For many freelancers, solopreneurs and corporate employees who work from home, freedom is just it; a word. We’ve slowly become the slaves of our own screens, desks and beds. This, as we know it, isn’t something we imagined when we chose to start working from home.
For many of us, working from home meant that we could choose hours that we want to work, and have enough time to spend with our loved ones. However, this hasn’t been the case. Even though we can’t possibly admit to it, our physical and mental health has deteriorated ever since due to the following reasons:
- Loneliness: Most freelancers in their late twenties live alone, most of their time being spent behind screens
- Long hours behind desks: We often start off with one project in the morning, and before we know it, it’s way late into the night and painful eyes to go bed with
- Unhealthy working positions: from that chair with a bad backrest, to lying on your bed as your punch words into your laptop, these positions can have a great impact on your posture and physical health in general.
So how do we ensure that we take care of ourselves while working from home but still manage to have those happy clients leaving raving reviews?
Let’s find out:
1. Log your working time and Set Daily Limits
Working from home requires sort of self-discipline. It helps to impose strict working hours just as in the corporate world. This way, you ensure that you get the most work done during your working hours.
For instance, you can commit to working a maximum of 5 hours a day. You can then subdivide these further by defining morning and afternoon working durations depending on what times are you at your optimal productivity.
In my case, I spend 3 morning hours doing productive work such as writing articles or building client’s websites. In the evening, my 2 hours are better suited for repetitive tasks such as checking emails, scheduling posts and prospecting for clients.
By being intentional about your working hours, you avoid spending hours and hours days-on-end behind screens without real productivity.
2. Take Breaks in Between Periods
Even during your focus hours, take short five minute breaks. During these breaks you can do quick stretches or just walk to the gate and back.
These breaks should be short enough so that you are not distracted from what you are doing. Also, schedule these breaks after every 40-60 minutes so that you get enough work done before each.
The rule of 20-20-20 also helps. When working behind screen, take 20 seconds after every twenty minutes to look at an object that is 20 feet away. If your home office is beside a window, then look past it to that building or driveway. Studies have shown that this eye exercise does help and even many eye doctors recommend it to their patients who have extended long working hours behind screens.
3. Set up your home office.
Your home office could be a separate room altogether or just a table and a desk at one corner of your study or bed room. Whichever the case, having your own home office removes you from all possible distractions. This enables you to accomplish more work in less time, thus less screen time.
When setting up your home office, think about:
Comfortability: Ensure that your office is well organized, to your taste and liking. Own it. Making your home office your own will better your chances of working from there rather than your living room with a noisy TV background, and children pacing up and about.
Office Tools: Ensure that you have enough supply of your office materials and equipment that you need to get things done. From a functional laptop or desktop to printing papers, note books and classic pens. Also ensure that you have a reliable Wi-Fi that allows you to smoothly carry out your daily tasks such as attending virtual meetings or watching tutorial videos
Privacy: It helps if you can ensure that the location of your home office is far from the living room as possible, maybe even up stairs if you have a storey home.
If you are not familiar with the term ergonomics, it’s an applied science of arranging and organizing things that people use so that they can interact with them more efficiently and safely.
Ergonomics, when applied in the office space could take different dimensions and involve various aspects that prevent you from having severe back pains and neck pains.
By having an ergonomic working space you are able to work more efficiently, accomplishing more tasks without straining your back. To achieve ergonomics in your home working office, ensure that you do the following:
Get a comfortable office chair if you can
This will help you to maintain a healthy working posture while sitting behind a desk for several hours a day. Most ergonomic office chairs are adjustable, which means you can achieve the right height that enables you to comfortably rest your arms naturally on the keyboard.
If you cannot afford an expensive ergonomic chair, just make sure that the office chair you acquire is of the right height for you. As tempting as it is, avoid working from your cushion. If your chair is below your working table, you can manually adjust it by placing a cushion on top of it.
Get the right computer set and set them up properly
Many freelancers, work from home entrepreneurs and remote workers love their laptops mainly because of their portability. However, these portable gadgets are not very ergonomic since the screen and the laptop are connected making it difficult to have the screen at arm length away from you when you are working.
It’s only recommended that you work from your laptop if you only need to accomplish short tasks that do not require you to spend countless hours behind it.
When working with a desktop computer, you need to ensure that you have set them up as recommended:
- Place the monitor at least arm’s length away from you. This makes it easy for you to look at the screen as a whole at once instead of moving your head left and right. If you have a problem with your vision, just have your glasses on. For larger screens, you may need to move them even farther until you can achieve the right distance.
- Raise your screen so that, at your sitting position you can look at the centre of the screen when your eyes are slightly facing down. If you are working from a screen that is not adjustable or on your laptop, then consider propping them up by placing them on a riser or a pile of books
- To your liking, you can tilt your screen backwards, to say 20 degrees wider. Angling the screen helps you to achieve the right head positioning as well as reduce the glare that can discomfort your eyes
- Place your mouse by the dominant hand near the keyboard for easier reach. Also, get a wireless one since these codes entanglement can really mess up your working space.
Acquire a flat keyboard
The keyboard you are currently using is most likely tilted up, meaning the top row of the keyboard is slightly raised. This can cause discomfort when typing since your wrists are forced to bend up every time.
Having a flat keyboard ensures that your wrists remain straight throughout your typing. A keyboard with a negative tilt also works well by promoting better wrist placement since the bottom row of the keyboard is slightly raised.
When purchasing a keyboard, ensure that you go for the quiet keyboards (silencers). You need a quiet environment and that tick-tack noise isn’t helping.
5. Adjust to a proper sitting position
Your office is now looking ergonomic, but one key element that is missing is you. Now it’s the time for you to adjust your sitting position, and not your chair. We are all victims of bad habits and getting rid of them takes time, and requires practice, resolve and commitment.
Always ensure that at your sitting position your feet are comfortably placed on the floor so that the thighs are parallel to the floor. If need be, you can wear flat shoes or step on a pile of books if your feet are not reaching the floor due to a raised chair.
While sitting is the ideal position when working behind screens, you can alternate this with standing desks that can help you exercise at the same time. Standing desks do come with ergonomic risks such as foot pain. If you are transitioning from sitting to standing positions, then do it gradually until you find your optimum duration at which you can comfortably work behind a standing desk.
6. Eat Healthy
Ridiculously as it sounds, we do forget to eat when working behind screens with deadlines to beat and always everything new to discover. By ensuring that your kitchen is well stocked up with healthy meals and snacks, you have a better chance of scampering away from your desk to your kitchen, knowing that you will find something in there.
Contrast that with having to get up every afternoon to go find something from the nearby grocery or shop, and coming back to fix it for your stomach…. Nah, I better stay behind this desk until I’m done… I may as well just eat in the evening. Right?
We’ve all been there, starving ourselves into our work, and growing less productive with each passing day.
Make a commitment to never skip meals and always hydrate, with water, not juice or coffee throughout the day. Leave your coffee mug for your coffee times only, and healthy fresh juice for late mornings so that you always have your appetite for the main meals at lunch, breakfast and supper times.
7. Take care of your mental health.
Working from home can really be a lonely undertaking. Counter it by having friends come over in your free times, get involved in virtual communities and online events and seminars. After work, call your loved ones. Whenever you feel depressed, seek help either by talking to a trusted friend or visiting a counsellor.
Working from home especially as a freelancer presents unique set of challenges that can heighten anxiety and stress levels amongst individuals, including:
- Unreliable income and growing bills
- Ghosting by clients
- Frustrations due to lack of work
- Starting ventures that fail to pick up
- Loneliness and lack of support system.
For people already suffering from mental health, these freelancing challenges can only exacerbates the issue. Thus it’s really vital that you stay in touch, visit home as much as you can and let people know when you are not okay.
To take care of yourself mentally while working from home, you need to first diagnose what is causing the issue: Is it lack of work, tough clients, unrealistic deadlines, finances or inability to complete certain tasks since they are out of our scope?
Then, for each of the problem, tackle it head on. For instance, you can:
- Look for high paying clients and have them pay you upfront, at least 50% of the cost
- Set realistic ETAs with your clients, accounting for emergencies that may occur such as blackouts or need to hit the road ASAP. Factor those in.
- Begin work immediately as you receive them to avoid overload
- Build different income streams so that you are not behind your rent and other bills
- Only prospect for the work that you can deliver on
- Find time to socialize and mingle with others. Go to events, attend family gatherings, and get involved in planning your friends’ weddings, baby showers or graduation parties. This not only help you not to feel lonely but also motivate you to always get work done faster so you can get time to sneak away.
Your mental health is as important, if not more as your physical health, so acknowledge that and work on it. Also staying positive helps. Morning routines such as doing personal devotion, meditation and listening to inspiration shows go a long way in preparing you to deal with anything that comes your way.
Ready to stay healthy while working from home?
I hope these tips help you to stay healthy, maintain your sanity and take care of yourself both physically and mentally while working from home. Remember, productivity is only achieved at your home office when you start choosing you. For anything tech, including tips on the best keyboards, standing desks, office accessories and home office setup, I recommend you visit Techtreatbox