In April, the Institute for Employment Studies released an initial report, looking into the impact of working from home in lockdown. In just two weeks, working from home was already proving to be detrimental to employee health.
It’s well documented that working from home can massively affect mental wellbeing. Common complaints include loneliness and increased stress levels. However, it seems our physical health has been hit just as bad.
How Can Working From Home Affect Physical Health?
Those in the IES study were asked how often they had certain physical ailments compared to normal. Musculoskeletal complaints were common, with employees reporting aches and pains in the neck (58%), shoulder (56%), elbow (43%), wrist/hand (47%), hips (48%), knees (49%), and back (55%). Leg cramps were also common, with 37% experiencing them more than usual.
There were some other concerning health effects, including eye strain (55%), headaches (55%), heartburn/indigestion (39%), and even chest pain (33%). Many employees’ sleep has been disturbed, with 64% of workers losing sleep from worry and 60% feeling fatigued.
These physical ailments may be partly due to a change in lifestyle. 20% of workers say their alcohol consumption has increased, whilst 60% are exercising less, and 33% are eating less healthily during lockdown. Work pressures may also be taking their toll. 26% of employees have worked despite being ill, 48% are working long and irregular hours, 43% feel they don’t have enough time to get their work done, and 36% feel they are under too much pressure.
How Can We Improve Working From Home Conditions?
Shockingly, 75% of people working from home say their employer has not carried out any health and safety risk assessments for their home working arrangements.
However, there are some things that you can do to improve your health when working from home.
Working at a desk can cause many musculoskeletal complaints. Keeping your keyboard at a position so that your forearms are parallel to the floor can help alleviate wrist and hand pain. To improve back and neck pain, investing in a chair that supports your lower back is a must. Adjusting your monitor so the top of the screen is inline with your eyes may also help. You should also try to stand up and move around approximately every half an hour to prevent leg cramps.
To reduce eye strain and headaches, try adopting the 20/20/20 rule. This involves giving your eyes a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Staying hydrated can also help reduce headaches.
To reduce heartburn and indigestion, it may be helpful to take a proper lunch break and eat slowly. Reducing your intake of fatty foods and maintaining a good posture after lunch can also help. Chest pain is also a common symptom of heartburn, but can indicate other issues such as muscle strains or anxiety. Improving posture and reducing stress may help, but if not don’t hesitate to contact your GP.
Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Health
Any health issues you experience working from home may also be helped by a change in lifestyle. One way to improve your sleep is to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Reducing your caffeine intake and reducing blue light from screens before bed can also improve sleep quality.
Increasing your activity levels will also improve your sleep, but exercise has many other health benefits that can improve your work life. Increased energy levels and improved mental health are just two ways that exercise can boost your productivity at work.
It might be helpful to communicate any concerns you have about working from home with your boss. By making sure your working hours are consistent and you aren’t given more tasks than you can complete, as well as keeping in touch with colleagues, you may be able to reduce work stress. It is also important to take regular breaks, and to take time off for illness- even if you’re not in the office, working when you’re ill will reduce productivity and prolong recovery.
How to Eat Better When Working From Home
One of the best ways to improve your health is to maintain a healthy diet. When working from home, we often have unlimited access to any food we want. This makes it easy to reach for unhealthy foods such as crisps and biscuits as they are often the most convenient option.
At Snackcess, we believe that if people have access to healthy and convenient foods, it is easier to improve their diet. We send boxes of healthy snacks to workplaces and employees working from home to make it easier to eat healthily.
A healthy, balanced diet can help tackle the physical ailments that can come with working from home.
Request a free sample today to start improving the home working experience for you and your team.