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Setting Up Your Home Environment to Maximize Health

Whether you’re working from home for the first time in your life or you’re a seasoned remote worker, adjusting to shelter-in-place or quarantine orders have likely disrupted your routine in more ways than you can count. Countless Zoom meetings, kids weaving their way into and out of your workday, and uncertainty in things big and small are your new normal. That’s why it’s even more important to make sure that your home environment is set up for maximum productivity, comfort, and health.

What works best in terms of productivity and comfort varies from person to person, but in general, these guiding principles should help add structure and boundaries to your routine. To keep you on track and organized, we’ve put together a checklist, below, that you can use as you revamp your new environment.

Create a schedule
Create a realistic schedule for yourself. You likely have more time on your hands: your commute has been erased, needless errands are banned, grocery shopping trips are limited, and social events are all virtual. However, that doesn’t mean that you should forgo your alarm and just start working when you wake up. Depending on your work-from-home flexibility, choose what hours you’ll be working, and stick to those–both for starting and stopping. Give yourself time in the morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast before you even check your work email, and build in breaks (including lunch!) throughout the day to stretch, walk, talk to a friend, or enjoy a healthy snack. Take your breaks and meals away from your working environment to keep work and home separated. At night, let your team know that you’ll be offline after, say 6 PM, and that you’ll get to any of their questions the next morning (barring any emergencies).

Set boundaries around your schedule–both for your working life and your personal life. If you find yourself being pulled into Zoom call after Zoom call, block off a chunk of time in your calendar for dedicated project work or “focus time;” work with your colleagues to make sure this is feasible with your particular work and schedule. During this time, turn off alerts from Slack and email–one study found that it takes the average worker 23 minutes to refocus after an unwanted distraction!

With respect to your personal life, make sure you’re taking the time you need to recharge away from others, if that’s what you need. It was easy to say no to social activities pre-quarantine, when you could make up any excuse to stay in; now, it’s expected that you’ll say yes to every virtual hangout–because what else could you possibly be doing?! Say yes to the virtual catchups that you actually want to attend, but don’t be afraid to say no to the invite to hang out with your first grade soccer team. Just as you wouldn’t in real life, don’t overbook yourself–and grant yourself permission to read that book or watch the newest Netflix show.

Set goals with intention
With work days blurring into the weekend, limited social interaction, and suddenly finding yourself without your favorite outside-the-house hobby, you might find yourself without a rudder right now. Choose one or more goals to work towards–it could be losing five pounds, taking up a new craft project, or exercising for at least thirty minutes per day. Then, ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal–do you want to reduce your risk of chronic disease? Do you want more energy? Do you want to train for a hiking trip that you’ll take when it’s safe to do so again? Defining the intention behind your goal gives you the motivation you’ll need to keep working towards that goal.

Whatever goal you choose, write out a roadmap of how you’ll get there. If you want to lose five pounds, you might start by reducing your daily caloric intake or by exercising more, or both. From there, break down your goal into even smaller specific and relevant goals. You might reduce your daily caloric intake by making sure that you eat at least two servings of vegetables at every meal, and you might accomplish that by trying out some of Zipongo’s Recipes with Vegetables. When you’re choosing a goal, make sure that you choose a goal big enough that it’s new and exciting, but simple enough that it doesn’t further complicate or inconvenience your day and week.

Out of sight, out of mind
Being surrounded by delicious snacks all day adds to the challenge of eating healthfully while working from home. The good news is that it can be an easy fix! Next time you choose a grocery delivery or safely head to the grocery store, don’t buy the unhealthy, sugary, processed snacks–especially the ones that you quickly inhale and have little self-control around. Build your home food environment so that it works for you: place a bowl of different fruits in sight and spend a few minutes early in the week cutting up celery, carrots, and easy grab-and-go vegetable-centered snacks. In the midst of Zoom meetings and ongoing projects, you’ll have something quick to turn to and there will be less temptation to dig for sugary or salty snacks.

Keep all your snacks in the kitchen, fridge, or pantry–if there’s an open bag of chips on your desk, it’s bound to be eaten sooner rather than later. Eat your snacks with intention; portion them out on a plate, and enjoy them away from your work (mindless snacking contributes to increased calorie consumption)

Keeping these principles in mind, we’ve developed a checklist for setting up your home environment. Start hitting your groove in quarantine with these recommendations:

Eating Habits

Routine

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