Is working from home having an effect on your health?
Before this year, working from home was an aspiration for many. But with the coronavirus pandemic thrusting remote working upon the nation, has the reality lived up to expectations?
Some welcomed the decision with open arms, despite having little time to prepare, and are thriving with the new arrangements. Others have suffered with patchy technology or lack of working space. These are likely hopeful that it won’t be a long term solution.
Whatever your feelings about working from home, many employers foresee that it will be in place for a good while. But if you continue working from home once the pandemic is over, could it affect your health in the long-term?
Keeping fit whilst working from home
A typical desk job doesn’t encourage an active lifestyle, but is working from home even worse for your fitness levels?
With little exercise during the day and easy access to snacks, some employees may have found that they’ve gained weight whilst working from home. This is unlikely to be harmful over the short space of time that we’ve already seen. However, if working from home continues, this could start to become an unhealthy habit.
Without needing to allow time for the daily commute, it’s also tempting to work longer hours than usual. Excessive screen time could be bad for your eyesight. Sitting in awkward positions at a poorly designed workspace (ie the kitchen table) for lengthy periods of time could also generate back pain or other stress injuries.
Unfortunately these examples of sedentary behaviour could lead to many health problems in later life. An inactive lifestyle could put you at increased risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer.
If working from home does become a long-term arrangement then it’s vital to take regular breaks throughout the day. You could always try to incorporate more activity into your spare time. Even just small bursts of activity throughout the day can have positive health benefits. Taking the dog for a walk is a great example, but even just something as simple as walking up and down the stairs, or sorting the laundry could benefit. Anything which gets you up and out of your chair and your heart pumping.
Less distraction, but are you feeling disconnected?
Working from home can be great for your actual work output. The solitude of working from home can give you lots of opportunity to focus on the task in hand without any distractions. But for many people, the main benefit of actually being in the office, is the chance to interact with other people.
Not all employees have close family relationships and many people rely on the contact with their co-workers. Colleagues are often an essential source of support, not just for work issues, but also on a personal basis.
Whilst many workplaces have embraced video technology to keep their employees connected, the spontaneity of office small talk is hard to replicate through virtual channels.
Without the personal interaction with colleagues, many employees can experience loneliness which can be detrimental to their mental health. It could lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia or in some cases, substance abuse. Loneliness and it’s consequences can be just as devastating to health as other physical complaints.
Whilst it’s clear that working from home, can have detrimental effects to our health, this can be mitigated if the employee has the right support in place. Unfortunately many employers get it wrong either by monitoring every move that the staff member works, or go to the other extreme of forgetting about the completely. Its so important for employers to get the balance right and offer mental health support for staff which should continue beyond the pandemic if these working patterns continue.
Will working from home become the ‘new normal’?
Remote working is certainly a mixed bag. It has been a saving grace for some during the pandemic (particularly for those who have had to juggle work alongside homeschooling their children) but it hasn’t been ideal for everyone.
Much like actual office work, there are upsides and downsides. With working from home set to be the ‘new normal’ for many people, it’s down to employers to offer the right kind of support for their staff and listen to what their employees need to be their most productive selves.
And for the rest of us to ensure that we look after our health and wellbeing with regular breaks and self-care. And on that note, it’s definitely time to go and put the kettle on!