Guys who go to an office daily might think: “Please…cry me a river about your zero-minute commute because you work at home. I’d love that commute time back.”
It’s counter-intuitive that working at home, with commute time avoided, has fitness- and health-related pitfalls. After all, the #1 reason for not exercising is “I don’t have time.”
But having worked at home about half the time over the last decade, I can tell you first-hand: here are five fitness/health challenges that arise (and tips for overcoming them).
1. More Risk of Being “Sedentary” with Low Level of Basic Movement
Let’s start with the fundamental idea of not sitting still for too long and getting basic movement throughout your day. When your commute is a walk down the hall, and food, drink and the bathroom are 20 feet away, you have very little “built-in” movement.
You’ll notice this if you wear a fitness tracker. It’s constantly badgering you when you work at home.
⇒ Make sure to get outside a couple of times during the day. Walk the dog after you eat lunch; go work at a coffee shop for a while just to get the benefits of to and fro’.
⇒ Change places inside your house a few times each day. If you have a place to treat as a “standing desk,” then include that.
⇒ Stand up and walk around when you’re on phone calls. Or even do some light stretching.
2. You Don’t Naturally “Pass By” the gym, pool, or fitness studio
When you work at home, you have to purposefully leave the house to hit one of these locations. What’s the big deal? If you’re motivated enough to stop by the gym, why wouldn’t you be motivated enough to head out to it?
But the risk is subtler than that.
Without exercise time slots defined by a lunch hour or commute, your very flexibility creates a risk. Many a workout has been skipped due to vague plans (“I’ll work out sometime today”). Or to procrastination (“I was going to go work out now, but I’m making progress on ___ and so I’ll go later”).
⇒ Be very structured in planning exercise – what you’re going to do on a given day, and when.
⇒ Then, literally put it on your calendar, so nothing intrudes.
⇒ If scheduled times get pre-empted on any kind of routine basis, change the day-part you set aside. Don’t just keep trying-and-failing to protect the same time, man.
3. Good Nutrition Can Be Harder When You Work At Home
Sure, you have more control over food at home. But having all the food in your house within a 15-second walk creates risk of eating too often, or too much at a time. At home, it’s easy to end up grazing throughout the day or eating the equivalent of “seconds.”
⇒ As with exercise, become very scheduled for eating. Feel free to delay eating times if you’re not hungry, certainly. But if either physical or mental pangs urge you to eat earlier…drink some water and keep working, dude. Hopefully next time you feel a pang, it will be time.
⇒ Don’t eat out of the pantry or fridge. Serve yourself with a plate or bowl, and eat just what you’ve served.
⇒ Make any unhealthy snack foods and desserts strictly off-limits. If you wouldn’t buy and eat it during a typical work day at the office…then don’t at home, either.
4. Lack of social interaction with live people
Sure, you’re on chat, the phone, video calls with people. But that’s not the same as actually seeing people and having a non-work interaction with them. And such human interactions, during even short breaks from work tasks, are a key part of managing stress and promoting overall wellness.
⇒ This is one more reason to go work at a coffee shop for a while.
⇒ You ARE allowed to go to the supermarket or do other errands. I know, it feels weird being in a supermarket during work time (you’re supposed to be busy making billions of dollars, not roaming the aisles of Safeway).
But if you get over that, you take care of a family chore, get some movement into your day, interact with regular non-colleague people…and free up time on evenings or weekends. It’s a great trade-off to make every now and then. And, you might find creative work thoughts can bubble up when you get away from your desk and screen at home.
5. Unhealthy Encroachment on Non-work Time
Evening commutes are tiresome, but at least they naturally separate “work day” from “evening.” I know, email follows you, but still, having a separate office creates healthy distinction between work and home.
Working at home, though, is essentially “living at the office.”
It’s hard to draw the line. Sometimes you find yourself just continuing to work in the evenings or on weekends, simply because your work environment is always there staring you in the face.
⇒ Find a ritual to mark the “end of the official workday.” It could be a workout, or mediation session, or cooking dinner (or maybe that trip to the supermarket).
⇒ I know this one sounds weird, but (at least in your mind) “schedule” things for evenings that aren’t about work…read, watch a TV show with your wife or kids, do hobby activities. “Schedule” as in explicitly have them in mind…so there’s not a time void during which you get pulled back into the mental mode of work.
These obstacles are real, but still: if you work at home, you have more time…the most precious commodity if you can make use of it.
Be smart about avoiding the pitfalls, and you can have more time to be successful in work AND more time for fitness and health!
“We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do.” (Eric Burdon & The Animals, We Gotta Get Out of This Place—click to listen)
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