During this time of uncertainty with the worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus sweeping through and altering everyone’s lives, it is more important than ever we prioritise our health.
This is not just by practising social distancing to reduce our chances of contracting the virus and passing onto those vulnerable. It is also to decrease the likelihood of suffering from mental health disorders and help to prevent other areas of our physical health declining due to being indoors a lot more.
It is vital whilst working from home, to keep your daily life as normal as possible, just like if we were back at work and not in lockdown, to reduce us feeling so cut off from society.
Here are some tips I have for you all to employ, to help you feel more productive, healthier and hopefully to make this time go a little bit quicker with more enjoyment!
Start by writing a brief timetable of how your days are going to be organised. Think back to when you were at work, you didn’t just ‘wing it’ at the office, so this shouldn’t be any different.
Here is a typical day that you can create for when working at home:
0700 – Wake Up
07.15-07.45 – Shower/Breakfast/Coffee
0800 – Check/Respond to e-mails
0900 – Virtual Meeting with Team
1000 – Admin from meeting and future meetings in week.
1100 – Break (snack)
1130 – Work
1200 – Exercise (daily run outside or home bodyweight/resistance band workout – depending on equipment available)
1300 – Lunch
1400 – Virtual Meeting with client
1500 – Work
1600 – Break (snack)
1630 – Work/Prepare for next working day.
1730 – End of working day.
*Obviously your day may look a lot different, but this is a typical example of organising your day to become more productive!
As an Osteopath, this is an area I talk about a lot to my corporate patients in particular.
I have also given talks and consulted with companies in relation to ergonomics and posture in the workplace to reduce neck and back pain. It is something which can massively reduce painful episodes, but also improve productivity in the workplace and it is shown that companies and professionals that adopt these practices, attract more professionals to those companies and the longevity of their staff is greater.
Here is a diagram of a typical desk set up to get you started.
My main cue points for a quick set-up if you have a ‘hot desk’ environment is:
· Adjust seat so hips are just higher than your knees and with an ample amount of lumbar support as to not enforce excessive extension in the low back. Acquire a chair that is comfortable and ideally on wheels so you can be more mobile around your desk to avoid you twisting and turning your body, which can put unnecessary strain on your body.
· Maintain a ‘good’ posture. This can sound like a loose term, but I view this as a relaxed posture, sitting your shoulders on your ribcage without pinching your shoulder blades together and imagine your head vertically straight so it is not tilting forward or backwards.
· Your screen should be positioned in line with your eyesight (as seen in the image). If you use duel screens, then angle them slightly inwards (so they form a ‘V’) and have your eyes pointing towards the middle of them.
· Your keyboard and mouse should be brought as close to you as possible without making the need to shrug or pull your shoulders back. The height of the desk should then be altered (where possible) so your elbows are at 90 degrees. If the desk height can’t be changed, then change the height of your chair to accommodate this and use a footrest, if possible.
· Take breaks as often as necessary. I recommend 1-2 small breaks every hour. Breaks don’t need to be long, as little as 30 seconds can give your body the rest it needs.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, the UK Government has advised to only go outside once a day for exercises, so use this as an opportunity to go for a walk or run for 30-60 minutes. Remember to keep your distance (at least 2 metres) and try to avoid the park or popular running routes.
Where possible, I recommend if you have one, exercise in your garden. If you don’t have a garden, then your living room is absolutely fine.
Using your bodyweight is a great tool to improve strength and improve your general fitness whilst maintaining good joint mobility.
If you feel completely lost in ‘what’ to do for exercise at home, then starting with Joe Wicks 9am weekday PE class is a great way to start. You can find this on his YouTube channel by clicking here.
If you want something more specific to strength, fitness and improving joint mobility (not that Joe’s PE class isn’t!) then I will be putting out some content over on my Instagram in the next few days! So, keep your eyes peeled!
Here are some good tools to use in your home to help you with your workouts:
· Resistance Band
· Cans (literally food cans are good to use as some light weights that are easy to hold) or fill empty containers with water or sand.
· Foam Roller (see below)
· Tennis/Golf Balls (for trigger point release on tight muscles to help relieve tight areas)
· Rucksack – Place objects within the rucksack to make it heavier. This can then be used as a weight that you don’t have to ‘hold’.
· Rope – This is where you can get inventive, if you have something strong to tie the ropes to, these can be used as a makeshift replacement for TRX/Gym rings. As a bonus as these won’t have handles so you can work your grip to improve wrist strength.
Example Workout: Foam Roll – 5mins Tennis Ball Trigger Release – 5mins Specific stretches for the workout ahead and for any tight areas you may have. In this workout below, I’d want to focus on stretching your legs/hips/low back and your shoulders. Push Ups x 10 Air Squats x 10 Straight-arm Bridge (plank but with arms straight) x 30secs - Repeat 5 times. Break between for as long as needed. Resistance Band Pulls/Row x10 Lunges x 10/each Straight-arm Bridge (plank but with arms straight) x 30secs - Repeat 5 times. Break between for as long as needed. Foam Roll – 5mins Tennis Ball Trigger Release – 5mins
*I like to use a foam roller before and after a workout, as you can never roll too much!
With being at home all day and only leaving the house for essentials and a daily walk/run, it is easy to skip meals or have them at strange times. I’ve even been victim to missing a meal or having dinner ridiculously late due to being distracted with work.
An easy way to remind yourself to eat and to eat properly for that matter, is to plan! It is a waste to plan a whole week ahead as that’s unrealistic (especially with the difficulty in getting certain ingredients and food items in the supermarket right now), but in the morning or night before, plan the day ahead as to when you’re going to eat and what you will have based on what you have in your cupboards!
In the first section, I talked about your daily routine so from that you should have when you’re going to eat and now you have to plan what you are going to eat.
Simply write down your 3 main meals and go from there:
Breakfast – 3 scrambled eggs with spinach on 1 piece of brown toast, coffee.
Lunch – Tuna salad (with peppers, tomatoes, onion, carrot)
Dinner - Baked sweet potato with grilled chicken breast and broccoli.
Snacks – Fruit, rice cakes, yogurt, nuts.
*In your allocated snack times, have just a small ‘handful’ or this can quickly turn into a small meal! (obviously you can’t have a handful of yoghurt…but you get the idea!)
As a last note on this idea, if you want to reign in your calories, a good idea can be to document how much you’re eating, by counting calories. I wouldn’t recommend this full-time, but once you’re used to eating your ideal number of calories, you can stop and periodically come back to counting to bring yourself back to reality.
An app I like to use is My Fitness Pal:
Screen Activity (News!)
I can’t express how much I recommend and insist on this point. With cabin fever sitting on our shoulders now and having the pressures of laptop screens, phones, TV constantly at our disposal at home, you can easily spend an entire day just staring at screens.
This is not good for anyone, which is why I recommend a structured working day in my first point. Taking a break every so often is key and not only to give your body a rest from your desk but also giving you some mental clarity to read a book, ring a family member or do some jobs around the house. Anything to break up the day to give you some screen free time!
I personally make sure I have at least 1 hour of screen free time in the day where I read a book or do some jobs around the house (which are plenty, as I’ve just been too busy to do them before the lockdown!).
Personally, for me I only watch the news when the government gives their daily updates in the afternoon. Anything outside of that and it’s just recirculating, unfortunately always bad news, and is not good for anyone to constantly be reading/watching it.
Cognitive/Non-Screen Time Tasks
After a few days and maybe even couple of weeks now of working from home, it can feel as though we may be on autopilot and so it is important for us to be challenged cognitively.
This can be achieved through many ways, and I’d recommend doing this in a way that interests you.
My wife loves jigsaw puzzles and card games, two things which I don’t particularly enjoy, so while she does these things independently, I enjoy reading and keeping myself busy doing jobs around the house. We do however like to play boardgames with each other like backgammon. Whatever floats your boat as they say!
When you plan your day/week ahead, make sure you include something non-screen related to do (this can still be work by the way), just make sure to not include a screen:
· Read a book
· Domestic jobs/DIY
· Facetime family/friends
· Put pen to paper – journal/plan
· Write a diary
This is probably my worst habit when not having to be anywhere. I let my personal tasks intrude on my sleep.
If we are extra vigilant, we can get into a more structured sleeping routine. Sleep is SO important, probably more important than exercise at this stage! It keeps us mentally and physically healthy. If you tried to go 2 days with no sleep, you wouldn’t be able to function well, do your job or anything else really. So, this whole ‘getting up at 5am’ to ‘seize’ the day is all very well to be productive but if you’re jeopardizing sleep then it’s pointless.
However! This is not a ticket to nap throughout the day and be lazy, too much sleep on the other hand can make you groggy and unproductive.
As per my previous point, if you think you are not utilising your sleep properly and would like to know more, I thoroughly recommend this book:
Matthew Walker is a thoroughly renowned professor of neuroscience and psychology at The University of California, Berkley, so he knows his stuff and is worth listening to.
Some patients/friends I’ve recommended this book to have found it quite heavy going. So, if this is you then check out these podcasts where Matthew Walker features with the incredible Dr Rangan Chatterjee to discuss the importance of sleep and how it affects us. Find the podcast(s) here, here and here.
These are quite a few points but obviously there are other factors that can affect our daily work routine, for example, you may be looking after someone vulnerable during this crisis, supporting your children on their school work now schools are closed or generally trying to adjust to everyone in your household working from home and keeping the house running!
I would recommend keeping yourself as mentally and physically healthy as possible during this uncertain time.
We may be in this for the long haul so it’s worth getting into a stable routine that you can be consistent with and be productive and healthy.
I’d love to get your feedback with what I’ve mentioned, how you get on with these and if I haven’t mentioned anything that you’ve been doing, I’d love to hear about it!
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy!
- Max Manlay