Physical Health Risks of Working from Home

physical-health-risks-wfh
Working from home exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home can help workers establish a better work-life balance. However, it can also lead to numerous physical issues, which can be avoided.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, more people worldwide have been working from home. The increase in makeshift home offices and isolated work environments has seen a rise in various physical health issues.

Although many people, especially in Australia, have returned to the workplace, many still work from home either full time or for part of the week. However, there will be some long-term effects of working from home for so long.

Physical Health Issues From Too Much Sitting at Computers

With the increase in work from home since the COVID-19 pandemic, many remote workers found themselves sitting in their chairs all day and maybe getting up to go to the bathroom or kitchen. These rooms are usually just a few steps away.

This sedentary lifestyle causes many physical health issues, including an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Finding ways to incorporate walking and exercise into your daily routines is vital.

A little exercise can go a long way. Scientists say that just 15 minutes of intentional exercise daily can help prevent heart disease and other physical health issues. Even if a hardcore workout isn’t possible, simply moving around throughout the day can improve physical health.

Some ways you can prevent physical health issues caused by too much sitting in your work-from-home job include:

  • Take microbreaks of between one and five minutes to help lower the risk of repetitive strain injury and allow muscles to be stretched.
  • Take a proper lunch break away from your desk, including getting outside and doing some form of exercise if possible.
  • Follow the 40-20 rule, where you sit at your desk for 40 minutes and then stand or move around for the other 20 minutes.
  • Schedule a mix of video and audio calls, rather than only video calls, so you can walk around while on the audio calls.

After a while into the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an increase in people purchasing standing desks and desk treadmills. These are also great ways to reduce the time spent sitting and get your body moving while still getting work done.

Small yellow dog sitting on the floor by the woman who is petting him at home

Bad Posture, Body Aches and Joint Pains

Working from home is taking a toll on remote workers with increased back pain, body aches, and joint pains. Muscle cramps and body pains are inevitable from not-so ergonomic desk setups, unsupportive chairs, working from couches and beds, and long hours sitting down.

The use of laptops was an essential step in being able to work from home, but they also cause problems.

The low screen and small keyboard encourage you to hunch forward and have unsupported wrists. This can cause issues with postures and even repetitive strain injuries in the hands. Laptops also encourage people to work around the house, such as from bed, rather than a proper desk.

Some ways you can prevent bad posture, aches and pains caused by working from home or using a laptop all day include:

  • Sit at a desk or table when working from your computer or laptop.
  • Use a separate keyboard and mouse when you can to keep your forearms and wrists in a supported position.
  • Position your screen to be level with your eyes - you may need to use a laptop stand or separate monitor.
  • Sit on a chair that can be adjusted to the best height for you.
  • Avoid sitting on the couch or bed for too long.
  • Use a footrest under your desk to reduce strain on your back.

While it also happens in the office, it’s a lot easier to fall into a pattern of bad posture and sitting for long periods when working from home. Makeshift workstations can cause huge posture and muscle problems, with extended hours spent in unsupported positions that put the body, in particular the spine, under strain.

Eye Strain, Headaches and Sleep Deprivation

Face-to-face meetings are happening via Zoom, people send emails instead of walking over to their coworkers, and we're eating lunch in front of our screens. Once we finish work for the day, we continue to use screens to unwind and watch Netflix or scroll through social media.

Everything we are doing is on a screen these days, so there are fewer visual breaks. These screen habits can lead to physical health issues such as eye strain, headaches, and interruption to our sleep, causing sleep deprivation.

Extended focus on screens greatly contributes to people working from home experiencing increased eye strain. And then, among other things, eye strain can lead to many people's long-term issues, eye dryness and headaches.

Another contributor to eye strain that can cause a lack of sleep is the blue light emitted from screens. This disrupts your vision, and if you're on screens too close to bedtime, it disrupts the sleeping mechanisms in your brain.

Some ways you can prevent eye strain caused by too much screen time in your work-from-home job include:

  • Adjust the angle of your computer screen to be 15-20 degrees below the horizontal level.
  • Wear glasses that filter out the blue light from your screens.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes, take a screen break and focus on an object that’s 20 feet away from you for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use over-the-counter artificial tears to lubricate dry and itchy eyes.

If your screen time and remote working lifestyle have caused you to become sleep deprived, you can check out some tips for better sleep to get you back on track.

Make Some Changes and Prevent WFH Health Issues

Remote working can increase the risk of certain physical health issues. Many of these issues can be prevented or alleviated by taking some steps to improve your work-from-home environment and new lifestyle.

You can also attend a first aid course, so you know how to identify, prevent and manage physical injuries due to increased work from home.

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