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Staying healthy while working from home

Welcome back to another episode of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth SM. I’m your host Al Waller.

So, we’re still locked in the pandemic and many of us have found ourselves for better or worse in a “work-from-home” situation that’s become permanent.

On the plus side, many of us are becoming increasingly more proficient and agile in utilizing technology in conducting our day-to-day business. However, on the flip side, there are many now struggling with work-life balance and safeguarding their health. Joining us today is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute®, and she’s here to discuss strategies to boost health while working from home. So Mihaela, what are some specific strategies that you would advise folks to pursue?

Mihaela Vincze: Great question, Al. So, we all know when people work from home, the lines between their work responsibilities and home life can blur. For this reason, my first suggestion is that it may be helpful to set space boundaries, including having a separate workspace.

It’s also a great idea to establish a daily work schedule. When you start to prioritize work-life balance, you’ll have more time to focus on activities that can positively impact your health. In turn, you’ll have more energy and zest for work. Also, keep in mind that most of these tips can be implemented into your routine, regardless of where you work, whether it’s at home or in an office.

Al Waller: Good points. And let’s just say – without creating that division between work and home life, many can find themselves plugged in 24/7. I mean, talk about a sure-fire recipe for burn-out, right?

So then, what else would you suggest folks do?

Mihaela Vincze: Working remotely can make it more difficult for people to connect with each other, including their co-workers, and on a personal level—just remember, socialization is vitally important, and of course, it may take additional effort when you’re working from home. A 2017 study published by researchers at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that individuals aged 80 and over with the mental agility of 50-year-olds all had a close-knit group of friends.

Try to set time aside a few days a week to socialize with others—this could be on Facetime, Zoom, or even over the phone. You could also have a socially distanced “walking meeting” with a friend—meet on your lunch break and take a stroll down a pretty street. Your physical and mental health will thank you.

Al Waller: You’re so right, Mihaela, because with the pandemic and social distancing requirements, a lot of folks have fallen into a lifestyle that really doesn’t provide for regular socialization, especially those that live alone or without family under the same roof.

And given this new-found awareness — that strong social networks are actually linked to slower cognitive decline, I’m thinking all of us might want to definitely make some form of socialization a top priority.

Mihaela Vincze: Good idea! On top of social isolation, working from home makes it a lot easier to be sedentary because we’re not getting the incidental exercise of travelling to and from work and walking around the office. A sedentary lifestyle is linked with cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, according to the World Health Organization.

Try to set time aside every day to engage in physical activity like going for a walk or a run. You could even try doing some yoga, which can offset the stiffness in our joints from sitting at our computers all day. It can also help reset our minds. Whichever activity you choose to engage in daily, just make sure it’s one you really enjoy. That way, it’ll be easy to keep active.

Al Waller: Well, must say—I’m sure those who no longer have those sizeable daily commutes, stuck in traffic probably aren’t singing the blues. But to your point there are a lot of people walking around sporting those “COVID-19 LB’s” (definitely, not a good look). So, it’s critical that we make time to employ strategies to boost our health both mentally and physically. Now, what else would you recommend?

Mihaela Vincze: Try to eat a healthy diet. When working from home, it can be easy to fall into the trap of eating convenient processed foods at our desks. However, having a diet with essential vitamins, fats, and minerals are vital to maintaining good health. For instance, a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains and fish is fundamental to a healthy diet.

Also, if you want more tips on improving your nutrition, be sure to tune into the episode Jumpstart Your Nutrition in which a registered dietitian delved into lots of helpful details. You can also find healthy recipes in Transamerica Institute’s Healthier Traditions Cookbook series.

Al Waller: I would agree with you there because many of these recipes are really, really good! As a matter of fact, we’ve tried out a few from the Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Quick & Easy and I can attest they’re perfect for “work-night” dinners.

So, any final observations before we call it a day?

Mihaela Vincze: Sure, I’ll leave you with this thought: Consider developing consistent habits around the health-promoting routines you wish to incorporate in your life — versus establishing harsh rules which can really end up discouraging you. Lastly, if you want more ideas, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Working from Home: How to Optimize Your Work Environment and Stay Healthy page.

Al Waller: Sounds like a plan, and I agree—the carrot versus the stick is a much more effective tool for behavior modification and long-term retention—because just to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being kind and cutting ourselves a break during these challenging times.

Well, once again Mihaela, great advice all around! ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is brought to you by Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching, and educating the public about retirement security and the intersections of health and financial well-being. You can find our weekly podcast on WYPR’s Podcast Central and mobile app, wherever you get your podcasts, and at transamericainstitute.org.

And, just in case you missed it, please check out our recent episodes on how to kick-off your new year with healthy habits and financial resilience.

Until the next time, this is Al Waller encouraging everyone to keep safe, be well and thanks for joining us.

Clearpath is produced by Transamerica Institute with assistance from WYPR.

Al Waller is a long-time Baltimore native and employment expert with a 30-year career in leading and advising locally and globally based corporations on matters including: Talent Acquisition and Retention, Employee Relations, Training and Development.
Mihaela Vincze is a public health expert and experienced health care educator. Serving as Transamerica Institute’s health care content developer, she shares insights on health and wellness on ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health and WealthSM. Mihaela earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public health at California State University, Northridge.