Today I walked ten steps, down one flight of stairs and arrived at my place of work. I started with a Zoom meeting at 8.00 am, switched to a Teams meeting at 8.15, flicked back to the Zoom meeting at 8.45 and so the day went. I think I got up to respond to a teenager complaining about the internet speed and someone brought me a cup of tea. It was day 33 of working from home. Day 33 of no routine. Day 33 of more than 11 hours staring at a screen. Day 33 of a numb backside by 6pm! Truly, it’s like Groundhog Day which suggests I need to acquire some new skills like Bill Murray and learn the key to life isn’t what happens but how you react to it.
So, in the spirit of reacting positively to home detention, I keep telling myself that I am very fortunate to still have a job – one that I love and with colleagues whom I admire and with members whom I love. Whilst those of us fortunate to still be employed during the COVID pandemic have many reasons to count our blessings, it doesn’t mean we can’t seek more.
Life was not meant to be lived online. My physio friend has always told me humans are not made to sit. My ‘teacher’ father tells me humans are made to roam and roam he did, around his classrooms in the bad old days when teachers threw chalk. So here are some tips to help you emerge from our online existence in shape – both physically and mentally.
- Create a new routine
Work commutes serve a purpose – they punctuate the working day and provide space to gear up for or switch off from work. With our commutes gone, we need to adopt a new purposeful morning routine. Something like exercise, eat, shower, dress. Exercise outside the home so you can get outside your four walls. We don’t live in Yakutsk (a very cold place in Russia my son once wanted to move to during his Russian history phase) so there’s really no excuse to not rug up and go for a walk at the very least. Also, sorry to get parental on you, but working at home does not mean you can forgo the shower and work in your PJs. Just the act of getting ready for the day has been proven to have a noticed positive impact on mental health.
- Build in short breaks
In the office you get up to buy or make coffee, you talk about the footy (we can’t even do that now!) or you wander by someone’s desk. Without these needed breaks in concentration, create a diary break. Then get up and walk to the kitchen to make a drink. To rest your eyes, either return some calls or call a family member and release some good serotonin. Stand and look outside and notice stuff for a bit. I think the sky is looking clearer and my deck needs a clean.
- Take some meetings standing up and off screen
Stand to talk, don’t always look at a screen. Why don’t you go completely wild and pop in some ear phones and walk around the room/house. Do some stretches. Get the blood moving. Another gem from my father was if humans are too inactive, the blood pools in the bends of elbows and ankles and, well just gets stuck and old and stale! It was enough to get me moving as a child and whilst he’s no longer my ‘go to’ for medical advice, he has a point. We need to keep the blood moving to keep the oxygen pumping around our bodies.
- Get creative at meal times
MasterChef is on right now, so it’s a great time to ‘hero’ an ingredient or ‘elevate the elements’ in your dish. Making dinner an event. Setting the table, cooking a meal that is a favourite or an experiment and sitting at the table is a great pick me up. Don’t go from laptop screen to TV screen. Look a family member or flatmate in the eye. We’ve had more family meals with a full roll call this month than over the past 12 months. If you live alone, the good news is you can have one visitor (and more as restrictions ease), so get them around and sit at opposite ends of the table, conversing royalty style.
- Protect bedtime
By this I mean don’t take work to bed. Don’t sleep in clothes that have become 24/7 wear. Take a shower. Make your bed a place for rest or sleep. Maybe get a new pillow? Get to bed at a reasonable hour. Stop work and walk away from the home office. The work will still be there tomorrow, and you know the commute is a short one!
Dr Rachel Baird – General Manager of Professional Development & Membership
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