Over the last couple of decades, more people have been able to work from home. Technology is catching up with business needs and making this a possibility. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and many businesses were shuttered during quarantine, more employers embraced work-from-home philosophies. Remote work is now fully entrenched in our work structure, pandemic or otherwise.
While most Americans still work on-site, there are more who have the option to work remotely and choose to do so. A more relaxed dress code and access to your refrigerator can make working from home quite appealing. While the growing trend is relatively new, there are some surprising consequences for using your home for your office.
Impacts on Mental Well-Being
Perhaps the biggest effects of teleworking can be felt on the psychological level. Many negative consequences are related to decreased socialization and worse work-life balance.
Working from home may have the following repercussions on your mental health:
- Less Social Interaction. Sure, people may have popped into your cubicle uninvited, but at least that provided occasional mental breaks. Mental breaks can help increase productivity and creativity.
- Inability to Detach from Work. When you work from home, the lines between work and home are fuzzy. Before, your commute may have served as bookends and a way to mentally detach from home when driving to work and to detach from work at the end of the day. Now, the deadlines and laundry coexist and that can create boundary problems.
- Trouble Finding Motivation. Do you remember how it felt when you put on your power suit for a job interview? Or even dressed to impress on a first date? How we dress (and sometimes whether we shower) can influence how we feel. Motivation is hard to find if you sleep in and work in your pajamas.
Working from home can also mean a drop in collaboration, an increase in communication issues, and fewer opportunities to be seen by the boss and others in leadership positions.
Effects on Physical Health
If working from home affects your mental health, it will most certainly affect your physical health. Numerous studies have demonstrated the connection between the two. Depression has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Often emotional struggles lead to sleep issues, which also causes a cascading effect on physical health.
Other ways remote work can harm your physical health include the following:
- You might be inclined to snack more often
- Excessive screen time can damage the retina
- Sitting for long periods can lead to neck and back pain
- You might work longer hours
- Makeshift home offices on couches and dining room tables make for poor ergonomics
Having a Healthier Home Office
If you work from home, you are not doomed to pain and depression. You do have to be aware of your surroundings, emotions, and physical health. Be on the lookout for any troubling signs.
Our specialists at ProFysio Physical Therapy suggest the following ways you can improve working from home:
- Get a real desk. Get a standing desk, an ergonomic chair, and a big monitor. Having a proper workstation is crucial to your comfort and your productivity. If you cannot afford it, talk to our boss. Your employer might buy it for you or offset the cost.
- Get out of your chair. Take short walks or exercise breaks during the day. Even five minutes every hour can help your body. A few pushups, a walk, whatever works for you and gets your body moving and circulation pumping. These short activities also get you away from the computer screen to rest your eyes.
- Watch your posture. Where is your head? It very likely is sticking forward of your shoulders. That will eventually cause pain if it isn’t already. The head should be over the shoulders and the shoulders over your hips. Your knees should be bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. When you have proper alignment, you are less vulnerable to back, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Keep snacks out of eyesight. Stash snacks in cabinets and out of reach from where you work. Choose to have a higher-quality snack on hand, such as celery, carrot sticks, and popcorn. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Truly unplug on weekends. Just because you can work 24/7 doesn’t mean you should. For your health and the health of your relationships, don’t work on the weekends. Enjoy time with your loved ones and your favorite hobbies.
- Meditate. A 10-minute daily meditation can support your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety. A few minutes of deep belly breathing can change your entire outlook.
Solutions for Your Pain
If working from home has caused new aches or exacerbated an existing problem, physical therapy may be able to help. Advanced and time-tested therapies can correct root problems that are causing discomfort.