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Staying Well - Working from Home
01:24 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The coronavirus is forcing many people to work at home for the first time ever.

While the idea of working in your pajamas and eating Oreos all day might seem appealing, in the long run that would be bad for your health.

Dr. Saju Mathew, a primary care physician in Atlanta, Georgia, says working from home could be a prescription for better health if you’re disciplined.

Working from home gives you the independence to take regular exercise breaks, and instead of dashing to that fast food restaurant for a quick lunch, you can make a healthy, sit-down meal.

“This is really your opportunity to get in the best shape of your life,” Mathew said.

He has a few simple guidelines to keep you happy and productive while working from home.

In the zone

“Since your home is going to encompass most aspects of your life like gym, cooking, socializing with others remotely, sleeping and relaxing, it’s imperative that you are disciplined and organized,” Mathews said.

He says it’s important not to let your activities bleed into your other spaces at home. Have designated areas in your house to separate these daily tasks.

You should have a plan for daily meals, workouts and regular breaks.

He suggests you doff your pjs and dress in something resembling normal work attire. (Unless they’re Superman pajamas. More on that later.)

How one stay-at-home worker does it

Freelance journalist Paul Kvinta has been happily working at home for more than 20 years.

He’s developed a daily routine that mixes work and regular exercise, and he’s even found a way to sneak in his daily steps while he’s working.

“I pace when I talk on the phone. When I have long phone interviews, or even if I’m just chatting with whomever, I will literally walk laps in the house. I’m not sure if I could pull that off if I was in an office setting.”

Kvinta also appreciates the freedom that working from home provides.

“So I keep my own hours. I wake up early, do most of my writing in the morning, do my phone interviews and by the afternoon, I’m ready to go for a run … or sometimes I’ll go for long walks. I’m setting my own schedule so I can exercise whenever I feel like it and I try to do something every day.”

Kvinta also makes sure he doesn’t spend too much time sitting.

“When you’re working from home as I am, you’re spending a lot of your day hunched over your laptop… so I do my best to move around as much as possible. And to adjust my posture when I’m working, …every day I do a series of stretches, and I go for walks as much as possible. I would say I go for a walk at least once a day.”

Mathew says these breaks are all-important: “For every hour that you work, get up and stretch, do some meditation. Deep breathing exercises will also cut down on stress levels.”

The office … but better

The most important thing about your workspace is that it’s comfortable. You should not be working from bed or the couch.

“If you have a standing desk, recreate that at home. You also want to make sure that your chair is ergonomically comfortable and that it’s an ergonomically friendly keyboard,” Mathew said.

But that doesn’t mean working from home can’t convey some extra benefits. For Kvinta, that includes regularly working outside.

“So, I do have an office – a dedicated office inside. But on beautiful days like today, I haul everything out, put it on my table on the porch, and I can work all day on the porch. It’s pretty awesome.”

Mathew recommends spending time on meal planning and filling that Instacart with healthy foods.

Don’t eat mindlessly while working and try to avoid the temptation to snack all day. Instead, make yourself a nutritious lunch and sit down to eat it.

Know what you are going eat beforehand, to avoid spontaneous (bad) decisions.

You might never want to go back

For Kvinta, the idea of going back to an office is unappealing.

A few years ago, while on a business trip, he was offered some office space in Manhattan.

“One of my editors there said ‘Oh, you’re going be in New York. Hey, listen, when you’re not going to your meetings and such, if you want to come by the office here, we’ll make office space for you.’ And I said: ‘Oh, that sounds great.’”

So I sat there, and I tried to work but then the big guy walked by and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, I need to look busy’ and I realized I didn’t have my bathrobe or my Superman pajamas on, and I couldn’t walk all over the place when I was on the phone, and even though it was so lovely of them to offer me this office space, I didn’t go back.”