Data from the Office of National Statistics showed that in 2014 there were 4.2 million people regularly working from home. With studies demonstrating reduced stress, increased happiness and increased productivity, it’s no wonder that this figure is increasing all the time. As you may know, I had a recent change in career direction and I now find myself working from home 90% of the time. I love it. I love my house and enjoy spending time in it, I work well there. I have however found that I have to make an effort to be active during my working day. I don’t have colleagues to walk over to talk to, a coffee room to visit and I don’t need to nip out to get a sandwich at lunch time. I don’t have a commute, there’s no stroll to the bus stop, no crammed train to stand on and no brisk ‘late for work’ walk. So, whilst I’m happier, I’m aware there’s a risk I may not be healthier. Reducing our sedentary time is an important part of looking after our health and reducing our risk of disease.
Here are my top tips for keeping active when you work from home:
- Set a ‘move’ reminder. When you’re engrossed in work, the time can whizz by. Whilst you think you’ll remember to move, it’s amazing how quickly a couple of hours passes and your bottom is still glued to the chair. Use watches, phone apps and screen reminders to prompt you to move. There’s no clear rule as to exactly how long it’s ‘safe’ to sit for but the current advice is to move around for a couple of minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. We know that the body’s metabolism is affected the longer we sit, it effectively switches into storage mode, with our risk of disease, particularly type 2 diabetes, growing with increased sedentary time. You only need to stand and move around for a couple of minutes to help negate this.
- Drink lots. Even a short stand up and move around to get a drink is beneficial. Don’t sit with a jug of water at your desk, use a small glass, that needs frequent refilling. If you prefer hot drinks, then this is the perfect opportunity to visit the kettle but whilst it’s boiling, don’t go and sit back down, use that couple of minutes to do some squats or press-ups against the kitchen counter. This might seem ridiculous but if you have three trips to the kettle in the day and you do 20 squats each time, you’ll have done 60 by the end of the day and 300 by the end of the week! That’s a serious number and will help to strengthen those glutes which weaken as we sit.
- Choose your loo. There’s a downstairs toilet right next to my kitchen where I usually work but by simply opting to use the upstairs one, I’m adding a couple of stair climbs into my day. If you run up rather than walk then that’s an added bonus of increased intensity activity too. Of course, the more you follow tip number 2, the more you’ll need tip number 3 – winning!
- Seek out moving tasks. How many of your daily jobs actually need to be done whilst stationary? If you’re on the phone its easy to walk around the room and chat. I managed to do a whole conference call on my exercise bike – an audio not a video call! Admittedly I had to go fairly slowly so I wasn’t too out of breath when I unmuted my microphone to speak, but it was 45 minutes of gentle cycling which is so much better than nothing. If you’re planning and brainstorming then try doing this whilst out for a walk, you can use the voice recorder on your phone to keep a note of your ideas. I’m actually much more creative when I do this.
- Stand at every opportunity. Perhaps you could get a standing desk, there are lots of reasonably priced ones available now. I put a large shoe box on my kitchen unit (glamorous!) and placing my laptop on top of that puts it at just the right height for me to have a good working posture. It’s taken a bit of time for me to get used to working standing up but I’m getting better at it. I can read journals and documents and do video conference calls from this position too.
- Count your steps and walk briskly. Such a simple thing to do. Whilst the focus is now on taking brisk ten minute walks to optimise health rather than counting steps, I find the step counter on my phone is a good indicator of my behaviour. It’s just a little reminder to me that I need to think about moving more every day. 10 000 steps is a good guide as to what to aim for. Finding time for a long walk isn’t always possible during the working day. Having a dog ensures that I do get out and I tend to start each day with a walk. Simply including three brisk ten minute walks (check out the Active10 app) into your day will set you well on the way to the recommended 150 minute moderate intensity activity target for the week. Short sharp walks like that are also ideal to help you concentrate, boost productivity and free up some headspace. Five minutes out and five minutes back, try it!
The key is to realise that something is better than nothing and that all these little bits of movement add up. Over one day they might not seem like much but over a week, a month, a year, ten years they will most certainly make a difference to your health. Working from home suits me and I feel fortunate to be able to do it but I know I need to work on creating good habits for it to be good for me in the long term.
I’d love to read your tips too so do leave me a comment.
Photo credit: Featured image – Gratisography