It is estimated that over 4 million people in the UK work from home and this figure is expected to continue to rise as employers and employees alike recognise the many benefits of this way of working. There is even a national day dedicated to it – National Work from Home Day on May 18th – which aims to promote smarter working practices and to increase workplace wellness.
As someone who works from home, I could spend hours going on about the many perks. From flexible hours, saving money on travel and not having to dress up in smart clothes every day, once you’ve switched to working from home you’ll never want to go back. One question I get asked a lot however, is how I manage to separate work from home life and how on earth I motivate myself to workout when the lure of the sofa and a full biscuit tin are forever lurking.
With this in mind I have put together some of the ways I fit exercise into my working day and explore why it is important to workout out when you work from home.
Why Working Out At Home Is Important
There are many different reasons why people who work from home should make the effort to fit exercise into their day. Aside from the obvious fitness and health reasons, exercise has been proven to help productivity levels and increase creativity and lateral thinking in workers.
There’s no doubt that it’s harder to motivate yourself to exercise when it’s just you alone at home, especially when your mind is probably telling you that you should be hard at it. It’s as if we need to justify being at home and therefore feel as though we should be working harder and continuously without break. But this is ridiculous. If we allow our fitness and health to drop down the priority list, it’s a subconscious message to ourselves that we don’t matter. And this has a knock on effect on our confidence, our energy, our self-esteem, and ultimately our purpose.
In my own experience of working from home I have found that without incorporating exercise into my daily routine, I feel not only very isolated, but also more lethargic. My body feels stiffer and aches from sitting for too long in the same spot, and as for my mental health, well that deteriorates quite rapidly without exercise and I definitely notice a decline in my productivity levels and the standard of work I produce. Exercise gives me back my sanity and I have learnt that the best combination for me is to mix group exercise for the social element, with the convenience of strength training and HIIT cardio sessions at home.
Here’s how I’ve incorporated my workouts into my working day at home:
Create Your Space
In an ideal world you’d create a workout space in a different area to your workspace, as you want to be able to switch off and not be distracted by pinging inboxes and phone calls. However, not all of us have the luxury of extra space in our homes and ultimately it’s about doing the best with what you have. First and foremost it is essential that during the time you work out you turn your phone and laptop to mute so that you aren’t tempted to sneak a peek at any incoming emails. There is literally zero point in taking a break if you’re not actually taking a break!
You don’t need expensive equipment or big all singing all dancing gym machines to have a good workout. Things like hand weights, resistance bands and kettlebells are all great inexpensive kit to have stored at home. And if there is just one thing you should invest in, it’s a good quality gym or yoga mat for you to workout on. You can look on Eveque for inspiration to help get your home gym kitted out with a few workout essentials.
No matter where you create your home workout space, ultimately it should be fit for purpose, by which I mean clean, comfortable and clutter free. The rest is then up to you!
In just the same way you would schedule a meeting or a client phone call, it is important to take the same approach when it comes to exercise. Because in all honesty, if it’s not scheduled in your calendar it’s unlikely to happen. Exercise is one of those things that we find easy to move down our list of priorities. And so when our work load increases, or we have a deadline looming, if a workout hasn’t been scheduled into our working day it’s all too easy to bin it off and then find ourselves desk bound for hours at a time.
Think carefully about the time of day that suits you best. It could be that you’re someone who prefers to get exercise ‘out of the way’ and so scheduling it in for when you first get up in the morning will work well for you. Or perhaps you like to break your day up, by taking a big chunk of time during your lunch break to help clear your brain in order to try and avoid the mid afternoon slump. Or maybe you’d rather leave it until the end of your working day, so that you can use it as a way of unwinding.
I fall into the ‘let’s get this done’ category, because if I don’t do exercise first thing I usually manage to wheedle my way out of it some how or other. Having said that, since working from home I have joined a running club and I tend to run with them one evening a week. Again it all boils down to how you manage your time and when you schedule your workouts in. If it’s written down, I know I will do it. If it’s not… then I don’t fancy my chances!
Take Regular Breaks
On top of your scheduled workout time, it’s advisable to have plenty of mini breaks throughout your working day too. It can be as simple as getting up to make a cup of coffee or simply walking up and down the stairs a couple of times, but it’s those regular breaks that give you the opportunity to stretch and to release any tension that may have built up in your body from sitting staring at a screen for too long. Plus it’s a great way to recharge your batteries and refresh your mind.
Government guidelines recommend you have a 5-10 minute break for every hour you spend working at a screen. Use this time to get up and wander around, or if the weather’s nice head outside for a boost of vitamin D. You might think you’re getting more work done by sitting down and grinding for the entire day, but actually you are more likely to get more work done and be more productive by having these regular breaks.
Find An Accountability Partner
Being accountable to someone is an absolutely fantastic way to make sure you keep to a fitness routine. And with so many people working from home these days it should be easy for you find someone to buddy up with. It may be someone you are already friends with, someone you know through a sporting club or from the gym, or perhaps someone you may have met at a local networking group. The chances are if they work from home, they too will need a kick up the backside to keep themselves motivated when it comes to their fitness. You are far less likely to come up with an excuse if it means letting someone down by not keeping to your commitments. Take it in turns to workout at each other’s houses, or why not simply go out for a walk to blow away the cobwebs at the same time. You could even schedule in an active business meeting that involves walking and talking, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Think About How You Sit
Good posture is a huge component of a healthy body and contributes significantly to our overall health and fitness. When you work for a company it is standard practice for your work desk and office chair to go through various checks to ensure they are ergonomically suited to you. When you work from home, it is highly unlikely you will have this luxury! There is lots of information available online about how to sit correctly and how to avoid developing repetitive strain injury from using your keyboard and mouse pad incorrectly. Do your research and think about the type of desk and chair that you currently use. Many new products will state whether they are ergonomically tested, and others are specifically designed with posture in mind. You can buy chairs that have a seat like an inflatable ball, which help to strengthen your core muscles, and you might also like to think about investing in a standing desk or even a treadmill desk if you really want to take things up a notch.
You Are What You Eat
It’s one thing getting on top of your fitness when you work from home, but it’s going to be completely wasted if you then spend all afternoon slowly making your way through the entire contents of your biscuit tin. Temptation is everywhere, but the one thing you can control is what food you have in the house. Make sure your kitchen is stocked up with lots of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, energy balls etc. and keep any ‘treats’ hidden away out of sight. Fill your freezer with frozen berries so that you can make yourself a healthy smoothie and of course always make sure there is coffee in the house!
Exercise should be included in our daily routine no matter where you work or what you do, however when you work from home it is more important than ever to keep on top of it and to make sure you don’t let bad habits slip in. Hopefully you will take inspiration from the advice I’ve given above so that it can help you to continue working out when you work from home.