Since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, more people around the world are working remotely. While the measure has been critical to helping control the spread of the virus, it hasn’t come without compromise. As the number of people working from home has increased, healthcare providers have seen a rise in work-related injuries that are unique to the home environment.
Some people love working from home; the freedom, flexibility, and lack of a morning commute are real advantages to remote work. Others may struggle with the lack of structure and absence of co-workers.
From sedentary living to feelings of loneliness, working remotely can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. Simply being aware of the risks of working from home can help you stay happy and healthy; it allows you to take action to promote good health and wellness.
Here are some common problems faced by employees working from home.
‘Tech neck’ is the stress caused to muscles in the neck, back and shoulders by learning forward to look at smartphones, tablets, or computers for long periods of time. Common symptoms are headaches, neck stiffness and muscle spasms. In severe cases, it can cause discs in the neck or back to bulge or even rupture.
The head is heavy. The average adult head weighs around 5kg or 11lbs2. That’s substantially more than the average weight of a new-born baby, and a lot for the seven vertebrae in the neck to support. That effort increases enormously when we look down for hours on end.
This a problem particularly for those working remotely on electronic devices for much of the day. It’s easy to lose track of how much time we spend looking down. In 2019, the average adult spent almost three and a half hours on their smartphones every day. With lockdown and people relying on these devices even more, the figure for 2020 is likely to be substantially higher, with tech neck becoming an increasingly serious problem.
After hours at your computer, you’ve probably felt your vision going a little blurry or even developed a slight headache. Eye Strain is a common complaint, but one that is on the rise in remote workers.
Danielle Richardson,OD, optometrist, a consultant for Johnson & Johnson Vision, and the founder of Fierce Clarity (a holistic lifestyle and wellness company), tells that sustained focus on screens is the main reason people working at home experience increased eye strain.
“There are eye muscles that contract when we look up close, and when we look away they relax,” Richardson says. “Everything we are doing is on a screen right now, and so there are fewer visual breaks. Meetings are happening via Zoom, people are sending emails instead of speaking to co-workers, and eating lunch in front of the screen.”
Richardson recommends adjusting the angle of your computer screen to be 15 to 20 degrees below the horizontal eye level.
Social isolation & lack of movement
Social isolation and loneliness tops the list of challenges for remote workers with 37% of survey respondents citing it as their top issue with remote work. Without casual hallway chats or happy hours after work, employees are missing key social interaction with their colleagues.
Skipping the commute and sitting in endless video calls also means many employees are suffering from a lack of physical activity and movement during their typical remote work day. In the old office life, employees used to walk as part of their commute, step out to grab lunch, or dash between meeting rooms in their office building. In today’s remote workplace, people are likely sitting at their desks most of the day–only moving back and forth from the kitchen to their desk for the occasional snack. Lack of movement was the second top challenge for remote workers, with 35% saying they aren’t moving enough.
Finally, it’s not surprising that difficulties separating work and personal life came in third on the list, with 1/3 citing this as a challenge with remote work.It is undeniable that right now, considering the risk of Corona Virus spread, it is only wise to work remotely.
Hence, adopting healthy habits and maintaining good health while indoors should be of utmost importance.
Stay well hydrated, limit sugar and alcohol, avoid binge-eating and stick to a routine.
Sleep well and in time. Mediate. Work out.
Get some fresh air if you can.
Most important, stay calm and optimistic.