mental health, and cognition will benefit as well.
Exercise helps you to release tension and relax your mind and body so that you’re more focused and efficient when you sit down to work.
9. Keep in Touch
Social interaction can easily become a thing of the past once you build an at-home business.
It’s important both for your professional and your social life to keep up with relationships outside your home. Reach out, interact, and stay in touch with people who work in your field or in similar fields. Many business opportunities come from networking. Attend workshops, conferences, and meetings, and stay active on your business’s social media.
By the same token, make sure that your personal relationships don’t suffer, because many people who work from home find it way too easy to slip into a hermit lifestyle. Plan to meet up with a friend once a week and schedule phone calls just to catch up.
10. Invest in Your Office
You don’t necessarily need to invest a lot of money in your home office, but you should invest time and effort into making the space your own. It should be a dream office you’ve always wished for so that you’ll have no trouble spending the necessary number of hours in there that it takes to get your work done.
Make sure your office has plenty of natural light, and that the walls are painted a color that is both energizing and soothing. Decorate your office with photos and paintings that make you smile, and add a few relaxing and tension-relieving objects, such as scented candles, essential oils and a diffuser, and a yoga mat for stretching.
Bring in a jug of iced lemon water to sip on throughout the day. It’s the little details that help to change any old room into a healthy home office.
The only way to excel in your healthy home office is to make sure that you’re taking proper care of yourself in all areas of your life. Establish healthy eating and exercise habits, and make sure to invest in your business and personal relationships. Create boundaries and ground rules to protect yourself from getting distracted.
It’s simple math, really. When you’re able to put in 100% to your work during work hours, you’ll be able to put in 100% to your family outside of work hours.