Most of the work from home guides you may have read focus on productivity, with tips about how to concentrate on work and better utilize tech, such as external monitors or laptop docking stations. But productivity is just one half of the recipe for WFH success.
Wellness is also a crucial ingredient. After all, it’s not easy to perform at your best if you’re feeling unhealthy or stressed-out. There are some easy wellness activities that you can take advantage of during your lunch break to stay active and engaged.
Activity #1: Eat Lunch Somewhere Other Than Where You Work
When you work from home, time can seem very fluid, with no clear boundaries between work and leisure periods. Similarly, the lines between “workspace” and “leisure space” can become blurred.
But you still need clear differentiation as well as regular breaks to avoid long, uninterrupted periods of staring at a screen in the same spot, which can quickly put you into a lull. In other words: Don’t eat lunch in your WFH workspace, or deprioritize doing so just because you feel like you’re “in the zone.”
A survey from hygiene and health company Tork found that employees who regularly took lunch breaks felt more engaged on the job than those who did not. It might seem counterintuitive that people who work fewer hours overall, and do so more sporadically with interspersed breaks, are more productive than ones who just power through all day at their desk, but it makes sense in a way:
- Leaving your workspace for a kitchen or patio table lets you switch contexts and can help recharge your mental energy.
- It also spares you from literal multitasking - for example, trying to eat and respond to emails simultaneously - that taxes the brain and decreases the quality of any attempted work.
- By really focusing on your lunch, within a non-workspace, you can also avoid the tendency to overeat, which is a common effect of distracted eating.
Activity #2: Take a Walk or Do Other Exercise During Your Break
Going for a walk offers multiple benefits to productivity, health, and wellness.
First, like eating lunch somewhere else, it provides a clear break from sitting in front of your computer. That’s important for resetting your mind. Walking helps sharpen the senses and improve key brain functions for memory, learning, and cognition.
Second, if you can walk outside, you can give your immune system a boost. Georgetown University researchers once found that sunlight boosts T-cell activity.
Third, it’s good for keeping up with a formal health and wellness program or regimen, if you follow one. Specific requirements of these programs - such as getting in a sufficient number of steps each day or achieving a certain heart rate - can be more easily met with some lunchtime physical activity.
If walking isn’t your favorite thing, you can still do some other beneficial exercises with minimal setup:
- Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and pushups require nothing but a little space and can pay dividends right away in how physically and mentally alert you feel.
- Consider getting a pair of dumbbells and a yoga mat to add more challenge and create a more comfortable surface, respectively.
- Track your time so that the exercise routine doesn’t run too long or make it more difficult to fulfill your work-related commitments.
Activity #3: Eat a Prepared Meal
Switching from a commute-based job to working remotely can dramatically change your eating habits, and not necessarily for the better. Since snacks might be readily available from your WFH workspace, it can be easy to eat junk food throughout the day. On top of the risks already present from sitting for too long (like higher blood pressure), there are possible downsides for your health.
Planning your meals is one way to avoid falling into this trap of impulsive and stress-induced snacking (plus, it’s good dietary advice in general). Enjoy a meal that was prepped in advance, like you might have done before if you packed your own lunch for the office. This helps instill structure in your workday, too, helping avoid the boundary-less work-life muddle discussed earlier.
Consistent hydration is also important, so keep a water bottle nearby as well as grab your favorite drink of choice at the beginning of each workday. Making these kinds of preparations benefits your health as well as your productivity, since they reduce the time you spend on tasks such as getting up from your desk to get a drink.
That said, do take breaks as needed, perhaps on a schedule aligned with a time management technique like the Pomodoro Technique. This particular technique entails intentionally breaking the workday down into 25-minute increments, with frequent 5-minute breaks and less frequent 15- to 30-minute ones.
Activity #4: Listen to Music or Look at Art
Every lunch break is an opportunity to do something positive for your health and wellness - and that “something” doesn’t have to be physically strenuous.
If you don’t listen to music while working (maybe because it’s disruptive to others at home, or has to be paused/stopped frequently for meetings), try doing so during a break to give yourself a boost of endorphins that elevate your mood. Music may be good for productivity because of its mood-enhancing effects. A study of software engineers found that programmers who listened to music while working felt better and produced higher-quality code.
Likewise, looking at art or - better yet - creating it is a proven health and wellness activity. Even a 10-minute art break with just a pencil and some paper can get the creative juices flowing, with a spillover effect on your productivity and your overall wellbeing.
To learn more about how to elevate your WFH game, be sure to visit our WFH page, where you’ll find plenty of tips and solutions for staying productive and healthy at home!