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Are there health risks with working from home?

During this pandemic, it’s been crucial for our society to social distance and work-from-home in order to stop the spread of this dangerous virus. And while it’s so important that we do so, it’s also helpful to take a look at the potential health risks that come up with this change of lifestyle.

For many of us, the routine was getting dressed and going to the workplace. Even for work-from-homers, there was always the option to escape from the temptation of the couch or the noise of rambunctious kiddos by going to the local coffee shop, library, or coworking space. But things changed (boy and how). As did our health risks. Let’s take a look at what we’re up against.

Insomnia and Muscle Aches and Eye Strains…Oh, My!

There are a variety of physical ailments that can happen from sitting at a desk and looking at screens all day. This has been a widely talked about issue since working in office settings became the norm decades ago. What we’re currently finding is that because so many more people are now doing these activities at home, rather than at the official workplace, it appears that these physical ailments have progressed.

  • Increased Eye Strain and Hearing Loss

The blue light technology in our screens can cause damage and fatigue to our eyes. Great ways to conquer this are to take frequent breaks away from looking at screens and by dimming the light setting on your devices.

Also, with so many more conversations being done through phones and computers, making sure that headphones/listening devices are set to a safe hearing level is key.

  • Increased Muscle and Joint Pain

Constant computer and phone work can cause so many aches and pains. The body needs to be stretched and moved regularly throughout the day in order to combat this. Executing improper posture for a prolonged period of time can increase muscle tension and lead to pain.

Common areas that can start to hurt are the neck, shoulders, and back, which can lead to pain in those areas, as well as awful headaches. The hip flexors and hamstrings can also start to feel tight, so it’s important to stretch those areas as well. It’s also common for issues to arise in the wrist and thumb joints from the extreme use of computer and phone work.

So, what are some ways to help prevent these issues?

  1. Be mindful of your posture. When on your computer, try not to get sucked into the habit of slouching or bringing your head too close to the screen. Think “long spine, shoulders back, and head back.” If you struggle with this, look into getting a posture brace for when you’re working. Also, there are stretches and exercises to enhance your posture and decrease pain. Stay tuned for a future post about these!

  2. Try not to look down quite as much, such as when using your phone. You want your head to be right on top of your neck as much as possible, not tilting forward. Imagine your neck trying to support a bowling ball that is tilting forward – ouchies!

  3. If possible, look into investing in a standing desk or an exercise ball as a chair! These offer great musculoskeletal benefits.

  • Decreased Flexibility

If you’re one of the many that began working from home during this pandemic, you might be missing out on regular physical movement that you once took for granted or saw as a burden.

For example, did you have to walk to your car or walk into the office from the parking lot or climb stairs? If these are things you did on a regular basis to get to work and now your morning commute is a 10-second walk from the kitchen to the office, over time (say, like, a year?) that adds up to a lot of missed physical movement that used to be a normal part of your day.

And, over time, working from home can lead to feeling lethargic, so the motivation to create opportunities for physical movement, like going for walks or exercising, is also natural to decline.

All of these can compound into decreased flexibility and/or potential health risks, related to heart health and diabetes.

If this is an issue for you, don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself some grace. Remember that even when the weather is less than ideal, it’s possible to add short walks into your daily routine, stretches at your desk or around the house, or extra climbs up your stairs.

  • Insomnia/Trouble Sleeping

With a flux of blue light screen time, blurred lines of a work-life balance, and the stress of the pandemic, many are experiencing insomnia or trouble sleeping. If this is you, start by trying to eliminate screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. If you do have to use a screen, try putting the device on “night mode” or dim the light setting. If you continue to have sleep disturbances or an increase in anxiety, consult your physician.

Poor Work-Life Balance

In a previous blog post, we discussed work-from-home burnout being a real issue during this pandemic. With less separation between “worklife” and “home life,” it is crucial that we make some habitual changes to enhance our work/life balance.

Here are few things to consider from that blog:

  1. Prioritize your health and wellness

  2. Maintain good hygiene and get dressed in the morning

  3. Separate “Work Time” from “Home Time”

  4. Establish your “mental transition”

  5. Don’t underestimate the benefits of coworkers

For further information on these tips and tools, click here. 

Loneliness and Interpersonal Relationship Issues

With more time being spent at home and the lack of physical connection with others, there’s a lot of loneliness going around. As social creatures, we’re all used to some variety in our social surroundings and it can be hard to feel cooped up and out of touch with loved ones. All of this can also lead us to take our anxiety or frustration out on the ones we see and share space with every single day.

From the beginning, our mission at Haven Collective was to end isolation for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners, so we get it and are here to help.

In a previous post, we have addressed the seriousness of loneliness and the effects it can have on your health long-term.

“If you’re suffering from the impacts of isolation, you might as well smoke 15 cigarettes a day instead! Physically, loneliness can present (that’s the word the doctors use) as heart palpitations, panic attacks, low energy, and lack of motivation. Increased social isolation can also be both a cause and a symptom of mental health disorders. So, it’s important to recognize your feelings and experiment with strategies (like coworking) to see what works best for you. And don’t forget: it’s okay to ask for help. You’re not alone.” Click here to read more on how coworking can help cure loneliness. 

The Verdict: Yes.

So, yeah. While doing our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 is important, it’s helpful to acknowledge that being cooped up while working comes with challenges.

If you’re struggling with any of these challenges, joining a coworking space (either virtually or in-person) might be a great way to help you cope! Let’s take a look at how.

  • Access to Haven’s online resource library, which has pre-recorded meditations and yoga sequences.

  • One of our locations is next to a park – perfect for walks and mid-day breaks!

  • Access to sitting and STANDING workspaces – let’s switch it up!

  • Having like-minded entrepreneurs to bond with can decrease feelings of isolation.

  • Community, community, support, and community.

Click here to learn how Haven Collective can help you cope while working from home!

Written by April Warner

Sources: ETNT Health, Hinge Health, Very Well Health, Everyday Health  

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