Have you met Susan yet? She is the alarming, not to mention negative, prediction of what the future of working from home looks like – or at least, the future of what homeworkers look like.
She is a mildly obese, pot-bellied, puffy-eyed, swollen-ankled, pyjama-clad woman who has been working from home for the past 25 years. Meet the homeworker of 2045:
This prediction from the firm, Direct Apply assumes a very unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. Susan has poor posture, hair loss, digital eye strain and suffers from bloodshot eyes and repetitive typing strain.
But The Homeworker’s very aim is to provide the support and tips to help prevent us following this trend.
Although this could be a reality, I believe working from home gives us the flexibility and opportunity to avoid this future, in fact, to achieve the reverse, if we’re proactive.
How to avoid the predicted future of working from home
One of the best things about working from home is that we have much more control over our days, our eating habits, our exercise routines and our schedules. There are things we can do to put our health back to the top of our list:
• Replacing the commute with exercise
• Establishing a morning routine to include mindfulness practices
• Preparing snacks and home-cooked meals in the kitchen
• Taking regular breaks and getting outdoors when we do
• Regularly moving, stretching (maybe dancing)!
• Creating a workspace that uplifts and supports us both mentally and physically
Sunlight, soil and serotonin
In the Breathe issue of The Homeworker magazine, we look at how taking a break in the garden has numerous benefits for our health and wellbeing. If you work from home, you have the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and take a break in the garden, even if it is just a small courtyard or balcony.
Not only is gardening a very mindful activity, it also gets us outdoors, gets soil under our nails, and helps us produce more of the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin.
Read the full article in Breathe issue (available here) where we look at the science behind why gardening is so good for you, and how you can boost your serotonin levels without even getting your hands dirty!
For the homeworker of the future, ‘Susan’ has hair loss and dull skin thanks to a lack of Vitamin D.
Getting outside in the sunlight before midday was one of the tips inside the 2020 Vision issue. Getting a daily dose of sunshine helps to keep our Vitamin D levels topped up and helps to keep us in sync with our circadian rhythms. This will aid that tired feeling to get us ready for a good sleep in the evening.
Improving posture and performance
One of the afflictions of ‘Susan’ is poor posture. Again, this is something we can work against if we do the right exercise, move regularly and ensure we have the right ergonomic furniture.
One way we can stop the permanent slouching and ‘tech neck’, caused by sitting hunched over a device for too long, is by making sure we take regular screen breaks. More than lifting our head from the screen, it means getting up and moving around, stretching and going for a walk (or even have a dance if you feel like it)!
If you’re prone to sitting for long periods or forget to take a break, set a timer so that you move at least every hour. You could also tie in your movement break with the Pomodoro technique – a popular time management tool.
A good posture is one way to help prevent many injuries and long-term discomfort. Ergonomic specialists, Posturite, gave a detailed explanation of how to work from home ergonomically in our 2020 Vision issue. Check out the pilates and yoga poses that are ideal for homeworkers, as well as our guide to an ergonomic setup in the first print issue.
To avoid the grim future of working from home that Susan portrays, it’s useful to check-in with yourself if you’re prone to mindlessly snacking.
Nutritional therapist, Katherine Caris-Harris offers a few nutrition tips for homeworkers in our interview and she suggests ditching the high-carbohydrate snacks in favour of more protein-based foods and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
It’s easy to open a pack of biscuits or reach for the nearest convenience food in the cupboard when you’re working at home.
You can help to avoid this by:
• Preparing a few nutritious snacks that are ready and easy to access for when hunger strikes
• Taking a proper lunch break and stopping to eat a good meal that will keep you satisfied and keep hunger pangs at bay.
• Rarely buying the sugary foods you know you’ll graze on if they are in the house.
• Having a drink or doing another activity before you automatically reach for the snacks.
Structure and routine
As if the above isn’t enough, ‘Susan’ has increased stress levels from being very isolated and having a lack of in-person interaction.
Ensuring we maintain our social networks and schedule in time to see other people is vital for our mental health. In fact, having a good routine and developing healthy habits will help us to avoid a myriad of problems. It will mean we’re less likely to get stuck in the rut of being chained to the desk all day, seeing nobody, and suffering from other issues such as becoming overweight and having poor heart health.
And what about her clothes? ‘Susan’ is a person who sits in their pyjamas all day. If we want to stay happy, maintain a sense of self-worth and professionalism and start the day in a productive way, getting dressed is a simple but effective way to do this.
It’s a key part of the morning routine and helps provide some separation between work and home life. Some structure each morning and evening to bookend your day is really helpful to avoid burnout when you work from home.
The future does not have to be ‘Susan’. If we embrace the flexibility and take positive steps to develop good routines and habits, the future as a homeworker can be healthier, happier and more productive.
For a quarterly dose of strategies and in-depth articles and interviews on how to create a healthier work-from-home lifestyle, why not subscribe to The Homeworker magazine. Each issue is packed with expert insights to help you improve your mindset and wellbeing and live a happier, healthier, more productive life.