advice · commute · covid19 · ergonomics · fitness · habits · planning · self care

Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?

I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.

A woman hunched over her laptop while seated at a desk
A woman hunched over her laptop at a desk. Posture posture posture!

I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.

You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)

Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.

Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).

  • Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
  • Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
  • Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
  • Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
  • Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
Cats and trucks lined up on a highway
That’s me, third car on the right.

What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!

4 thoughts on “Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

  1. Your ideas sound great and the only thing I can think to add would be walking meetings. For me they were best for 20 to 30-minute conversations with one other person (sometimes two), but even quick 10-minute chats are better if you’re moving!

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever had an agreed upon walking meeting. That’s a great idea, Karen!

  2. We can all use reminders about the importance of pausing and thinking when we notice ourselves uncomfortable, grumpy, tired, hungry, hangry, etc. around work. I realized just this week (hey, better late than never) that even when I work from home, I need to schedule in-between time when I have a bunch of zoom meetings. Which reminds me not to schedule 4 or 5 student meetings in a row, either; spacing them out during the day isn’t more inefficient, but rather gives me a chance to recover from the numbing effects of previous Zoom encounters. Breaks! We need a lot of (even small) breaks!

    Thanks for writing this!

    1. That pausing to notice is so important, you are right, One day I walked around with my (new!) camelbak. I probably looked silly, but I sipped water and noticed that I felt great all day!

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