Staying healthy at home is incredibly important, especially when you work for yourself. Getting sick is something that we all want to avoid, but working from home can pose some additional challenges in terms of keeping healthy and the repercussions if you do not.
Taking unexpected time off can compromise how reliable clients or employers perceive you to be and can have a serious impact on income.
Self-employed people don’t really get to take time “off sick”. If we do, nobody else does the work and we don’t get paid! As such, being unwell as a freelancer can be a distinctly miserable experience.
Remote workers are in a slightly better position. Still, frequent bouts of illness are much more likely to be questioned by your employer than if you were working in an office.
With that in mind, this article addresses ways to stay healthy at home – both proactively, to stay well as much as possible, and reactively, when the bugs do get the better of you.
Eat a Good Breakfast
Breakfast provides many benefits to your health and wellbeing.
A good breakfast sets you up for the day and stops you grabbing the biscuit tin mid-morning. Research shows that people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight. Breakfast also has a positive effect on mental performance and can help with concentration. There’s plenty of science behind the old adage that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.”
You’ll find some great healthy breakfast ideas in this book.
Stay Healthy at Home by Going Outside!
Going outside is not always as simple as it sounds, but it is worth it. Staying inside with a lack of fresh air can allow viruses to thrive. If your immune system is running below par you are more likely to catch whatever bugs are doing the rounds.
It can be very easy to stay indoors when you don’t have a daily commute. Fear of being infected, bad weather, a lack of time… there are countless excuses to keep you at home. The best way around this is to make sure you get into the habit of getting out of the house every day – even if it’s just for a short walk.
One of the main reasons for tiredness is a lack of natural sunlight which can affect your sleep patterns. (So it also makes sense to try not to have too many lie-ins or late nights, in order to keep your sleeping pattern as regular as possible.)
During school holidays, it is also a great opportunity to get the children out of the house for a while and possibly tire them out a bit too!
Regular exercise helps control your weight, boosts your immune system, and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.
Take Regular Breaks
Working for too long without a break can cause all sorts of mental and physical problems. Make sure you get up and walk around regularly. Sitting in the same position for long periods can lead to aches and pains. Taking short breaks throughout the day can result in you being more alert and can increase your productivity as well as the quality of your work.
If you are feeling tired or have a headache, or are struggling to concentrate and getting restless, there’s a good chance your body is telling you it’s time for a break. There are very good health and productivity reasons to take a break. If you were working away from the home you would expect regular breaks – the law even insists on it – so make sure you follow the same guidelines if you want to stay healthy at home.
Invest in Ergonomics
Ergonomics is a critical tool for staying healthy at home long-term. Those aches and pains you are feeling might be much more than the need for a short break. Poor posture while working can lead to chronic conditions and constant pain.
There are plenty of expensive items on the market designed to improve office ergonomics. But you may not need any of them. An investment of five or ten minutes of your time may be enough.
Your wrists should be straight at or below elbow level when typing. This can be achieved easily with an adjustable chair but cushions work too.
Your feet should be flat on the ground and your knees level with your hips. Don’t readjust your seat! You simply need a footrest. If you do not have one or can’t find an adequate substitute, use some sturdy books.
Books can also come in handy when it comes to adjusting your monitor height. The top of your monitor should be at or slightly below eye level and an arm’s length away from you.
These quick solutions will help you stay healthy and keep you working until you can invest in more permanent solutions. If you are a remote employee, then ask your employer for help with setting up an ergonomic home office.
Many people new to remote work are struggling with work-life balance. If you work from home it is important to frequently evaluate the boundaries you have put in place.
It can be really easy for work to creep into every waking moment of your life. Unless you establish firm rules regarding working hours, time-off and checking messages then your health will suffer. It will affect you mentally, physically, and emotionally.
You need to determine what limits are appropriate for you and then work with your employer or your clients to ensure that, where possible, those limits are respected.
Talk to People!
As we discussed in a previous article on some of the realities of working from home, it’s easy to fall into a trap of becoming very solitary when you work from home.
Interacting with others is important all year round, but even more so in winter with shorter days and cold dark evenings. You can easily go all day speaking to nobody and that really isn’t good for your mental health.
When out and about, make a point of saying hello to people. Schedule time to meet up with friends and loved ones – even if it has to be for a virtual coffee. These short interactions can really boost your spirits.
Eat Plenty of Fruit and Veg
Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day is something strongly recommended by numerous global health bodies, including the UK National Health Service.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in the vitamins and minerals you need for good health. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent digestion problems. Fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and to boost the health of blood vessels and the immune system.
Keeping a food journal can be a great way to help you maintain healthy eating habits. It may even allow you to notice patterns that will help you uncover food allergies.
Get your Eyes Tested Regularly
Spending long hours in front of computer screens, painting intricate details, or sewing or knitting without natural light can all cause eye strain. It’s therefore really important to take care of your eyes. Tiredness and headaches are both signs that your eyes need a rest, so make sure you get regular eye tests. The checks that ophthalmologists perform can also give you an early warning of other serious health problems.
It’s recommended that most people should have their eyes tested every two years.
Ensure you have a Well-Stocked Medicine Cupboard
Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet will ensure you don’t have to venture out in search of supplies when the need arises.
Being able to lay your hands on a simple cold remedy or headache relief before it takes hold can ensure faster recovery and help you get on with your working day. When you do venture out, regular use of hand sanitiser can also help to prevent you from collecting germs when you are out and about.
Have Adequate Insurance
There is nothing worse than getting sick and having to worry about how you are going to be able to afford treatment.
Remote employees will likely be given some kind of insurance coverage by their employer. While this is great, it is only a start. You need to ensure that all your health needs are covered. You also need to ensure that the coverage is adequate.
Insurance plans designed for freelancers are becoming more common which is good news as health insurance can be very expensive in some countries. We have talked about the insurance needs of freelancers in a previous article. Just remember that as a freelancer getting sick is doubly expensive because you do not get paid if you cannot work.
While insurance companies do offer insurance against illness, it’s unlikely to cover you for everyday colds and bugs. So you still need to do your part!
You and your family do not need to be unhealthy, even in these unprecedented times – IF you follow these tips to stay healthy at home!
Karen Fleming is a bookworm who loves using her experience to help others. When she isn’t reading, writing, or taking yet another online class, she is probably doing some one-on-one tutoring or enjoying a good movie with her husband and two daughters.