Working from home is not for everyone. While pre-COVID you may have had fantasies of working from home in your pyjamas, the reality doesn't always live up to the hype. One of the major complaints that I've heard from clients while working from home is how hard it can be to eat well when you lose some of the structure in your day. When leaving your house to go to work, you often develop a very clear routine. However, while working from home, that routine can fall by the wayside when you lose some of those natural cues in your day like commuting, conversations with coworkers, and a lunch hour. This often means that you need to be more aware to create a routine for yourself.
I find that people often fall into two camps when it comes to eating when working from home: those who snack all day without necessarily eating a real meal and those who forget to eat and will go long stretches and wait until they're ravenous before they eat. Eating well while working from home is important, as it can improve your concentration and overall productivity during the day.
If you are looking to improve your eating habits when working from home, here are some tips for you.
I don't necessarily mean literally packing a lunch and taking it with you to your home workspace, but it's helpful to consider what you're going to eat for meals and snacks ahead of time the same way that you would when you go to work. If you don't have a plan, it can be a bit daunting to look in the fridge and try to figure out what you're going to eat. Also, if you have a limited amount of time during the day, having an easy lunch already made and ready to go means that you don't have to spend time cooking.
One of the easiest ways to plan for lunches is to make extras when you're making supper. Leftovers are easy to heat up and eat quickly if you’re limited on time. If you hate the idea of eating the same thing over and over, then repurpose your leftovers into different meals. For example, if at supper you’re having chicken, cook a few extra pieces and use them in a sandwich or wrap for lunch. The hardest part is already done for you, and it’s not just a repeat of last night’s dinner.
Need some ideas for balanced lunches? Check out our free guide to building a balanced lunch and supper here.
Snacking between meals can give your brain a bit of a boost and can help bridge long gaps between meals. That being said, if you find yourself constantly snacking while working from home, you may be better off snacking with a purpose. Not everyone feels the need to snack between meals, but if you find that having a small snack helps keep you productive, set aside a set time each day to have a balanced snack. Eating something that has a mix of protein and carbohydrates helps to give you a small burst of energy that can keep you going until your next meal. Some examples would be:
It doesn’t have to be a big snack, just something to tide you over so you don’t get to your next meal feeling ravenous.
It's important to take breaks during the day to refocus and maybe get up and get some blood flowing. If you find it difficult to remember to get up and take a break, set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. Similar to when you’re in an office, I’d highly recommend eating your lunch away from your computer. This allows you to focus on your eating and practice some mindful eating habits.
When creating an at-home workspace, it’s helpful to try to recreate that feeling of going to work, even when you’re not leaving the house. This not only helps to train your brain that when you are in this certain space it’s work time, but it can also act as a good trigger for those who feel they are eating all day long, that this space is for working, not snacking. That being said, not everyone has space in their homes to have a dedicated office, so what happens if your dedicated workspace is your kitchen table? If that's the case, I would recommend trying to keep your kitchen as clean as possible. Sometimes having food out all the time can encourage you to snack more than what your body needs. Nothing against snacking, I love a good snack, but if you find yourself snacking all day, it may be helpful to move things out of sight.
In addition to this, if your workspace is serving many purposes, it may be a good idea for you to power down and move things out of the way when having a meal or snack. This allows you to tune in to how you are feeling while eating and allows you to better assess whether you’re starting to feel full or could use something else.
When your home is your office, it can be difficult to separate work from home. This is especially true when you have coworkers working varying schedules, as you may find yourself checking in outside of work hours. To avoid burnout, it’s important to set boundaries on your time. Often when going into an office, people will use their commute home as a wind-down time. In order to mimic that commute home, this may be a great time for an at-home work-out or even a walk around the block; anything to indicate to your brain that there’s a separation between work and home.
While it may be impossible to recreate your former routine exactly, when trying to figure out what works best for you, think back to what was working well for you when you were at work. Are you the type of person who snacks? Do you have a morning coffee break? Do you take a lunch break away from your desk? How can you incorporate what was working before into your new working-from-home routine? Remember that this is also a great opportunity to consider some new habits that maybe you weren't doing, but would like to.
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