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Healthy in the home office
how to get the most out of mobile working

Did your employer ask you to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis to protect you from infection? What began as a temporary measure is becoming common practice in more and more companies. But how do you feel working from home? Do you feel fit and healthy or do you succumb to troublesome home office blues?  

As pleasant as the benefits of working from home, working through tasks in peace and having relative freedom during the day may be: If you do not pay attention to certain things, working from home can actually be detrimental to your health and body, despite how pleasant it is – whether it's too little movement, lack of social contact or just the ever well-stocked sweet cupboard being on hand. 

Tips and tricks for your health in the home office

Working from home sounds really appealing, right? You can save yourself the often time-consuming and arduous commute, work in a focused manner without being interrupted by your colleagues and design your own workplace in the way you want. For some, this is a dream, while others yearn to go back to the office – not least to protect their health.

1. Design your workplace  

Your workplace is your work zone and, unlike many office workplaces, when you're working from home you can design it the way you want and, more importantly, where you want it. Make sure that you find a place that offers you space and good lighting conditions.

In addition to the "where", the "how" of the workplace design is also a decisive factor for your health in the home office. Just like in the office, an incorrect sitting posture or the wrong screen position can have negative effects on your musculoskeletal system.

Make sure that your workplace is ergonomically designed and that you can work in different positions. A good chair and the right seating position are worth their weight in gold. You sit perfectly when your knee angle is between 90 and 100 degrees, your elbows are at 90 degrees on the table and you can look straight at your screens.

Would you like to work in a standing position but don't have a height-adjustable desk? Then get creative – maybe a chest of drawers or your ironing board is the optimal height.

Ergonomie am Arbeitsplatz

To ensure that you are able to separate work and leisure time in the home office, create a separate area. The home office does not always need a room of its own, but a partition wall can help you to avoid taking work "home" with you at the end of the day. This can preserve your mental health and prevent problems such as burnout.

2. Make sure that you get enough movement  

Many routes during your normal day-to-day work are eliminated when working from home. This starts in the morning with your way to work and ends in the evening with the way home. Even the paths within the office to your colleagues, to the company canteen or to the printer are eliminated. Make sure that you get enough movement in your home office. You should make a conscious effort to move at least once a day. Whether a walk before or after work or a yoga session during a break: Actively plan your movement session in your schedule.

Always do brief exercises in between. For example, make a conscious effort to stand up and stretch in all directions to avoid muscular tension. Even head circles can provide for short-term relaxation and contribute to your health in the home office. Maybe you also have a point of contact for health management in your company? If so, try asking them for more tips.

3. Take care of your diet

While you are preparing your meal for your day in the office or resorting to your canteen, there are some culinary delights lurking in your own home. The fridge is full, so is the fruit bowl, but wasn't there a bar of chocolate somewhere? Pay particular attention to your diet because of your lack of exercise. Take the time to turn (fresh) food into a well-balanced meal. Make sure that you eat a lot of vegetables and proteins. This way you will protect against muscle loss, increase your metabolism and prolong your feeling of fullness.

4. Create (virtual) proximity to your team

The peace and quiet in your home office is nice, but somehow you are missing your colleagues, right? There's a way to fix this, even while working from home. Invite your team for a chat over coffee or a games evening via video call or call your colleagues instead of messaging back and forwards. This should help to alleviate your feelings of isolation for a little while, helping to preserve your mental health while working from home.

5. Dress as you would in the office even while working from home

Work comfortably in a jogging top and bottoms? Nobody will see you anyway, right? This is a dream scenario for many people working from home, especially when there are no video meetings. But you will probably first notice how much your choice of clothes affects your mental health when working from home. This is because your clothes affect your mood: your clothes can tell your body whether you're in work mode or just ready to relax. Making a conscious effort to switch between work and leisure clothing before and after work can therefore contribute to a clearer separation between your work and private life.

6. Allocate your time well

Self-discipline and self-care are important aspects of your health especially when working from home – especially if your family and possibly your children are at home at the same time. A clear separation of space and time helps you to make your working day as structured and stress-free as possible. Precisely plan both your tasks and breaks and define fixed rules for online team meetings: From when to when does the meeting take place? Which points are to be discussed and who will participate? You should avoid spontaneous meetings to avoid stress and psychological pressure in your home office.

It's best to start in the morning with a realistic schedule for all the important tasks of the day. Prioritise and focus on your to-dos.

If you are looking after your children at the same time as working in your home office, it is naturally more difficult to draw boundaries. You can find out how to deal with this particular situation in our "Working from Home with Children" guide.

7. Consciously plan your breaks

Breaks are incredibly important to your mental health when working from home. The following applies much more at home than in the office: Take breaks and don’t eat at your desk. If you work at the kitchen table, you could use the balcony or terrace to have lunch – provided of course that your living situation and the weather permits this.

Create a separation between work and relaxation if possible. Having a short walk can also clear your head and recharge your batteries. This way you will remain focused and productive.

Even small breaks now and again help you to get motivated during your day in the home office. Whether you just get up for a moment, open the window and take a deep breath, get a drink or let your gaze wander into the distance: Even these little exercises can work wonders.

8. Avoid possible distractions

The temptation to get distracted at home is immense. World events change almost minute by minute, or friends and acquaintances send you messages all the time. Don't waste your working time with this. It is best to keep the TV and radio off, put your private smartphone on silent and turn off push messages. After all, once you lose your concentration, it is difficult to refocus.

9. Celebrate your successes

Teamwork in particular is faced with great challenges when working from home. Every arrangement needs a date and communication among each other needs to be defined precisely. Also, responsibilities are not defined on demand and changes need to be communicated quickly. A daily digital morning session helps keep all team members on the same level and set new goals. Remember that every task that you complete is a sense of achievement – and successes are particularly important for your mental health when working from home.

Failures, on the other hand, can have a strong negative effect on your well-being. As you might be confronted with unforeseen tasks rather often in these times, you should have the courage to say no. You should critically question whether the task actually makes sense in the current situation. Also, check if the task might overwhelm you. If you have to take on additional tasks, you should set a realistic time frame.

10. Make a conscious effort to switch off

A day working at home also comes to an end at some point – and it's important for your health that you have a clear "home time", even when you are already home.

At the end of the day, shut down your computer, close your work room behind you or move your work items out of sight, if possible. We also recommend that you only use your private devices in the evening. This way you will not even get the opportunity to see work-related news.

Make a conscious effort to do something to preserve your health working from home and spend your time at the end of your day doing things that bring you pleasure. A homemade meal, exercise session or dog walk will allow you to maintain the necessary distance from your work and help you to recharge your batteries for the next working day. When working from home, it is important that, after work, you focus on positive thoughts and distance yourself from serious work issues, especially for your mental health.

It is not always easy to separate your work and personal life when you work at home. That is why it is all the more important that you work your way through your schedule and take care of yourself. And remember: The main advantage of working from home is that you gain time. Make the most of it!

All home office tips in our "Working from Home Guide"  

Working in the home office is now part of everyday working life for many. Yet it still presents us with challenges. How can you successfully create a separation between work and family despite working in your home office? How can you maintain your usual working pattern at the same time? Can the exchange of information between you and your colleagues be made secure and efficient while you are in your home office? You will find answers to all these questions in our "Working from Home Guide". Use these brief tips to make mobile working as simple and stress-free as possible for you, your colleagues and your family. 

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