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When I entered the remote workforce in 2015, I was coming from a desk job where I sat all day.  Nothing prepared me, however, for the loss of daily movement I would inevitably experience transitioning from an actual office to a home office.  At my office job, I parked in a parking lot, walked down a long hallway to the restroom, went out for lunch, and walked all over the hospital for various meetings.  My average step count wasn’t great—around 6,000 a day, far short of the 10,000 a day that is recommended.  But it was built in—automatic.

Fast forward 2 months into my employment with Fundriver, a completely virtual company.  I was loving it—loving that I got to see my kids throughout the day as they played downstairs with the babysitter, loving the collaborate yet efficient environment that meeting via phone and screen share offers (introvert heaven!).  But I was missing some serious movement in my day.  No more parking lot walk, cafeteria visits or moving, physically, from meeting to meeting.  My daily steps included walking up the stairs to my home office and a few short jaunts down for lunch or to retrieve an Amazon package.  We are talking 2,000 a day, MAX—on a good day.

Even with extra trips to the gym, I still felt like a sloth.  And it was showing in my health, with achy joints, stiffness and all kinds of other issues I couldn’t blame on getting older (I mean, I tried—I was almost 40).  It took me over 3 years to figure out how to work more movement into my day so that I can feel strong and active even on days I don’t work out.  My tip to any remote worker is to get into a movement habit BEFORE bad habits set in (it’s SO easy to just sit there and get sucked into meetings and work—and take 10 steps in 4 hours).

Literally schedule it on your calendar, set your watch, do whatever you need to do.  Here’s what I do:

On my planner (yes, it’s paper), I have an hour by hour schedule.  I write one exercise down for each hour I’m in the office.  As the hour turns over, I get out of my chair and do whatever exercise it is—usually weights, squats, lunges, pushups, or planks. (Work at home bonus:  you can wear workout clothes all day long.)  I also try to get out for at least a 30 minute run if the weather is decent; if it’s not, I get up early and go to the gym.  I know that after a 10 hour day that isn’t happening, so as painful as it is, I do it.  A walk works just as well, of course, or even running the stairs for a few minutes (again, schedule it!).

My company has also recognized the importance of keeping its virtual workplace healthy.  Some healthy initiatives we’ve implemented:

  • We have video yoga classes at least 3 days a week that are led by a talented team member
  • We encourage movement; it’s not an issue if we take time out of our day for our health and well-being
  • Standing desks are encouraged
  • We offer an alternative 4-10s schedule, instead of a traditional schedule, so we have more time for self-care.

We are exploring even more initiatives, too, as we grow—including reimbursing employees for healthy memberships (like gyms and CSAs) and having a company-wide step challenge.

They say sitting is the new smoking, and no one feels that more than remote workers.  Working from home can be healthy, it just takes more effort and more support.  I encourage anyone who works from home (or any company with remote workers) to recognize the benefit of building these healthy habits into your day and making movement and self-care a priority.