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Hybrid Work Structure Hero

Stay healthy by striving for work-life balance

American Heart Association

Why it matters

  • Balancing work with the rest of life is easier with a job schedule that suits individual needs.
  • The pandemic underscored the pros and cons of working remotely versus in the office and may help set the course for the future.
  • Maintaining your health and well-being is essential regardless of where you do your job.

For many people, the traditional 40-hour workweek is getting a makeover. A growing segment of the workforce no longer wants to commute to the office and prefers working from home.

Though some employers are requiring workers to return to offices as the COVID-19 pandemic eases, others have continued at-home work. In many workplaces, a hybrid schedule combining the two is now common and may become the dominant work arrangement.1

“The pandemic ushered in a new era of work with more people working from home than ever,” noted Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, a Harvard Business School-trained strategist and coach and the founder and CEO of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. “Companies around the world are trying to determine the optimal work structure for the future. It will very much depend on their company culture and workflow.”

“Communicating with employees about their needs will be part of the process,” Kennedy added. “Whether working in an office or from home, it’s important to manage time and energy and strive for a work-life balance.” An equilibrium between career demands and personal life can reduce stress, lower the risk of burnout, and lead to a greater sense of well-being, which benefits employees and employers alike.2

Best practices for remote work

Entering the second year of the pandemic, 59% of workers who had jobs that could be done mainly remotely said they were working from home most of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The majority said they were doing it by choice rather than necessity. Most said working from home at least some of the time helps balance their work and personal lives, and many said it makes it easier to get work done and meet deadlines.3

Remote work can provide flexibility and autonomy. It eliminates a commute to the office, saving time and money on transportation. “It saves money on work clothes and dry cleaning and may allow more time for personal care, such as doctor appointments and exercise,” Kennedy pointed out.

Doing your job from home may be quieter without co-workers talking and phones ringing. “There may even be a sense of greater equity, perhaps for women and people of color, based on work quality versus office politics,” Kennedy said.

However, working remotely successfully requires self-discipline and may lead to its own version of job stress. An increasingly significant issue in work-life balance is that home and family life are not always totally separate from the “workplace.”4

Stay on track and try not to get distracted by other people, pets, or television. Consider using noise-canceling headphones or setting “quiet” times with others in the household. To avoid overworking, it helps to have a dedicated home workspace that is not where you sleep or relax. There may be an initial expense in setting up a home office.

Benefits of the office

Workers who are extroverted and thrive on being around others are likely to find going to the office more appealing, even if only for part of the week in a hybrid arrangement. “It may provide a much-needed break for those who find working from home isolating and lonely,” Kennedy explained.

Brainstorming, collaboration, and building relationships are often done best in person. Face-to-face meetings involve additional communication cues among colleagues beyond the verbal message, and being together in person can help when there are many conflicting ideas.5

“Working at the office also leads to informal ‘face time’ with colleagues and supervisors, and it may help you feel more able to move up the ranks in the organization,” Kennedy said. Then there are the on-site perks some offices provide — food, parties, and other amenities.

Of course, not everyone has a choice between working at home or from an office. Some jobs must be done on site, including frontline and service industry work. Sixty percent of U.S. workers don’t have jobs that can be done from home, according to the Pew Research Center.3

Staying healthy while working

“Regardless of where you work, diet and exercise are important to maintain good physical and mental health,” said Kennedy, a volunteer with the American Heart Association who has served as an AHA spokesperson. A healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to preventing cardiovascular disease.6

“Find an exercise time that works well and stick to it,” Kennedy suggested. That may mean going to the gym or meeting up with friends in an exercise group to help with accountability and social interaction. Aim to incorporate more movement into daily activities. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible. Consider using technology such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit to keep track of sleep and fitness.

Prepare nutritious meals and snacks. Choose meals that supply energy, such as a protein-rich lunch. Healthy protein sources include legumes and nuts; fish and seafood; low-fat or nonfat dairy foods; and tofu and other soy-based products. When eating meat and poultry, make sure it is lean and unprocessed.6

Arrange for some personal time every day. “Don’t wait for the weekend or a vacation to unwind,” Kennedy advised. Try to organize your workday around circadian, or biological, rhythms regulated by your 24-hour internal clock. “For instance, you might choose to do writing and creative thinking in the morning when the brain is more alert, and reserve afternoon hours for connection and communication,” she explained.

Get up from your desk periodically to stretch. If you’re not doing a daily commute to the office, it’s even more crucial to take scheduled breaks “to fuel the spirit so you are not glued to your chair,” Kennedy added. Set an alarm as a reminder to take a break at least every 90 minutes. Go for a walk outside or do a workout.

Plan outings and get-togethers with friends, family, or colleagues to maintain social connections, which can help manage stress and contribute to better physical and mental health.7 As the workforce changes following COVID-19, paying attention to health basics remains essential.

“The pandemic expanded our possibilities by forcing us to try new ways of being,” Kennedy said. “Now is the time for companies to listen to their employees to see what structure supports the work and well-being of each person.”


1The Future of Hybrid Work: 5 Key Questions Answered with Data,” Gallup, March 2022

2How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today,” Business News Daily, October 2022

3COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Reshape Work in America,” Pew Research Center, February 2022

4Enhancing Work-Life Balance Using a Resilience Framework,” Business and Society Review, June 2021

5The Future of Work: What’s the Future of In-person Work?” University of Cincinnati, September 2022

6The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations,” American Heart Association, November 2021

7Stress and Heart Health,” American Heart Association, June 2021

This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee, or endorse the information. This information does not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified healthcare professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911, or call for emergency medical help immediately.

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