By Lynda Galea
Teaching English online from the comfort of your home (or from a remote location while traveling) can present a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to your health.
In theory, it should be easier to remain healthy when you’re teaching English online from home, right? No tempting office snacks, no one bringing in donuts or cake, you can cook nutritious meals when you get hungry and you can work out whenever you want!
As much as we’d like to believe this to be the truth, the sad reality is that teaching English online from home can bring with it many bad habits. It becomes easier to skip regular meals and workouts, and social interactions with people outside of your online classroom can diminish. While you must always look presentable from the waist up, sweat pants can quickly become your best friend… or pants may be optional altogether!
In a regular office environment, creating a healthy work-life balance can be tough, but it becomes increasingly more difficult when work and life are happening in the exact same place. Your health should be your number one priority, so let’s take a look at nine ways to ensure teaching English online from your home or from a remote location while traveling does not become the death of you!
1. Establish routine by showering and dressing as though you're going into the office
Showering first thing in the morning will help you wake up, feel fresh, and get you ready for a productive day of teaching English online. Set aside a “work uniform” to help establish a positive vibe, instill competence and avoid the habit of wearing pajama or sweat pants. For example, all VIPKid online English teachers must wear an orange shirt during class time – pair this with some black slacks, and this becomes your work uniform.
2. Set up a designated classroom space
Create a space in your home or wherever it is you are working from (perhaps an Airbnb apartment while traveling) that is designated solely for your online classes. This will ensure that your classroom and all your teaching materials are always readily available, omitting the need for a daily setup. Your special classroom space will help establish a working mindset by indicating when you are at work or not.
Here are some great designated classroom examples we came across on YouTube from VIPKid teachers:
Teacher Nancy with VIPKid
Teacher Nikki with VIPKid
3. Chair vs. Standing
If you have a full days schedule with back-to-back online classes booked, you’ll want to ensure you invest in an ergonomic chair to keep you comfortable and your posture aligned. Stiff necks, slouching, and back pain are common side effects of sitting for too long at a time, so if your budget allows for it, you may way to explore standing desk options. A standing desk will not only give your back a break by improving your core strength and leading to better overall posture, but it may also help reduce your overall mortality risk.
If you are on a tight budget or don’t have the space for a standing desk, there are several adjustable laptop/computer stands that convert into a stand up desk on the market like this one.
4. Protect your eyes
Most online English classes run from anywhere between 30-60 minutes – that’s a lot of time to remain entirely focused on your screen. If you’ve booked yourself with back-to-back classes throughout the day, this particularly becomes taxing and strenuous on your eyes.
A suggestion to help with eye care when teaching English online is to download F.lux (available for both Mac and Windows operating systems).
F.lux is a free software that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day; warm at night and like sunlight during the day. F.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in. For example, it will activate in the evening and gradually turn the glow to a tint of orange or golden hue as night falls. You simply tell F.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live and then f.lux will automatically do the rest. You can also customize it manually by adjusting the color intensity, which determines how strong the effect will be. This way, it controls the amount of blue light emitted from your screen.
5. Ditch the coffee
The average American coffee drinker consumes 3.2 cups of coffee per day. It’s super easy to make a pot of coffee in your kitchen in the morning, and to gradually make your way through it during your day, especially if you start to fatigue in between your intense teaching schedule. Too much coffee will bring with it caffeine highs and crashes – and the crashes will leave you craving more coffee to help wake yourself up.
Try cutting back on your coffee consumption or canceling it out entirely. Substitutes to consider include green tea (which is said to have great health benefits), coconut water (also great for keeping you hydrated), sparkling water or flavored La Croix’s, and if you’re more of a hot drink lover, a cup of English breakfast tea or Earl Grey tea can be delightful.
6. Establish a meal prep routine
Go grocery shopping on the weekend and stock your fridge and pantry with fruits, veggies, grains and lean proteins. Plan your meals ahead of time, or meal prep on the weekends to last you the entire week. This way you will be sure to have healthy, nutritious meals and snacks readily available when you go to open your fridge and this will help prevent you from snacking on unhealthy food options, or ordering in junk food. If you have tight breaks in between your lessons, having already prepped meals and snacks is speedy and won’t take away too much time from those tight turnarounds.
Another alternative to prepping meals, is prepping smoothies. You can freeze zip lock bags with fruit, and when needed, take one out and throw it into a blender with some milk - boom, a healthy, liquid meal for you to consume!
Eating at regular intervals throughout your day of teaching English online will help maintain focus, reduce fatigue, and keep you full!
7. Get out of the house
If you don’t, you’ll drive yourself crazy! When you have a break in between lessons, instead of using it to check your phone, emails, or Facebook, make an effort to leave your house and get yourself some fresh air! Walk around outside for 10-15 minute, go for a short bike ride, take your dog to the park, etc. This will also give your eyes a much-needed break from staring at your screen.
By getting out of the house, you’ll increase your opportunity to experience social interaction (other than online with your students), and the change of scenery will do you some good.
8. Set aside time to work out
Other than improving your overall health and fitness levels, scheduling a workout into your online English teaching calendar will help increase your energy levels, lower stress, and help maintain focus – this will also help loosen up your body after being confined to a chair and desk for a majority of your day.
If you’re not sure where to begin, you can find a ton of at-home workouts on YouTube.
9. Incorporate a shutdown ritual to signify the end of your work day
In a typical workplace setup, the end of the work day is signified by the clock hitting 5pm, you packing up your things and leaving the office to make your way home.
If you are teaching English online from home or from a remote location while traveling though, the end of your work day and the beginning of your home time can be hard to differentiate between. Your final lesson for the day should be a good indicator to the “official” end of the work day, however it is quite easy to fall into the habit of picking up another lesson, working on class props, responding to emails, etc.
This is why it is important to develop a shutdown ritual to help mark the official end to your work day. This can be something extremely simple like closing your laptop. The closing of the laptop signifies to you that your day of teaching English online is now over and you are free to go and enjoy your personal time.
About the Author: An accomplished traveler (she's visited 35 countries!) and blogger, Lynda Galea hails from Melbourne, Australia. When she's not working with the ITA team spreading the word about teaching and traveling abroad, Lynda enjoys taking in a new film, eating dumplings, and of course, snuggling with her beloved kitty, Sooty.
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