There’s never been a better time to master the art of telecommuting and that includes taking care of your health while working from home (WFH).
Self-care is an important aspect of our telecommuting lifestyle. It is arguably even more important for us to take better care of ourselves when we’re working from home.
In the office, we move about a little more – we walk to the pantry, washroom and meeting rooms. When the physical spaces for work and home are distinct, it’s also easier for us to ‘switch off from work’ once we have arrived home.
On the other hand, when we WFH, we may end up sitting in front of the computer for eight hours straight. We forget to stretch our legs and incorporate other healthy habits into our new WFH routine. Some of us might even find it difficult to stop thinking about work as the line between work and home is blurred.
What can you do to take better care of yourself? Here’s how you can start a healthy WFH routine and boost your health in little ways throughout the day.
Whenever we go through life changes, whether a new job, a new baby or, in this case, a new workplace, we need to make some changes. We have to adapt to accommodate what’s new. A new routine that takes into account these changes, one that’s healthy from the get-go, will help us to thrive as telecommuters.
Creating a new routine starts with a schedule. Take some moments to plan a simple schedule that includes time for:
Make your schedule as consistent as possible. Sleeping and waking times should be regular. Exercising, too. Check out
our schedule of easy-to-follow workout videos - with workouts uploaded at 8am, 12.30pm and 6.30pm daily, you'll definitely find one you enjoy!
Also, carve out family time and work time clearly. This will help you to “switch off” from work and vice-versa. Slot in time for relaxing and socializing, too, to give your mental health little boosters from time to time.
Having a routine makes us more efficient and creates structure in our lives, helping us to get more comfortable and familiar with what we have to do each day, especially in this time where there is a lot of uncertainty.
New routines take a bit of time to settle into. If you miss a beat here and there, it’s perfectly normal. A schedule is a guide or a vision of how you would like your day to unfold. It’s not a regimen that we must adhere to and, most definitely, not something to stress over. Self-care involves listening and tuning into ourselves, our bodies. Do just that throughout the day. And you’ll know when you should lean in to follow your schedule and when to put it aside.
Working from home gives you the opportunity to work out from home too. Now that you don’t have to commute, you’ve got a couple of extra hours every day to do some solid regular sessions at home!
One of the best parts about exercising at home is that you don’t have to lug your exercise barang to work. All you have to do is put on your gear and you’re ready to roll. And when you’re done, you can cool down and step straight into your shower.
Slip into something that’s comfortable. If you enjoy dressing up just like you would if you were headed to the gym, go ahead. If you prefer to burn calories in a tee and shorts, that’s just as sweet. Either way, safety comes first! And that includes your workout area. Choose a space that’s safe and sufficiently spacious. Remove anything that might be a hazard like wires on the ground or a small stool that’s in the way to prevent injuries.
The trick to exercising regularly is to make workouts enjoyable so they don’t feel like work. We instinctively do more of the things we like – things that are enjoyable and give us pleasure.
A way to make this more fun and interesting would be to do it together with a family member so that you can encourage each other. When you exercise together, you’ll hardly notice the time passing as you burn calories, get your heart pumping and egg each other on. More of a music lover? Turn the music up and move to the groove. Within the first 5 minutes, you’ll be feeling pumped up and happy.
Doing a workout routine that you enjoy makes a big difference as well. Some of us prefer HIIT workout, while others like dancing, lifting weights and holding yoga poses. There are many types of exercises you can do at home, from HIIT circuits to cardio-dances, pilates and even kickboxing. Working up a sweat can be very enjoyable! If you’re not sure where to start, try these
3-minute exercises and progress to this 20-minute workout.
Healthy, nutrient-packed food boosts your energy levels. Junk, unhealthy food has the opposite effect and makes us feel sluggish. Make eating healthy meals a part of your new WFH routine.
One sure-fire way to have healthy meals is to cook them yourself! As the executive chef or chef de cuisine of your kitchen, you have complete control over the ingredients, cooking methods and portions.
Need a dash of inspiration? Check out these mouth-watering recipes. Need a refresher on how much protein, veggies and carbs per meal? Use
My Healthy Plate. Looking for healthier ingredients? Select products with the
Healthier Choice Symbols when you shop.
Before you put on your apron and run off to the kitchen with the gusto of a gourmet chef, here’s one more bit of advice – eat a variety of food in the right portions to reap the maximum nutrients from them.
There’s one more upside to eating balanced, nutritious meals – you’ll have fewer cravings! Unhealthy snacks can tip the scales, turning your healthy diet into an unhealthy one. When you feel peckish, grab a
Fruits are a fantastic choice. They’re packed with all sorts of stuff that’s good for you, from antioxidants to vitamins and fibre. When it comes to fruit,
go for variety – the more colours the better. Prefer a crunchy snack? Have a handful of nuts. They contain healthy unsaturated fats and, like fruits, are packed with vitamins and minerals.
Sleep is one of the most important parts of your new WFH routine. When your workspace is at home, you might find yourself working way past your bedtime, even though you only intended to reply to “just one more email”.
A bedtime routine can help! Set a time to start preparing for bed every night. When the clock strikes, stop whatever you’re doing and start winding down. Turn down the lights, switch off the computer, take a warm shower and listen to relaxing music or read a book. A consistent routine can
signal your body to sleep at the same time daily.
Aim for at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and recharged. (Referenced from
National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: Final Report - Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation (sleephealthjournal.org). When we’re deprived of sleep, we have difficulty concentrating, we’re sluggish and we make more impulsive decisions. We’re also more easily annoyed and more prone to negative thoughts.
Sometimes life does get in the way. A crying baby, a last-minute report, a spouse in need of a listening ear might make us push past our bedtimes. When those things happen, here’s what you can do – take a 20-minute power nap during lunch the next day. A short nap can give you a burst of alertness and boost your energy levels.
Now that you have a new routine with blocks of time for exercise, healthy meals and quality sleep, incorporate some healthy habits throughout the day.
Sitting for long hours in front of the computer can put a strain on your back and your neck. A good posture helps. Now and then, check on your posture. Are you hunching or slouching? Are you craning your neck? Is the screen at eye level?
The moment you catch yourself with poor posture, adjust. If you’ve developed some poor sitting habits like slouching or sitting with your knees tucked under your chair, you might find a healthier posture takes time to develop. Give yourself time.
With fewer runs to the printer and pantry, sitting for long periods can cause aches and pains – no matter how good our posture. That’s because tension builds up in our muscles from stress. When we are working, our bodies react to perceived threats by tensing up. We hunch, tense our shoulders and narrow our focus, ready to guard against threats and defend ourselves.
Releasing the tension every hour can help your body to relax. To release tension and stiffness, streeeetch. Try to take a break every 30 minutes. Stand and stretch for 3 minutes. You can also use these simple muscle relaxation techniques or these pilates exercises to release tension. If you’re in video calls all day, there are subtle stretches that are perfect for relieving stress like tilting your head from side-to-side to stretch your neck, and shoulder shrugs.
Better still, design your workspace to encourage micro-movements. For example, place files that you’ll need at the opposite end of your workspace so you’ll need to stretch or take a few steps to get hold of them. Deliberately put some distance between yourself and the printer. Be creative! Come up with as many little ways to get yourself releasing work tension throughout the day. You’ll also end up with a better night’s sleep!
In place of face-to-face meetings, we video call when we telecommute. If you’re wondering whether the prolonged screen time may be tiring for your eyes, the answer is “Yes!” which is why self-care is so important when we WFH.
If you’ve got the air-conditioning turned on or the fan blowing right at you, it can cause eye dryness which adds to
Here’s an eye-care routine you can try out:
A pair of well-cared-for eyes makes a happy telecommuter!
Another way to take good care of yourself while WFH is to stay hydrated.
Drink at least six to eight glasses a day – that’s what your body requires for essential body functions like digestion and circulating oxygen.
Do we need to drink that much water? The short answer is: “Yes, we do!” Up to 60% of the adult human body is made of water. Our vital organs such as the brain, heart and lungs are made up of even higher percentages of water.
Being home means you can do some fun, creative things like jazz up your H2O. Sprigs of mint, animal-shaped ice cubes or frozen fruits are just some of the things you can add to make drinking water a treat for yourself and your family.
Telecommuting, especially when you’ve worked in an office most of your life, is a change. When we hear our colleagues raving about how much they love it when we’re having trouble adjusting, we may feel negative about the situation we are in.
We can choose to think more positively to make the best out of the situation! For example, now that we no longer need to commute, we have that bit of “extra time” to ourselves. Isn’t it wonderful to have this extra time? Think about how you’d like to use that time. You could do something you enjoy like reading or painting. You could also just use the time to leisurely finish tasks you’ve always rushed through. Or you could simply use the time for self-reflection.
One way to get these positive thoughts bubbling is to make a list of all that’s positive about telecommuting. Maybe it’s being able to work with your pet keeping vigil at your feet. Maybe it’s the opportunity to learn new tools for video conferencing. Maybe it’s picking up new skills to facilitate meetings virtually. Big or small, write each one of them down.
Doing these things can boost our mood and make it easier for us to stave off negative thoughts. The trouble with thinking negatively is that it often leads to negative behaviour. Suppose we were to think negatively about telecommuting. We’d be more resistant to learning how to make video calls. We might even perceive our boss as “the enemy” for making us learn new things. This can quickly spiral into negative consequences.
That’s why directing our minds to what’s working rather than focus on what’s not is important – we get better results when we do. Bear in mind that positive thinking is not about forcing yourself to believe everything is fine and dandy. It’s about squarely acknowledging your anxieties and actively choosing to focus on opportunities to turn the situation into something healthy for you. Maintaining positivity takes work!
Working from home has its upsides but it can get lonely, especially if there’s no one to connect with at home. For most of us, work provides a social environment. When we telecommute, we become aware that we no longer have colleagues readily available for a warm “hello” or a quick chat.
Reach out. Be that person that texts the other people in the team to say “hi”. Start new rituals like saying “good morning” every day via text. Organise a team lunch over video chat so you can still eat together just like you would at the office. Invite your workmate to a video tea break to catch up on work and exchange WFH tips. Whatever it is, don’t stay isolated and lonely.
Carve out time to connect and make it work with a bit of help from technology!
In times of uncertainty and change, a routine provides structure and comfort. The more entrenched our healthy routine, the more our health is on autopilot. Sufficient sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercises help us to stay positive and feel more energetic in the face of challenges and negative news.
Throughout the day, small acts of self-care will make you a happier telecommuter. Pamper your eyes, stay hydrated, make sure you are seated comfortably and stretch often. And whenever you feel isolated or lonely, reach out.
If you are looking for the latest updates on COVID-19, always tune in to official sources from the Ministry of Health. Continue to practise good hygiene habits like washing your hands frequently with soap even when at home. When everyone pitches in, we will be able to stay well to stay strong together.
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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