Imagine this- you roll out of your bed, hurriedly make yourself a cup of coffee, pick up a bread from the toaster and rush to be welcomed by the morning traffic. How does that sound? Not the best right?

Now, visualise you wake up, go for a nice walk in the park, come back and make yourself some nice pancakes and then begin your work. Much better?

This paradoxical sounding fantasy has now become the new futuristic reality. This seldom occurring virus has forced businesses to allow for work from home and many to reconsider making the transition to remote work permanent due to its multifarious benefits.

With its innumerable merits follow a lingering doubt that how can something be this good to be true? Well, for some employees this new change can either be a situation of a make or break situation for their health if not followed adequately. Here are 5 remote work health risks and what you should do to prevent them:

  1. High Stress and BP Levels

The biggest obstacle for remote workers is to flip the switch off when work hours are done, and many get caught here. Those that have difficulty prioritising workload need to create a strict routine and set boundaries between “work time” and “home time” (Check out 7 habits of highly productive people). Wearing work clothes or having a similar work set-up can also help with that. Spend quality time with your family and do things you like, sleep adequately and your body will thank you.

2. Social Isolation and Depression

Remote work has saved us from those constant gossip sessions and chitter-chatter of those annoying coworkers but believe it or not, without that small talk feelings of loneliness, personal and professional isolation are greater, suggests research from Cornell University. They are more likely to go out of their way to help others and end the day on a positive note. Staying connected with co-workers through regular virtual meetings leads to positive relationships, reduced stress levels, better communication and increased productivity. Social isolation is also tied with increased chances of mortality risk, heart stroke, depressions, problems sleeping and substance abuse. Participation in hybrid models offered by organisations that consist of collaborative tools and virtual cafes for informal interactions can help foster that lost sense of connection.

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3. Constant Backaches

The comfort of working from your home saves us from those painful desk chairs but curling up in cozy pigeon holes might be alright for a brief call but doing so for long periods will make your back problems believe you’re 60. Skip the couches and invest in an ergonomic chair or standing desk to alleviate staggering back pain. If it's an audio call, walk and talk to promote circulation and relaxation of muscles. Set your screen height to allow for your eyes to be aimed at the centre to avoid craning your neck up or down. These small changes will help you avoid those long, never-ending bills of therapeutic massages and chiropractors.

4. Visual Eye Strain and Headaches

On an average office workers spend 7 hours consecutively in front of a screen, apart from personal usage, now that could lead to a range of vision related issues. Ensuring your workspace set-up is ideal requires making sure the lighting is bright enough to avoid squinting. Make sure you’re not working with your back to the window to avoid the glare on screen or even facing a window as you’ll be staring right into the light. Excessive screen time can also lead to damage to the retina, a digital detox in the evening can do wonders! Sometimes we’re so consumed with work and forget to even blink, follow the 20-20-20 rule- every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to look at least 20 feet away.

5. Poor Physical Activity

The absence of commuting results in absolute bare minimum body movement which not only impacts your physical health, but multiplies risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Well, there’s good news, latest research by the Journal of the American Heart association suggests that even small bouts of moderate to vigorous physical activity (even as little as 5 minutes) can add up to provide important health benefits. Go for a brisk walk in the morning, it’ll increase your heart rate, boost your metabolism and help attenuate stress. If you don’t want to invest in exercise equipment, several home workouts videos are available on YouTube too! Remember, housework also counts as exercise- mow the lawn, do the dishes, vacuum your room.

Also during stressful times, differentiating between being actually hungry or turning to food due to anxiety or boredom is common. Your body often tends to crave high-calorie and high sugar foods to provide for energy and dopamine. Stress leads to increase in cortisol levels that can elevate appetite. A survey by American Psychological Association revealed that 38% had overeaten during lockdown due to stress. To deal with this, adopt a consistent eating plan and keep healthy snacks and super foods to your reach that boost your brain power by 20%, predicted by WHO.

In drawing things to close, make your mental well-being a priority especially during tough times like this. If these aren’t effective enough, get in touch with a health professional or avail mental health tools that are present online. Use this leverage of choice of location, flexibility over work hours and independence of way of working to be more productive, efficient and happy instead!

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
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