Working From Home: 3 Underrated Tips

Daniel Sedran

April 14, 2021

Home office setup with a laptop, notepad, plant. and water bottle at First Line Physiotherapy North York

For the past year, many people have been working from home. As a physiotherapist, I have had the opportunity to discuss the impact this has had with many people. Some have enjoyed the change, and others are quite eager to get back to the office. For everyone though, a common theme that has become clear is that working from home has impacted peoples’ activity levels.

We may not have considered ourselves to be active during a typical workday. The steps during our commute, the washroom breaks, and walking to buy a lunch, were all forms of activity. Since eliminating those activities and being confined to our homes, many of us are walking less, moving less, and feeling pain as a result. If we are not intentionally incorporating activity into our daily routines, it becomes very easy to spend the entire day sedentary.

This change in activity levels, increased sedentary time, and increased pain/stiffness as a result all contribute to a lower quality of life. It is important to organize our day and structure our activities in order to help combat these effects. To help with this, here are 3 common strategies that I find myself discussing with many of my clients who have been working from home.

1. Replicate your previous work behaviours as much as possible

Think back to your old morning routine. Maybe you started your day with a shower, walked to your car/transit route, and commuted to work. Now, it’s common for me to hear of people rolling out of bed, later than they used to. Then, starting their workday in their PJ’s, sometimes even without leaving their bed.

Story Time!

With a recent client, this was exactly the case. We noticed that their now chronic neck and back pain started around the time they began working from home. We decided that they would try waking up at the time they used to, make their coffee, and start their day with a quick drive. They would even buy a Starbuck’s coffee on some days like they did on their way to work. Once they got home, it was straight to their desk to get their day started. Just by making this change (in addition to the regular stretching/walking breaks) they saw improvements within a few days! They have been consistent with this routine and have been improving ever since. They’re also particularly great at shutting down when they’re scheduled to be off the clock, separating work and home.

Everyone has a different set of routines, and the changes you make might not have to be this drastic. Even small changes, like what time you wake up, the clothes you wear, and the first meal of the day can make big changes in how you feel.

2. Respect your sleep

Two major topics that I often discuss with clients regarding their sleep routine are consistency, and proper use of their bed.

Firstly, our bodies perform better when they are in a routine. More specifically, when going to bed and waking up at the same time (including on weekends!). Each person requires a different amount of sleep to be rested. Regardless, going to sleep within the same 30 minutes every night, at a time that allows you to get approximately 8 hours of sleep is a good rule to follow.

Secondly, our bed should be primarily for sleeping. Often times I will hear that people like to work, study, watch television, or scroll through their phone in bed. When we do this, our bodies/minds associate lying in bed with these activities which require us to be alert and awake. This could result in trouble falling asleep, and decrease our ability to have a restful sleep throughout the night. Instead, we should only be lying down in our bed when it is time to sleep, and should save the activities that require us to be attentive for another seat, couch, or even room.

3. Walk (or even just stand)

Though they are often used interchangeably, exercise and activity are different. Exercise is intentional movement that requires increased effort and is geared toward improving physical fitness. Activity is everything from tapping your foot, to walking, to going about your daily tasks. Even small movements help to keep our muscles working, our blood flowing, and our bodies happy.

When we were at school or the office, taking walking breaks through the day was less important because just in getting to and from work, we all walked more without even noticing that we were doing it. Now, using an alarm to help time breaks for standing and walking (even around your living space for 1-2 minutes) is essential to help us keep us moving through the day. Just small changes in your activity levels like this can make a huge different in how you feel physically and mentally.

All of that said,

The strategies that work for each individual are going to be quite different. These are some common ones that I have suggested and have watched clients see progress as a result. Rather than making too many changes at once, I recommend picking one of these, and trying to implement that. Once those changes have become routine, you can add modifications to help improve your overall routine and well-being. If you have some other tips and strategies that have worked for you, let me know, I would love to hear them!

Stay safe and take care,

Daniel Sedran

Registered Physiotherapist
Owner of First Line Physiotherapy