For many of us, COVID-19 has impacted a lot of things, including how and where we work. The result? Most likely, more freedom in how you structure your workday, new responsibilities and possibly extra strain on your physical and mental well-being.

Although your commute may now mean walking to a different room, working from home isn’t always easy. So, how do you balance your time to make sure you’re working hard while taking care of your mental and physical health? Here are some of the health benefits and challenges that come with working from home, plus four ways to make remote work really work for you.

Mental and physical health benefits of working from home

While many people already work from home, a 2021 Future Workforce Report done by Upwork estimates that in the next few years, up to 28% of the workforce (40.7 million Americans) will be working remotely, and many employees see this as a positive. When you’re working in an office, there are various factors that can put a strain on your mental and physical health – long commutes, headache-inducing traffic and lack of movement throughout the workday, to name a few. When working from home, these issues don’t usually come up and you have more control over how and where you work.

Mental health benefits of working from home

  • Better work-life balance – Without the stress and time it takes to drive to work, you may have more flexibility for things like self-care, hobbies and your relationships with family and friends.
  • Work how you want – You can get things done according to your own schedule and have a quieter space with fewer distractions.

Physical health benefits of working from home

  • More time for you – Without a commute, you may have some extra time to be able to sleep in a little later, take a walk during breaks or do a quick load of laundry.
  • Ability to customize your space – Instead of a cube, you can personalize your workspace, including a stand-up desk to keep you from sitting for hours at a time.
  • Easier to eat smart – When you may have grabbed fast food for lunch before, you have more time to make healthy lunches and snacks.

How to overcome work-from-home challenges to improve your health and well-being

While there are tons of benefits to working remotely, it’s not without its challenges. You may find yourself feeling socially isolated without your coworkers around, getting too much screen time, having difficulty disconnecting from work at the end of the day, struggling with lowered productivity, and adopting a more sedentary lifestyle.

Don’t become overwhelmed – here are four tips to overcome some of these challenges.

1. Establish a routine and schedule

People are creatures of habit and having a consistent routine and schedule can set you up for success.

Start your workday the usual way

You can keep the same morning routine you had when you worked in an office. Set your alarm, shower, get dressed, grab some coffee and kickstart your day.

Stay on schedule

Look at your calendar and the tasks you need to complete for the day and week. When you set up a daily or weekly schedule, it can help you maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Be strategic

Try to make space for free time between meetings. Decide which meetings you absolutely need to attend and identify any that you may not be needed for. This may free up time to take care of other work priorities or tasks.

2. Try to separate your workspace from your home space

You probably don’t want to think about work everywhere in your home, so whether it’s an extra bedroom, a basement or a corner of your living room, having a separate workspace is important to give your brain a break.

Optimize your workspace

Use plants and pictures to personalize it, try to have good lighting or work near a window, if you’re able, and keep your work surface neat.

Limit distractions

Work in a spot that doesn’t have a TV, and a space where you’re less likely to be interrupted by people in your household.

Unplug at the end of the day

Log off your computer and resist checking your emails once your workday ends as a signal to coworkers you aren’t available at all hours of the day.

3. Make mental health a priority

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to forget how important your mental well-being is. Working from home is often lonelier and more isolating than people expect or recognize.

Don’t forego face time

This goes for virtual and in-person interactions. If you’re in a meeting, turn on your camera so communication feels more personal. Chat with coworkers during the day when work allows and take time to socialize outside of work to stay connected.

Practice mindfulness

Simply put, mindfulness is being fully present in all aspects of your life, as well as maintaining awareness of where you are and what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Set aside time during your day for meditation, yoga or simply taking a moment to reflect – these are all easy ways to practice mindfulness.

Set your out-of-office message

Many employers offer vacation time, so make sure you take it. You don’t have to go anywhere. Sometimes, a staycation is just what you need to recharge.

Ask for help

If you find you’re struggling, reach out to family, friends, a coworker or a mental health professional to help you work though whatever it is you’re dealing with. Asking for help isn’t a weakness, but a strength.

4. Physical health is tied to mental health

Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. When your body is healthy, it can help your mind stay healthy, too.

Keep moving

It’s easy to stay seated at your computer for hours without thinking about it. Remember that schedule we talked about? Incorporate a quick walk, workout or just get up and move a few times a day to give your body a break. Bonus: Stepping away from your computer occasionally is easier on your eyes, too.

Embrace ergonomics

When setting up your workspace, make sure your work surface doesn’t require you to hunch over your computer. Also check that it’s at an appropriate height to lessen wrist strain. Use a supportive office chair and think about getting (or creating) a standing desk so you’re not sitting all day.

Fuel your fire

Stock up on healthy foods and make yourself nutritious meals as often as you’re able. Limit snacking, and when you do need a burst of energy, try to choose snacks such as fruits, veggies or nuts. Finally, don’t forget the H2O. Water is just as important as food for good nutrition.

Whatever you do, take care of you

If you’re newly adjusting to a home office, or if you already work from home and have for a while, being mindful of how you work remotely can give you the best chance for a healthy work-life balance.

Have questions or need a little extra help improving your mental and physical health? Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. They can work with you to make a plan that benefits you.