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Full-time teleworking presents unique mental and physical challenges. An NNSA program has come up with eight recommendations to optimize health.
Full-time teleworking presents unique mental and physical challenges. An NNSA program has come up with eight recommendations to optimize health.

Telework introduces unique mental and physical challenges that, without proper management, can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s performance and well-being. An NNSA human performance program initiative provides eight recommendations for remote workers that can help them maintain productivity and wellness in these challenging times.

The recommendations are:

  • Make sure you get regular sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet of immunity-boosting foods (if your condition allows)
  • Get daily sun exposure
  • Practice deliberate deep and slow breathing
  • Try and get even a little physical exercise
  • Stand up and move regularly
  • Laugh if possible, when possible
  • Stop thinking about work

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has imposed unprecedented hardships on NNSA personnel. The pandemic threat has slashed the on-site NNSA workforce, yet the critical national security work of the Nuclear Security Enterprise enterprise is vital to our Nation and must continue. More NNSA employees and contractors are teleworking than ever before—some for the first time—and navigating the obstacle course of competing priorities and distractions can result in confusion and frustration.

Meanwhile, research has demonstrated that work fatigue generally reduces one’s alertness, decision-making, and reaction time, increasing the likelihood a worker may be involved in an accident, as well as potentially compromising the body’s immune system.

Research has demonstrated that work fatigue generally reduces one’s alertness, decision-making, and reaction time, increasing the likelihood a worker may be involved in an accident, as well as potentially compromising the body’s immune system.

Enter the NNSA Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation, which has explored a human performance and wellness program known as The Regimen. This program, initiated in early 2019 within the Office of Nuclear Incident Response, provides personnel with instruction and guidance to reduce the physical, psychological, and physiological toll from high-stress remote work.

NNSA’s lead on the project, Scott Sonnon from NNSA's Remote Sensing Laboratory, produced the above recommendations for remote workers and those in a self- or mandated quarantine as a result of COVID-19. His eight guidelines can help workers maintain their immune system while working outside of a normal workplace environment.

In total, the suggested recommendations—along with adhering to best practices to avoid exposure to COVID-19 and getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily—can help lower the risk of catching a viral infection. As Sonnon suggests, “physical exercise and body movement contribute to an increase in cognitive ability.”

By following these recommendations, NNSA’s workforce will be better able to mitigate or compensate for the challenges presented during this national crisis. Workers are urged to take care of their physical and mental health and that of their families so they will be better equipped to return to the office in the future.