15 Jul Are you hoping to work from home long term? How does it affect your wellbeing?
Working from home has become something that is not only entirely possible, but necessary for a lot of people. Most people had no choice and this has meant that a lot of our “at-home” set ups are subpar and less than ideal.
Even though for a lot of us the immediate need to work from home was rushed and unplanned, for some people, it has been great. Employers around the world are setting their workers up to make this a long term and permanent solution.
So, is working from home permanent basis good or bad for your health?
Working from home can have both positive and negative effects on our physical wellbeing. It means we might have more time to work out due to a decreased commute, but often people don’t have the equipment, programs and setups at home to get a workout in.
Another issue that many people ran into was the constant availability of additional snacks, just a few steps away. Many people saw an excess gain in weight – some sources citing that 40% of people gained weight during the lockdown. However, some people have reported having the availability of fresh food, and access to their kitchen has meant they have had more time to cook and enjoy healthier meals.
Some workers also don’t have adequate ergonomic setups which can be detrimental for posture and put unnecessary stress on the body. However, working from home and being properly supported by your workplace has the potential to be extremely positive for your wellbeing.
Working from home can create more positive opportunities for movement breaks; doing the laundry, taking the dogs for a walk or playing with the kids. Those smaller bouts of movement add up to a large quantity of physical activity over the day or week.
A shorter commute has meant that some employees are able to better spend their time doing other things; taking time to eat a proper breakfast, reading the newspaper with your loved one in the morning or going for a run when you would otherwise be sitting in traffic. Less of a commute means more time, and less money spent – both things which greatly contribute to stressors in our lives.
But a lot of people don’t feel less stressed. In fact, they might be working even longer hours than usual, staring at their screen late into the night and don’t have set boundaries between work and home life. This can cause a heightened level of stress and the constant feeling of being at work.
Working from home can also create a bubble of social isolation. When you don’t have family at home or don’t live with anyone else, some workers go days without interacting with someone face to face. Interestingly, a new 2020 study found that workers who participate in office small talk experience more positive emotions and end the workday with a better sense of mental wellbeing and state of mind.  Without these small interactions from co-workers, our mental health can suffer.
On the other hand, fewer distractions when working from home (fewer calls and interruptions from colleagues) can mean that employees are able to get stuck into projects and into a deep flow state of work. Having dedicated, quality times to work can mean that all your other time can be spent having quality family, friends, or self-care time.
Tips for staying as healthy as possible when working from home:
- Take control of your schedule – pencil in movement breaks where possible and do fun activities that relieve your mental load.
- Have a “getting ready for work” routine – do something similar every day to turn your brain onto “work mode” and have a transitional period of time to use as a buffer before and after work (consider going for a walk or meditating before sitting down at your desk)
- Reach out to your colleagues and ask them about their life outside of work – casual conversations are a great way to make connections with your co-workers and feel connected to the bigger picture.
- Ask your employer for a “how-to” guide for setting up an ergonomic workstation form home
- Use all your companies’ available programs and resources for mental and physical wellbeing to stay on top of your health
 Methot, J., Rosado-Solomon, E., Downes, P., & Gabriel, A. (2020). Office Chit-Chat as a Social Ritual: The Uplifting Yet Distracting Effects of Daily Small Talk at Work. Academy Of Management Journal. doi: 10.5465/amj.2018.1474