While many of us are fortunate enough to be working remotely, working from home shouldn’t automatically translate to working at your dining table, on your bed, or on your sofa. It is counterintuitive to our mental and physical health to blur the lines between where we spend our leisure time and where we spend our productive work time. While our everyday routines of being out and about are being put on hold, this is the perfect opportunity to figure out how to incorporate some of the outdoors and physical activity into our home-office regimen.
Costs and Consequences of Sedentary Work
The new shift in the work environment can actually be detrimental to our health if we aren’t careful to create some healthy boundaries. Working from home can have the same, or even worse, effects on our physical and mental health if we’re mimicking the same type of sedentary behaviors that are common in office work.
You may be surprised at the extent of destruction physical inactivity can cause on your body. Research by Johns Hopkins Medicine has shown that physical inactivity can increase our risks of certain cancers, contribute to anxiety and depression, shown to be a risk factor for certain cardiovascular diseases, more likely to develop coronary heart disease, and linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Why Working Outdoors Makes Us Happier
Humans are naturally linked to nature. It makes us happier, healthier, and improve our relationship with others and ourselves. Spending time in nature has proven to be therapeutic and can be as beneficial as meditating. Reconnecting with nature after having this new “normal” of working remotely can provide various benefits to us:
- Relieves stress – Simply being the presence of nature and greenery can reduce heart rate and blood pressure
- Strengthens immunity and increases longevity – Taking time to move around boosts our physical health in a myriad of ways. Exercise allows us to increase our metabolic rate. Even sweating is a good sign that your body is working on its immune health by killing pathogens
- Eases anxiety and depression – A study released by Weng and Chiang in 2014 found that engagement with nature provides a type of psychological restoration whether it be viewing nature, being in the presence of nature or participation, and interaction with nature.
- Increases short-term memory - Research has shown that just going on a short walk can help improve memory and attention span
- Helps develop a healthier diet – a lot of people are joking about instead of getting that freshman-15, they’re trying to avoid gaining that pandemic-15. All jokes aside, the lack of physical movement can result in weight gain and poor eating habits. Taking that time to go outside instead of lounging around watching TV or rummaging through your pantry out of boredom can keep you and your body feeling happy
Creating a Healthier Workspace
People in Japan practice “shinrin-yoku” (森林浴), which literally translates to a forest bath. I know what you’re thinking and, honestly, nothing sounds more exciting than being in some mystical forest where the leaves are flowing around you like a Disney princess, but it’s something easier (and much more practical) for those who don’t have access to nature right in their backyard. For those living in the concrete jungle, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate the outdoors even if greenery isn’t just stepped away.
Standing at your kitchen counter instead of sitting to get work done and spending your lunch breaks going for short walks definitely help, but there are other ways to design space while you are working to make sure you’re maximizing the benefits from working at home:
- Take Your Desk Outside
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If you’re able to, take your device just outside the door to your porch, yard, or apartment balcony. Being able to look into the horizon and not at your room wall will keep you engaged and get the creativity flowing.
- Get Your Cardio Done In Between
For the work tasks that don’t require you to keep your hand on your mouse, try getting some squats or lunges while you’re reviewing your documents. You could even make it fun by challenging yourself to do 10 sit-ups after reading each page. You may end up closer to that six-pack after all.
- Take Laps Around the Yard
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Make your conference calls do laps around your private outdoor space with you. Contrary to popular belief that sitting in one place helps us focus, being immobile after having spent hours glued to your computer screen may actually drive you to boredom and leave you more distracted. Whether you’re leisurely strolling around the perimeter or powerwalking, it may certainly keep you more focused and engaged on your calls.
- Sunrise Brainstorming
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Make use of that whiteboard in your home office and use it outside during your zoom calls with your team. You’ll be surprised at the plentiful benefits of being outdoors has on your imagination and innovation while collaborating with your colleagues. Not a morning person? Sunrise can easily be sunset for those who prefer dusk over dawn, so feel free to sleep in and catch those zZz’s.
Making use of this time to figure out how to incorporate more outdoor elements into your work-at-home routine may inspire you to do the same once you return back to the office.
Zody from Essen