How to Be Happy and Healthy in Our New At-Home Environment
As many of us gradually return to the office with guidelines in place, we hope this information serves as a look toward the future. Our team at HON is here to support you through the transitions and help you look forward to productive collaboration in all forms.
Many businesses are planning a return to the office, but for many workers across the country, their home offices will become permanent.
Over the last three months, that transition to working from home has had its challenges. Our schedules have been different. Our days have been filled with any number of obligations being blended together—and recent studies have shown that workers are actually putting in longer work days during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s been increasingly difficult to turn “off” when our office is also our home, and tending to immediate tasks like our families or pets can push out our work obligations.
As so many things have become condensed and we’re in a race to stay ahead of our own schedules, important elements of our lives have been sacrificed.
The health and well-being of employees is a priority for many businesses, but it’s harder for workers (amid a work/life schedule that’s wrought with challenges) to make it a priority for themselves.
“We tend to think about health and well-being holistically,” said Dr. Lauren Gant, HNI’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Manager.
“There’s a physical element and a high-level view of the person and their wellness that we need to consider when we’re working from home, and that includes things like their mental health, their stress levels and how to manage those, and mood swings.”
Here are a few tips to promote health and happiness in your work-from-home workspace.
WFH Tip #1: Workspace Setup
Thinking about your physical workspace is central to being healthy and happy while working at home. When we’re home, we may or may not be using tools (chairs, tables, monitor arms) that we had available at work. And when we’re working in a less-than-ideal environment, it’s easy for those awkward postures to cause discomfort.
That can be a drain on our mental state and productivity, Gant said.
“Even if you don’t have that adjustable chair or table, what can we be doing with the products you do have to make them as ergonomic as possible?” she said. “I encourage people to move around as much as possible. Take walks around the house, and do as much as you can while social distancing and still getting the movement throughout the day that you need.”
Another key aspect of a healthy and happy home office space is natural light. When possible, avoid setting up your workstation in a basement or interior room that doesn’t have access to windows. Having that natural light is a mood booster and helps with our internal rhythm.
“If we aren’t exposed to light, we can get out of sleep patterns and that’s a contributor to poor health,” Gant said.
WFH Tip #2: Rest and Nourishment
It’s good to remind ourselves that we aren’t just “working from home.”
We’ve been asked to uproot our normal way of life and change behaviors and routines, and adapting to new routines can be stressful. We’ll touch on stress (and how to manage it) in a moment, but first, let’s talk about the controllables of which work-from-home employees should be mindful.
“People should be getting at least seven hours of sleep each night—and it’s really easy when we’re working from home to answer a late email or be amped up later into the evening. Sleep can be easily disturbed in this new environment,” Gant said.
Taking a mental break at different periods throughout the day will help. Standing up, moving around, and physically removing ourselves from the workspace may be tough at times but it’s critical to establishing some semblance of a routine.
WFH Tip #3: Stress Management
We’re doing so much more than just work.
We’re keeping up with kids, running errands and doing everyday things in our lives. It can help ease stress if we’re open and communicating, because we aren’t working the same way we were a few months ago.
It’s important to keep things manageable and realistic.
From the manager’s perspective, keep those lines of communication open with your team. Make sure they know which company-supplied resources are available to them and take time to explain what those options are.
“Managing expectations, being explicit about what you need and when you need it, and over-communicating is always better than the opposite,” Gant said. “One cool thing I’ve seen is that, because our work lives are blended with our personal lives just because of our location, it seems like the work life and personal communications are coming together more and more.”
For employees, it’s helpful to recognize and understand that we manifest stress physically and emotionally, and we may change our behavior when things are stressful.
Observing those changes is the first step, and then practicing ways to reduce that stress should come next.
“Let’s have some generosity with ourselves.” Gant said. “It’s okay if you’re feeling a little stressed and that it’s a struggle at times. You don’t always have to feel like you’re invincible.”
Business As Not-So Usual
If you’re one of the many workers who will be spending more time at home–even as other businesses return to the office– taking care of yourself must remain a priority.
We hope these tips are practical solutions for your new working environment. Managing stress can be difficult when you’re not around coworkers (and when things are happening fast), and getting proper rest is challenging when your schedule is abnormal.
If you have questions about setting up the ideal happy, healthy and productive workspace, we’re here to help. Visit hon.com for additional information.