7 Working-from-home tips to keep you healthy and energised

By Paulina Shetty, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT, DipACLM | May 18, 2020
Paulina Shetty author of this article working from her Jarvis standing desk at home with her babyPaulina Shetty author of this article working from her Jarvis standing desk at home with her baby

After working from my home office for the past three years, with many competing professional and personal priorities (including a new baby), I’ve gained a real appreciation for how hard it can be to transition to a home office.

As the director of education for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, I serve on a team that educates healthcare professionals about how to prescribe effective lifestyle behaviour changes to dramatically reduce chronic illness in their patients—and our world. We’re helping healthcare professionals—and the general public—learn how to eat healthier, sleep better, manage stress, exercise, build relationships and limit addictive substances, in order to positively impact their long-term health.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine 6 Pillars; eat healthier, sleep better, manage stress, exercise, build relationships and avoid addictive substances American College of Lifestyle Medicine 6 Pillars; eat healthier, sleep better, manage stress, exercise, build relationships and avoid addictive substances

I’ve worked hard to create a work-from-home routine that integrates the same important healthy behaviours we work so hard to help others adapt. It’s helped me create a day that is filled with healthy, positive behaviours and an environment that helps keep me focused, fueled, and full of joy. 

Tip 1: Act like you're leaving the house for work

When working from home, it can feel like your workday begins as soon as you get out of bed, which is sure to burn you out over time. You should also avoid the temptation to work from your bed or in your pajamas all day.

Instead, build a routine that mimics the one you have when you worked out of the house in order to help you transition into your work day.

My day starts with a morning routine of making the bed, getting up with a cup of coffee, and making breakfast (for myself and my family—the pup included). My go-to’s for breakfast are foods that will help me feel full and energized: oatmeal with bananas, flaxseed, chia and berries; a green smoothie; or avocado toast with fresh fruit. 

Then I get dressed. Even if I’m just changing into my workout clothes—which is the case most days—the act of “getting dressed” helps me to get into the right mindset to be productive. 

I also always feel so much better when I take the time to incorporate movement and mindfulness in the morning. I specifically enjoy doing a short morning yoga and or stretching along with a video from SarahBeth Yoga. She offers great 5, 10, and 15-minute videos on YouTube that are available for free! 

Lastly, I like to take the pup on her early morning walk around the neighborhood. This helps me to fully awaken and enjoy the outdoors before “coming into” work and settling at my desk with my full water bottle, inbox and project to-do list waiting for me. 

My go-to’s for breakfast are foods that will help me feel full and energized.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine Nutrition PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Nutrition Pillar
Paulina working in her home office with her Jarvis desk and Topo standing matPaulina working in her home office with her Jarvis desk and Topo standing mat

Tip 2: Create an awesome work-from-home setup
(even if it's a nook between the bedroom closets...)

Maybe you have an entire room to use for an office, or maybe you’re posting up at the kitchen counter. Even in a small home or apartment, it’s important to designate a space that acts as your official office. I don’t have a lot of space to work with, but that didn’t stop me from creating my own little office nook in our second bedroom (tucked right in between two closets). The trick is to make it a space you actually want to work from every day. If you dread sitting at your desk, you’ll avoid work and find yourself in a serious slump.

Furniture is a big part of creating the space you want

Furniture is a big part of creating the space you want 

I turned to Fully for a small adjustable height standing desk that fits in this small space, but still allows me to change from sitting to standing throughout the day.

I also chose a chair—the HAG Capisco—that is designed to encourage my body to change positions, and to support itself when sitting. My Topo anti-fatigue mat makes it more comfortable to stand, and it has a nice mound in the center that gives my feet a nice pressure massage, and encourages me to stand longer. (I’ve even thought of taking it into the kitchen for when the dishes pile up).

Tip 3: Prep for stressful situations

It’s helpful to have some good stress management tools to keep you level-headed, productive, and solutions-focused. 

Here are a few things I incorporate throughout my day to keep stress levels low:

  • Keep a clean and organised work space with a simple, clutter-free desk and room.

  • Organise your work schedule. Block out time to address email, projects and recurrent meetings. We use (and I love) Asana, which is a work management tool, that helps me organise all my work projects and daily to-dos into one place so that they aren’t heavy on my mind. Asana sends me an email every morning with my compiled list of daily to-dos so that I can see my tasks all at once and start checking them off one-by one.

  • Take mini breaks between projects and calls:

  • Take the dog for a quick walk around the block.
  • Step outside and soak up some sun.
  • Eat lunch outside.
  • Take a 5-10 minute stretch or exercise break. 
  • Listen to music throughout the day. I switch back and forth between encouraging, positive and fun music to hammer out tedious tasks, and soothing music for focus and productivity. My peaceful and productive “go-to” favorite is “Relaxdaily” found on Youtube and Spotify.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Get a large water bottle or cup that makes you happy and encourages you to drink throughout the day. I keep it on my desk and my WaterMinder app reminds me to drink as often as I want (I choose hourly reminders), and it also tracks my daily water intake.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine Mindfulnesss PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Mindfulnesss Pillar
American College of Lifestyle Medicine Get moving PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Get moving Pillar

Tip 4: Get moving!

With the right planning, you can incorporate everything from subtle, natural movements to full exercises into your day, all while staying productive.

Even the simple act of adjusting my body position based on my tasks makes all the difference on my mood, engagement and productivity.

Stand for conference calls and meetings

Doing so keeps me feeling awake, energised and engaged in the conversation, instead of potentially being too comfy or sluggish in my chair. It can also serve as a conversation starter and encourage your colleagues and clients to join you standing. 

Sit in an active chair for more intensive work

I sit in my Capisco chair while writing emails and working on things that require more concentration.

Take easy calls outside

If I’m on an informal call where minimal or no note taking is required, I enjoy stepping outside for some sunlight, to get in some extra steps, and to spur creative thinking. If the weather is bad, I’ll simply pace around the apartment or grab the dumbbells (strategically positioned under my desk) to do some arm or leg exercises.

Really move before, during, and after work

I also rely on my Apple Watch to tell me when to get up and move about once every hour. I do a few things to get more movement in during these breaks:

  • Set a goal to hit a certain number of squats and lunges by the end of the day. Start small and progress daily. Switch it up by doing a variety of lunges and squats to keep it fun.

  • Stretch while you stand.

  • Listen to music with a good beat that’ll make you move and boost your mood.

  • The Fitness Marshall and POPSUGAR Fitness are my two favorite free Youtube channels that make exercising fun, quick and easy so it doesn’t feel like a chore. 

  • After work, I enjoy working out with the Peloton app which hosts a variety of workout videos and offers a free 90 day trial.

Tip 5: Stay connected to coworkers

Make the time to invest in your relationships with your coworkers. This can help prevent loneliness and give you that “in the office” feel when you need it. 

Here are some easy ways to stay connected:

  • Greet co-workers in the morning like you would in real life using G-chat, Slack, text, or other chat apps. 

  • Schedule weekly, biweekly or monthly touchpoints using FaceTime or Zoom so you get true face-to-face time.

  • Use Facetime and Zoom for socialising, too, with virtual coffee dates or lunch breaks with coworkers, friends or family.

  • Catch up on your colleagues’ lives during the first five minutes of your work calls before getting straight to business.

  • Keep track of birthdays and celebrate by sending goofy, or personalised memes in a group email or text thread.

Schedule weekly, biweekly or monthly touchpoints using FaceTime or Zoom so you get true face-to-face time.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine Relationships PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Relationships Pillar

Suggest doing a (virtual) “walk-and-talk” at a local park or neighborhood to still engage socially.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine Substance avoidance PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Substance avoidance Pillar

Tip 6: Go easy on the alcohol

It can be tempting to unwind in the evening with a couple of social drinks with family or friends over video chat. But contrary to past studies that indicated that moderate alcohol consumption provided protective health benefits, recent studies show this may not be true. The recommendation is to not start drinking if you do not already, and for those who drink, to limit to no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. And remember, these are single day limits and not to be added up for the week to be used all at once! 

In lieu of a cocktail focused happy-hour, you could also suggest doing a (virtual) “walk-and-talk” at a local park or neighborhood to still engage socially. Or catch up with a friend over Facetime or Zoom while you prepare your dinner!

Tip 7: Protect your sleep!

Working from home also means that you never quite officially “leave the office.” It can be tempting to check and respond to emails and work on projects late into the night. Sleep is another important pillar of lifestyle medicine that is important to pay attention to. 

Even though I’m working from home and may not need to “clock-in” every day at the exact same time, having a routine and consistent sleep schedule can be helpful. I try to stick to a consistent bedtime and “sign in” time every morning to help protect my 8 hours of nightly sleep. Signing off and turning off all screens at least an hour or two prior to bed can help you settle down for the evening.

Working from home also means that you never quite “leave the office.” Sleep is another important part of lifestyle medicine that is important to pay attention to.

American College of Lifestyle Medicine Sleep PillarAmerican College of Lifestyle Medicine Sleep Pillar

When your workload and/or project deadlines come up and you may have a late work night, consider using blue-light blocking glasses to help prevent melatonin suppression for a better night’s sleep.

These are some of the ways I try to incorporate lifestyle medicine into my life so I can be not only talk-the-talk, but walk-the-walk. Some days are easier than others, and we are all a work in progress. I hope these tips, tools and resources may be helpful to you as you all acclimate to working from home! 


About Paulina Shetty, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT, DipACLM

Paulina is a registered dietitian, NASM certified personal trainer, certified lifestyle medicine professional and currently serves as the Director of Education for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM). The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is the medical professional society for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, health care executives, residents, interns, students, and others on the health care team devoted to treating, reversing and preventing chronic disease through lifestyle behaviors as a first-treatment option. 

ACLM fills the existing void in medical education by equipping and empowering its members to practice evidence-based Lifestyle Medicine through live and online CME/CE-accredited events and educational offerings, certification opportunities, clinical practice and reimbursement tools, patient education resources, networking opportunities and advocacy.

Paulina earned a Master of Science in Nutrition and Physical Performance at Saint Louis University and Bachelors of Science in Medical Dietetics from University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives at home with her husband, son and black lab.