Home-office-days, work-from-home, telecommute – call it as you wish, remote work is more popular than ever before. For a good reason. There are many advantages that come along with working outside of an office – saving time and money on commutes are just two. But how about your health? How does working remotely affect your physical and mental well-being?
While some of the following facts are obvious, others will probably surprise you and make you rethink your attitude towards remote work.
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The Good Impacts Of Remote Work On Health
Let’s first have a look at all the positive impacts that a remote job has on our well-being.
1. You Eat Healthier
When you work at an office, your food options are limited. If you want to bring something from home, it has to be transportable and, in case you can’t heat it up somewhere, you need to enjoy it cold. Alternatively, you can go to the fast-food place around the corner to get a quick and often unhealthy or super expensive meal.
When you work from home, you have your kitchen right there. You can take the time and prepare healthy food whenever you feel like it. Eat healthy snacks instead of those sweet treats that your coworker likes to bring and share.
There is even a study that proves this fact: According to CoSo Cloud 42% of all remote workers eat healthier than they did in an office-based environment.
Fueling your body with good food is one of the best things you can do for your health.
2. You Get More Sleep
Not many people are in the lucky position to live right next to their working space. That often means long commutes to get there. In addition, you have to get up earlier to get ready for work, decide what to wear, put some makeup on, do your hair, and prepare your food for the day.
That can easily take an hour or two before you make it to the office and can start to work. When you work from home, you don’t only get to save a lot of money on the commute but you also save a lot of time. If you want to, you can use that extra time to sleep longer.
Or maybe take a nap in the afternoon (I have to admit, I do that pretty much every day). Can you imagine being super tired and wanting to do a quick power nap in the office? Of course, no chance!
The before mentioned CoSo Cloud study also found proof for that 45% of the questioned remote workers stated that they are getting better sleep since working from home.
3. Your Stress Level Lowers
No more waiting for the bus that’s too late again, no more sitting in a traffic jam for hours and being scared that you will be late for your meeting. There is no boss standing right behind you, watching every move you make in the office. No mean coworker waiting right at your desk for you to get the job done.
It’s no surprise that remote work reduces stress. All those factors that affect your day negatively are gone so you can focus on your work without stress or anxiety. PGi revealed in one of their studies that 82% of remote workers confirm a lower stress level when working from home.
On top of that, a Gallup survey found that extreme commuters (those who spend 90+ minutes to and from their office) also develop recurring neck and back issues. Skipping the daily commute can thus help your body to stay healthy.
4. You Are Less Sick
First of all, you eat healthier, sleep better and lower your stress level. All very important for a strong immune system and the reason why you are less likely to get sick.
Another important reason why people stay healthier when they work from home is the fact that they are less exposed to germs.
Wakefield Research found that 69% of working Americans do not take sick days even if they feel like it. Many people believe that it is a sign of strong work ethics when they come into work sick. But in fact, they only put others at risk. Germs are easily spread on door handles, toilets, communal kitchen or in the office itself.
No surprise that you will stay healthier when you avoid such a bacteria-infested environment. Stanford University seconds that. They found in their study that remote workers used much less sick days than their in-office colleagues.
5. You Exercise More
With remote work, you save a lot of time that you would normally need to get ready for work and commute. Your daily schedule is also very flexible and allows you to plan in more exercise than you would normally do.
Why not go for a run in the morning before work? Or do that yoga class in your lunch break? Workout session with your friend in the afternoon? Yes, you can. And you are more likely to do so. When you sit at home all day you naturally crave for some movement. Exercise is a very welcome exchange and a great reason to get out of the house.
Want to find out how you can increase your productivity while working from home? Check out the linked article.
6. Your Relationships Profit
Believe it or not: But a Swedish study found that commuting can ruin your marriage. Scary, right? When one partner commutes 45 minutes each way then it’s 40% more likely that they get divorced.
Why? Probably because the daily commutes take up a lot of precious time that these couples can’t spend together. Having breakfast together or spending time in the afternoon, cooking dinner together – that all gets harder the more time you spend at work or in traffic jams on your way there.
I addition, the daily commutes are often very stressful, which puts you in a bad mood and that is never healthy for any type of relationship.
That also goes for your relationship with other family members or friends. You have more time to spend with your kids and are more relaxed in doing so. Talking about a great work-life balance!
7. Your Personal Freedom Increases
Another benefit of remote work is that people can often enjoy greater autonomy and freedom. They don’t have to wear business attire if they don’t want to. They can work from wherever they are most productive and often, they are flexible in terms of their working hours, too. Remote workers are free to take breaks when they need to and can go for a walk and enjoy the sunlight to get energized.
I know, it sounds like little things. But these little changes can have a significant impact on people’s mental health. Having a choice makes a huge difference. They live and work on their own terms. They are finally in control and in charge of their life. That increases the happy state of mind a lot!
8. You Are Happier
All of the before-mentioned health effects of remote work result in another one: You are happier!
The dissatisfactions that a normal in-office job often brings with it can be minimized. You eat healthier, you sleep better, you exercise more, you don’t get sick that easily, you have more time for your family and friends, your stress level is reduced, you have more personal freedom – who wouldn’t be happy with such a life?!
The Bad Impacts of Remote Work On Health
So far, remote work sounds like the perfect solution for our health. However, there are also some negative side effects when you work from home.
1. Isolation Could Kill You
Isolation is often the biggest problem for people who work from home. You don’t get out as much as when you have to go to your office. Just being surrounded by strangers in public transport gives us a feeling of being part of the society. There are no coworkers next to us for a quick chat.
Some people tend to get up late, skip the shower and don’t leave the house all day. Simply because there is no need to.
In the long run, this results in feeling very isolated and lonely. Dr. Dhruv Khuller, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, is convinced, that the effects of loneliness on our health are only slightly less strong than smoking or obesity. Therefore, it even has a very complicated effect on mortality, too.
So if a remote worker keeps himself isolated from the community, the impact on his health could be tremendous.
Tip: Go and work from cafes or coworking spaces. That helps you meet other people and stay connected to society.
2. You Can’t Turn Off
As a remote worker, your home office is open 24 hours a day. Whenever you have something to do, you can do it. Your laptop is just right next to you, so why not work a little more? For many telecommuters there are no after work hours or weekends.
They find it hard to set clear boundaries between work and their private life. It often overlaps, becomes one. While this work-private-life relationship may be ok for a while, many remote workers will feel stressed after a while.
The lack of personal time and the fact that their brain is busy with their professional life 24/7, can result in a dissatisfaction, tiredness, exhaustion, and eventually even depression.
Tips For Staying Healthy While Telecommute
As you can see, remote work can have quite a few impacts on our health. To make sure you stay mentally and physically fit, read the following tips.
1. Don’t Sit, Stand!
The Medical Billing and Coding released an article that explains how being sedentary for 6 or more hours a day can increase the risk of death by 40%. This is due to the increased risk of various musculoskeletal and cardiovascular diseases, as well as some kinds of cancer.
Hence, it’s definitely a great idea to invest in a standing desk. This increases not only your physical but also your mental activity, as well as your ability to focus.
Only be aware that standing still all day isn’t the best solution either. A good combination is important.
2. Move That Body!
As we’ve just learned a combination between sitting and standing is beneficial. An even better way to stay healthy while telecommuting is regular movements.
For instance, you could get up at the top of each hour and stretch targeted parts of your body. Or plan your day with short breaks for exercises. For example, a walk in the morning, a short run during lunch break and a yoga session in the afternoon.
Another idea would be to use an exercise ball as your office chair every once in a while. This keeps your muscles engaged and helps you concentrate.
3. Eat Healthily!
Yes, your fridge is just around the corner. But don’t make the mistake of constant unhealthy snacking!
To be able to work from home is a great chance to eat healthy and balanced because you can prepare fresh meals every day. Take use of that advantage and switch from chocolate, chips and ice cream to fruits, nuts or veggies.
4. Keep Social Contact!
When you work from home without any coworkers around you, you might feel lonely at some point. Make sure to get out of the house at least once a day. Go to a coworking space, walk your dog, have lunch at a public space, or go and meet with friends. It’s important to keep social contacts alive and to stay part of the community.
Meditation keeps your stress level low and helps you focus on the important things in life. It can easily be done from home during your working hours. If you are new to meditating, there are a few apps out there, that help you, e.g. Headspace.
A Harvard research group even found that meditation can rebuild gray matter in our brains. If that’ s no positive health impact, then I don’t know what is.
6. Implement a Daily Routine!
Although, it can be exciting to have no plans at all for the day and just do whatever you feel like, in the long run your body and mind prefer some daily routines.
For example, drink a glass of lemon juice first thing in the morning. Go for a short run and have a healthy breakfast afterwards. That prepares you perfectly for the day. Work until lunch, have a meal and go for a walk. That’s energizing and helps you concentrate.
Even a little routine to finish your workday, e.g. shutting down all devices and closing the home office door, can help your brain to turn off and relax. This will also help you a lot in keeping up your productivity when working from home!
Make sure you never make these mistakes while workeing remotely!
7. Work From Different Places!
Working from your little home office every day can soon get boring and maybe even a little bit depressing. Change scenery!
You could test some coworking spaces around you or work from a quiet café every once in a while. Maybe go to the library or bring a hotspot with you and work from the park. That will keep your mind busy, concentrated, motivated, and happy.
8. Keep Your Private Life Private!
I know it’s tempting to just grab your laptop and work from your comfy bed all day. But then your private space and working space become one. It’s harder for your brain to turn off and relax.
Try to keep your work in a separate place. That doesn’t even have to be a separate room. Just a separate space will do.
Profit From Health Benefits
As you can see there are plenty of health benefits that come along with remote work. Your physical and mental well-being can profit a lot when you telecommute and don’t work from an office.
But if you are not careful, working from home can also have some significant negative impacts on our body and mind. It’s important to become aware of the consequences and thus, try your best to avoid these harmful situations.
However, if you follow the mentioned tips, remote work can do wonders for your health and make you as fit and happy as you’ve never been before.
How about you? What is your experience with the impacts of remote work on your health? Do you think they are more positive or more negative ones?