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Working from home – healthy?

Working from home solves a lot of niggling irritations found when conventionally employed. No more commuting during bad weather or transport strikes, significant cost savings, no more dealing with dull meetings or the office bitch. Yes, there’s always one. On top of that, you can fit paid work around childcare, housework or any other obligation and take breaks whenever you like.

But …

Although there are no office politics, there is also nobody to talk to unless you pick up the phone. And who do you talk to about work, when your client list is secret? Then there is the issue of breaks. Sure, you can get up and put the kettle on whenever you like, and there’s no clock-watching to force you back to your desk. But do you take frequent breaks, to rest your eyes? Do you do anything physical when you are away from the screen? If not, before you know it you have an aching back, are tired and irritable, can’t concentrate, and have noticed your weight creeping up.

It’s not healthy.

To watch your health, the concept of mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body – is necessary if you are to stay on top of your game. If you are freelancing, it’s not enough to rely on those odd quiet spells and sleep the day away to recharge after weeks of long hours.

A healthy mind

To stay positive and cheerful, there are a number of things you can try to keep your mind in good order.

  • Working from home is a lonely occupation especially if you live on your own as well. Use social media out of hours to chat to friends about anything but work. Get out of the house, even if it’s to have a cup of tea with a neighbour once a week.
  • If you have a work-related problem, there is probably an online group of similar professionals (start with your own society or association) to discuss it with.

    If you have a dog, a daily walk will benefit you mentally and physically. Photo: Hazel Chance
  • If you have a dog, walk it every day unless the weather is extreme. You should feel more energetic and positive when you get home and it may help to put worries in perspective. Cats and dogs have both been shown to be beneficial to mental health when petted and cared for.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep.

A healthy body

The human frame has never totally adapted to sitting for extended periods of time. There is plenty of advice online about posture and correct seating (including desks you stand at), but you also need to get physical.

  • Allocate a number of breaks during the day; the actual time can vary. Eat properly and avoid dehydration; while food or drink is cooking/brewing, maybe take the hoover around one room, unload the dishwasher, feed the pets or put a load of laundry on. Anything that involves you moving.
  • If you feel yourself becoming tired, go and have a power nap then catch up later. Similarly, if you need to put in crazy hours make sure these are for a limited period and you get sufficient quality sleep – burnout is a real issue.
  • If you are looking at a screen a lot of the time, make sure you have regular eye tests. Tell the ophthalmologist that you spend a lot of time at a computer – this may affect your prescription.
  • Don’t work if you are unwell. It may be tempting, but unless it’s a trivial matter rest up as much as possible and allow yourself to get better, or it could drag on.

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about your own health when working from home – both mental and physical. Look after yourself!

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