Looking After Your Health While Working From Home

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on March 12, 2014 in Working From Home
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I've had a rough couple of days this week. It started Sunday night. Between now and then I've had restless nights, fluttering feelings, a bit of lightheadedness, and a variety of other symptoms. By Monday morning I was imagining the worst. My husband worked from home that day just in case I decided to go into the hospital to get checked out.

Thankfully it didn't come to that. I'm mostly better now, although not 100%. I'm still dealing with some issues like exhaustion, where I suddenly need a nap, and they usually last a solid four or five hours. I suspect it's a result of some recent dietary changes (silly me for trying to do something healthier) combined with some meds I'm on to prevent another early pregnancy loss like I talked about in a post several weeks back.

I completely forgot about this medication having an effect on blood sugar, so my dietary changes which eliminated a lot of sugar very suddenly (although that wasn't the direct aim) sent my body into an all-out revolt. Couple that with the fact that I've been working longer hours than usual lately, including some very late nights, and it wasn't a pretty picture as I'm sure you can imagine.

The Problem of Working at Home

This made me realize something important. Despite all of the wonderful things about working from home, it's not perfect. There are issues to contend with, and several revolve around health (it can be too easy to go from bed to your desk and be on your ass all day when you don't have to commute, your fridge is barely a stone's throw away, etc.).

Those things can be dealt with. And you can even find ways to be healthier at home than in an office. But here's the thing I really miss: having people around to tell me when I look like crap and should either leave work or get to a doctor. It can be easier to get lost in our work when we work alone, and sometimes obvious symptoms to someone else can be lost on us.

Just for the record, I did contact my doctor and let her know what was going on. She's having me cut my dosage in half for now to see if there's an improvement. I've also made it a point to get more sleep and reintroduce some of the carbs I cut too much too fast accidentally by keeping fruit available and on my desk at all times. I've also cut back on caffeine so it doesn't elevate my blood pressure or cause any jitters of its own until I'm back on a normal sleep schedule.

Knowing Better Isn't Always Enough


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I really do know better than to work insane hours. Without the exhaustion and stress of working so much, I might have avoided most of the scare this week.

I've talked about my normal work schedule here before and why I'm such a supporter of shorter work weeks (and how cutting back from 60+ hour weeks to 28 hours per week over four days actually helped me increase my income and productivity). But lately I haven't been taking my own advice.

It started innocently enough. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. In this case there were problems on the back-end of this site that needed to be dealt with. And I try to take care of those things overnight when there aren't many people trying to access the site.

If it was something that should have taken days, I would have outsourced it. But in this case it would have taken me more time to explain the situation, what changes I'd recently made that resulted in it, and what I wanted to happen than it would have taken for me to simply fix it myself. So I did.

No problem. Except then, after fixing some major compatibility issues between two major plugins used on this site, the second of the two released updates. And bam! More problems. I had backups. No worries there. But the updated versions needed to work. So again I stayed up to work on them and troubleshoot some of the issues visitors were reporting.

By the time everything was settled again, my sleep schedule was shot, and I'd gotten used to working the long hours. So I decided to make the most of them. I'd noticed that when I posted something here late at night, my ad revenue jumped way up (ten times what was normal). So I decided to put those extra late night hours towards a few other posts to run some tests for a week or two.

Dumb move on my part. Looking back, I should have just written them early in the day and published them late.

Lesson Learned

I'm making some changes again as a result of all of this.

  • No more late nights working, whether I can sleep or not (minus the occasional emergency of course).
  • I'm going to try to get back on my usual sleep cycle where I'm up at 4:00 am and ready to work by 5:00.
  • I'm going to focus on getting posts written earlier in the day even while I test other posting schedules (you'll see mostly afternoon posts over the next week or so).
  • After this week, I'm sticking to the new client project schedule I set this year (only working on client projects Monday - Wednesday). If I put any time at all into work over the weekends, it will be solely for my own projects and probably simple things (like reading blogs, responding to comments, etc.), although I might occasionally put extra time into my fiction if inspiration strikes outside of my regular writing schedule.
  • I'm going to stick with the healthier dietary changes, but put more effort into tracking so I don't accidentally cut too much of any one thing again.
  • I'm going to follow my doc's advice on my meds until we see how that plays out.
  • I'm going to break both workouts and meditation up into several short sessions every day to keep me mentally fresh (using my Pomodoro tracker would be a good place to start).

Perhaps most importantly, after I finish a few key projects this week, I'm going to take a week off from client projects. I've already talked it over with regulars and they're very understanding. That's why I'm not sticking with my Monday - Wednesday cycle this week. I'm clearing a few things up in advance. I think I need the mental vacation.

That said, there are some things I also won't be doing, like cutting back on my time here (if anything, I'll probably start devoting even more time to this site and creating new resources for you). And next week I will (I will, I will, I will) finish the first draft of my mystery novel.

I'm looking to strike a new balance between my strict schedule that works very well for me and the fact that sometimes the more creative sides of my work want to dictate their own schedules. With the added emphasis on fiction this year, this is a new issue for me. But in the end, finding balance is really the key to staying in good health while we work from home. And my balance needs to swing towards things other than writing in order for me to get there again.

Of course this is all the plan today. I make no promises about tomorrow.

What about you? Have you faced any health concerns or challenges since beginning to work from home? How do you get around them or deal with them? What have you done to make working from home an even healthier option than a traditional office job?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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17 Comments

  1. Katherine James March 12, 2014 Reply

    The main thing I have done, in terms of making my work-from-home life healthier, is to invest in a good ergonomic office chair.

    My lower back started to hurt recently (despite my taking regular exercise). However, the combination of a quality ergonomic chair – along with a bit of yoga – and the pain has gone.
    Katherine James recently posted…Get Paid To Write Articles by Checking These 5 Job Boards DailyMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 12, 2014 Reply

      A good chair is an absolute necessity. You’re right Katherine. It can make all the difference in the world between working comfortably and feeling miserable. I love my chair, but I wanted a bit of extra back support, so this year I added a lumbar roll, and it’s an amazing difference. :)

      In addition to back support, it’s important to make sure your chair’s height works well with your desk (or whatever work surface you use). Something else to try is a standing desk, even if you don’t use it all the time. I hadn’t been using mine for a while so I removed it. But I just recently moved it back to my office because I realized I needed to get on my feet more often throughout the day. Even if you can’t write well that way, it’s a good option for taking care of the little things (like checking email and social media accounts, catching up on blogs, or proofreading).

      They make dedicated standing desks and desks that adjust from sitting to standing heights. Personally I use a secretary — the top of it is the perfect height for me, although it would be a bit high for a lot of folks. You can also get a modular storage unit and simply place it on top of your normal desk when you want to work standing up. :)

    • Markéta March 12, 2014 Reply

      Standing desk is even better. I really want the desk you can easily switch from standing to normal one day..
      Or the desk with treadmill:)

      • Author
        Jennifer Mattern March 12, 2014 Reply

        While I’m looking forward to a new treadmill (I used to have a small gym at my apartment complex before we got the house, and I miss it), I don’t know if I could work while I was on it. Maybe I could do some audio recording for a voice-to-text transcription later, but I’d be paranoid hurting myself. I’m lucky I don’t get so distracted at the standing desk that I fall over half the time — I frequently have too many things bouncing around in my mind. Throw coordination in there, and I think I’d be on overload. ;)

        • Markéta March 12, 2014 Reply

          Same here for treadmill :)
          I can barely walk and speaking into phone, so… nope :)
          But the idea is good. I read a funny article on Bussiness Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-truth-about-working-on-a-treadmill-desk-2013-11

          Check at least the video, it is really funny :)

          • Author
            Jennifer Mattern March 13, 2014

            That was a good read Marketa. Thanks. :) And you’re right. The video is funny. I suspect my reaction would be similar to the guy wearing the Adidas shirt. ;)

  2. Keri March 12, 2014 Reply

    I think one of the best things about working from home is the ability to experiment with your schedule like this and find out what works best for you. Hope you’re feeling 100% soon!

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 12, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Keri! :)

      I’ve been able to find my perfect schedule over the years (5am – noon, Mon – Thurs). My problem is that once I get off track with my normal sleep schedule I sometimes have a difficult time getting back on it. Hopefully it won’t take too long this time. It usually only takes one or two days of getting it right before I’m back in the habit. :)

  3. Cathy Miller March 12, 2014 Reply

    My 5-6 mile-walks are a must. They are both a physical and mental break that I cannot live without. I used to complain I couldn’t get them in during the summer when it hits triple digits here. My justification was the morning is my most productive time so I couldn’t walk in the morning when it was cooler. Bull-pucky.

    I made walking a priority and now adjust to the seasons. I found I was as productive (if not more) walking in the mornings as I am with my preferred afternoon walks.

    You can do whatever you need to by making health a priority. That was a lesson I had to learn desperately after my unhealthy years in my corporate life.
    Cathy Miller recently posted…Marketing Benchmarks: On the Road to SuccessMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 12, 2014 Reply

      It’s great that you have such a good system for you Cathy. :) I do miss my old long walks. There just isn’t a good place now that I’ve moved. I’m not comfortable walking around this community, and all of the area trails are a bit too far — I can’t afford to spend 40 minutes driving to get there and back on top of the walking time. Picking a treadmill is on the to-do list. In the meantime I just got back into boxing workouts. But what I really need is to get back to yoga.

  4. Prudence Shank March 12, 2014 Reply

    First of all, I’m glad you’re feeling a little better. Being sick is NEVER fun, plus all you’ve been through. Ugh. Sending hugs. I’ve also found that I feel insanely guilty when I am sick. When I worked for someone else I NEVER felt bad about taking sick days. But when my office is down the hall, I hear it calling me when I’m on my sick bed.

    Second…keep us posted on that new client work schedule. I’ve contemplated something similar but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I’m curious how it works out for you.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 13, 2014 Reply

      I understand that guilt you’re talking about. I’ve gotten better about it over the years, probably from all the health-related time off I’ve had to take. I make sure I take care of things before I need time off (unless it’s an emergency or sudden onset). And I try to get back to normal as soon as it makes sense to do so. The way I see it, that’s all I can do. Anything that comes in during that downtime gets referred to people I trust.

      That said, I still feel work calling my name and I don’t always ignore it. I actually started answering this comment late last night in bed when I couldn’t sleep. I picked up my phone and started checking tweets and blog comments. Then I realized how crazy it was for me to be doing that while answering this particular comment, so I put my phone down and finally fell asleep. ;)

      The new client schedule isn’t too far off from my old one. I’m still working Mon – Thurs. I’m just not doing any client work on Thursdays anymore (except today because I’m getting ahead on next week’s work so I can take that time off of client work entirely). I do still check emails on Thursdays though, so I’m available if clients have questions. I just have to remember not to accept project deadlines falling on those days.

      You really don’t even have to tell clients what days you work on their projects. As long as you’re careful about the deadlines you accept, you can work on the projects any days of the week you want. So it might be something worth trying without any kind of official announcement and see how it goes. You can always make it more official later if you like the schedule, especially if you want to take off completely and not even be available for calls or emails on specific days.

  5. Eliska March 12, 2014 Reply

    I would love to take a walks, but my naighbrhood is so ugly and I have no money even for stupid public transport recently, also I just can’t go alone, I always feel akward.
    But my body seriously suffer. I think I will just fell appart soon. I envy you your walks a lot.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 13, 2014 Reply

      I hear you Eliska. While I live in a beautiful area that would be perfect for walks, I’m uncomfortable walking alone here after some past tension in the neighborhood. If you can’t get to a park or something, have you considered doing workout videos? I used to enjoy some indoor walking ones from Leslie Sansone. You don’t even have to buy them. You can find plenty of free workout videos online these days.

      For example, go to Hulu.com and click the TV link near the top. Then to to the “genres” link below the main image slider. Click on “health and wellness.” There are a lot of yoga and cardio options there. I can’t say if there are any walking-specific ones though. There are also a lot of workout videos on YouTube. Those are two free resources you could start with. Hopefully you’ll find something you enjoy. :)

  6. Amandah March 13, 2014 Reply

    Jenn,

    Take care of yourself! Glad to hear you’re getting better.

    Working out is a must for me. Of course, I prefer to be outside, but March is starting to out like a lion in the Midwest. :) I like to do yoga and meditation (need to practice more).

    P.S.

    Freelancers could try working outside of the home but may find they long to be in their home office. Join groups instead and meet and greet people. Sign up for a weekly coffee or lunch meeting. This may be better for you.
    Amandah recently posted…How to Choose the Right Social Media Network without Pulling Your Hair OutMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern March 13, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Amandah!

      Here too. The wind is insane today. I actually shut things down early just so I could unplug in case falling tree limbs caused an outage. Fortunately it hasn’t yet, although we’ve lost a lot of branches and a downspout got knocked off the house last night.

      And good tips for those who don’t like working from home all the time! :)

  7. Richard July 23, 2014 Reply

    Well, I work in office and healthy food has always been a big problem for me. Usually I eat some snacks or chocolate there =)

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