I was in my late 40s, 100 pounds overweight and completely sedentary, when my marriage crumbled. I realized that I had to get off the couch or I’d have a stroke or heart attack from the stress heading my way, so I started swimming again. I later added running, obstacle course racing, endurance events, and peak bagging. Now, three months shy of turning 60, I’m training for a Kilimanjaro summit to continue my Blue Zones-inspired life. Along the way, I realized that my home was an ally in getting and staying fit and active.
Working From Home
Welcome to the WFH world! I’ve been doing it full time for more than a decade and wouldn’t have it any other way. (The commute from my bedroom to my home office is two flights of stairs.) Here are some tips to make your transition as healthful as possible, whether you’ll be working from home for months or for the foreseeable future:
1. Separate Your Space
If your WFH space is in a bedroom or living room, try to create visual separation with either a piece of furniture that closes the office components from view after work, a furniture layout that doesn’t have your bed or couch looking at the office area, or using a screen or room divider that lets you “leave work” when you’re done for the day.
2. Add Natural Elements
If you can, orient your desk to capture tree views from a nearby window. Also look at adding houseplants in decorative pots to your workspace. These will offer an added benefit of purifying the air.
3. Light Your Space
Make sure you have good task lighting on your work surface. For short term setups, look for an adjustable lamp you can later use elsewhere in your home. If you’re going to be telecommuting long term, consider energy-efficient LEDs that mount under a wall shelf or cabinet above your desk and shine down on your papers and projects.
4. Seating is crucial
If your WFH setup is temporary, you may not want to invest in a new adjustable, ergonomic desk chair. You can find refurbished models online at significant savings, or you can add ergonomic cushions to a chair you already own that fits your height and reach.
5. Filter the Light From Your Screen
If you work long hours into the night – as so many people do these days – consider a blue light filter for your computer screen to minimize interruptions to your circadian rhythms; this is particularly important if your office electronics are set up in your bedroom.
6. Correct Laptop Ergonomics
Laptops are great for working on the go, but not terribly ergonomic for long work hours at home. Consider adding a separate screen and possibly keyboard and/or mouse to reduce hand, eye and neck strain.
7. Don’t Sit All Day
Desk risers are invaluable for letting you work standing up part-time, rather than sitting all day. These are ideal short term or long term solutions, and a viable alternative to an adjustable sit/stand desk.
While some employees miss the watercooler chitchat or the daily interactions with work friends, the tremendous time savings involved in not going to the office sounds like a wellness vacation in the making, (and they’re probably not even including hair, makeup, and wardrobe!): “A half-time telecommuter saves the equivalent of 11 workdays per year in time they would have otherwise spent commuting,” according to Global Workplace Analytics.
1. Just as with working from home, your student’s ideal is an ergonomic, adjustable seat. This is particularly helpful if two different-sized people will be rotating use of one desk.
2. Task lighting is also important for school work – maybe even more so with books being such a large part of learning.
3. We’re moving into cold and flu season, and those germs are often spread on contact. Reducing shared touchpoints is ideal. Give each student his or her own supplies and organizer baskets so they’re spreading fewer germs among themselves, and especially if your school has taken a hybrid approach to learning. If sharing a computer is required, have electronics-approved cleaners on hand for sanitizing keyboard and mouse between uses. And, of course, make sure regular handwashing is happening, even at home.
School From Home: A Silver Lining
Here’s a slim silver lining to 1.2 billion children out of classrooms around the world because of COVID-19: “Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay,” says World Economic Forum.
Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay, says World Economic Forum. —@JGWellnessDesgnCLICK TO TWEET
The Missing Link to Overall Well-Being
The biggest mistake I see is people missing the links between their homes and their health, though I think the pandemic is helping to shift that thinking. With our living spaces doing double-, triple-, even quadruple-duty as shelter, workplace, classroom, and even gym, what’s getting lost is the concept of home as a sanctuary. I’d argue that this is one of its most important roles for our overall well-being.
The best way to achieve and maintain a Blue Zones life is to have a Blue Zones-inspired and enabling home. This means a residence that supports healthful meal preparation; facilitates connection with family through accessible, visitable homes; nurtures downshifting with quiet spaces for meditation or prayer, napping, de-stressing, and that glass of Cannonau wine at 5; connects to nature with a plant slant that extends beyond the plate, and puts your family and friends first with a healthful home.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach, wellness design consultant, and the author of three books, including the latest, Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness, published September 1 by Tiller Press. Follow her on instagram at @JGWellnessDesign and on twitter at @JGWellnessDesgn.