Now that the world has transitioned to working from home, there will be many many people who are working from make-shift workstations.
Tell me - how many of you have done a full Health and Safety assessment of your desk space since the shift? Have you reviewed your sitting position? Your desk set-up?
We all know that spending long periods of time sat at a desk, looking at a VDU, can be bad for our health, and we rarely give a second thought to our workstation ergonomics. Not only does prolonged sitting takes a toll on our mental well-being, our focus and motivation, it can also have a negative physical influence on our bodies, put strain on our eyes and affect our quality of life.
In actual fact, sitting for long periods of time can affect our life expectancy. Couple that with our increased sedentary lifestyles, as a result of technological advances that help us in the home, and we are on a short path to a number of lifetime issues – diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, carpel tunnel, neck and shoulder strain, musculoskeletal strains, heart disease, cancer…..the list goes on.
There are, however, practices we can implement to make sure that we look after our physical health, as well as our mental well-being, with minimum disruption to our roles, making sure that we work in a safe and healthy manner whilst working from home.
1. Take Regular Breaks.
Sounds counter-productive, I know, but it really is beneficial for both your productivity and your health to break away from your work and move around for a short time. Set an alarm (I use Alexa) to remind you, if necessary, to stand, stretch, and walk around for 2 minutes, regularly throughout your working day. Flex your arms, roll your shoulders, twist at the waist – give your body a good old stretch. This will help combat muscle fatigue. You should change your posture roughly every 10 minutes and take a full stand up break twice an hour to prevent muscular strains and spinal damage and to ensure a healthier working day.
2. Your Workstation Set-Up
Be sure to use a desk – don’t sit with your laptop on your lap. Objects of heat in our laps can cause skin problems and, for the men, can lower your sperm count. Ensure your desk space is set out so what you need is comfortably within your reach – without the need to stretch. Check the height of your monitor to ensure it is aligned with your line of sight. If using a laptop, make sure you don't need to look down to view the screen when using it as this causes neck pain with prolonged use. Invest in a foot and/or back rest – your knees should be at a 90° angle when sat to keep your spine nice and healthy and prevent back pain.
3. Be Physically Active
Our lives are more sedentary than our great grandparents. The introduction and development of cars now mean we don’t walk as much; housework isn’t the manual labour it used to be. As a result, we don’t move as much in the modern world unless we find ways to introduce physical activity into your day. Ideally, you want to have 2 ½ hours of activity each week. Choose to take the stairs instead of the lift. Park a little further away in the car-park each time you go to the supermarket, walk the last few roads if using public transport, check out YouTube for inspiration of what workouts you can do at home. There are many live webinars on Facebook to encourage physical movement every day. Remember, we can venture outside for one dose of exercise each day - use it!
4. Snack Control
Its easy to fall into the habit of mindless eating with desk-based work – eating, not for hunger, but for the sake of eating. I’m guilty of this one. Often, I don’t even appreciate what it is I’m snacking on, and I certainly lose track of how many snacks some days. This can be a fast-track to heart disease. Be mindful of what you are outing into your body. This include caffeine amounts. Be sure to take a full lunch break away from your desk. Be present when you eat. Drink water regularly. Mindful eating is healthier for you and will make you feel better from the inside out.
5. Visit the Opticians
Did you know that the light omitted from your PC, Blue Light, is harmful to your vision? Eye strain can affect our vision and cause headaches. Make sure you give your eyes a rest from staring at the screen. Manage your workload so that you naturally get time away from the computer. Make sure you have regular check-ups at the opticians also – our eyes are so valuable. Are you really ready to risk your sight for the sake of a project?
6. Vitamin D
Not getting enough sunlight form sitting inside all day can make it harder for us to get a full night of restful sleep – in fact, those who don’t get as much sunlight can get up to 46 minutes less than your vitamin D heavy counterparts - doesn't sound like much, but set your alarm 46 minutes earlier tomorrow and see how much it feels then! Lack of sunlight can affect our concentration levels and our mental well-being too – even more reason to go for a walk outside during your lunch-break.
Working from home can be very fulfilling, if done right. We've all been thrown into a new way of working. We now need to take the time to make sure we are doing it right, to prevent issues further down the road.
Your health is worth taking that little extra time over.
Stay safe, everyone!