3 Real Health Risks of Working from Home During COVID-19 (How to Stay Safe)

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While we are all focused on COVID-19, we often disregard the conditions that may arise from working from home. The combination of sitting hours in front of the computer and leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause both short-term and long-term health issues.

Going to a workplace may seem like a distant memory, but there were benefits to that lifestyle. The little things. The 5 minutes walk to the bus stand, the essential stair climb, the daily walks to get lunch, and all the other little activities added up. 

Those days are gone, at least for a while. Your home is now the place of both leisure and work. While we have invested a lot of thought in making our homes as comfortable as we can for leisure, there was little thought spared on how to turn it into an office space. 

Therein lies the problem. Here are 3 very real health risk that comes with working from home and how to mitigate them.

Higher Risk of Lower Back Pain

Offices have ergonomic chairs that provide proper back support. Most dining room chairs, stools, and sofas at home are not geared towards providing proper back support. To make matters worse people often use low-rise tables and then hunch over to reach their keyboards. Since a lot of people don’t have proper workplace tables and chairs, they make use of what they have and thereby compromising on posture. This is causing a lot of lower back issues in people who are working from home

The Best Fix: The best fix is to buy an ergonomic office chair and then pair it with a table. You can even invest in a space-saving office table to create a proper workspace at home. Make sure the chair provides ample back support and is height adjustable so you can get into a nice and comfortable position.

Temporary Fix: If cannot or don’t want to buy new furniture, you can find ways to provide support to your back. Adding a cushion to your regular chair and adjusting it to provide lower back support can work temporarily. 

More Screentime Equals More Eye Strain

People working from home not only have to stare at a laptop screen for hours, they often are dependant on screens for entertainment. So, after spending hours working on their laptops, they turn on the TV or turn to their phones for entertainment. The commute to work and back gave everyone a much-needed break from screens. 

Image Credit: tommaso79 / Shutterstock.com

With more screentime, people are now more susceptible to blue light damage. Now, the health risk from increased exposure to blue lights is not a myth. That’s why most eye care professionals recommend blue light blocking glasses to people who work for extended periods of time on their laptops.

Studies have confirmed that blue lights are responsible for reduced melatonin production. Simply put, people with higher exposure have trouble sleeping and can suffer from sleep disorders. 

The Journal of Adolescent Health conducted a study where a group of boys was given orange-tinted blue light glasses. They reported feeling more sleepy as compared to when they wore clear glasses and were exposed to the same degree of blue light.

The Best Fix: Most eye care professionals recommend reducing the hours of screentime in a day. That might mean not watching a movie right after you finish work. They also recommend wearing blue light blocking eyewear during work hours.

Temporary Fix: If reducing overall screentime is not possible try using nighttime screen modes in your phone. This feature blocks the blue light being emitted and gives the display an orangish hue. This is a standard feature on Android and iOS devices and can be set to turn on automatically.

Reduced Social Interaction Impacting Mental Health

Interacting with people in person keeps our minds stimulated and healthy. Working from home and social distancing, especially for people who live alone, is negatively impacting mental health.

Extended periods without social gathering is causing depression. Uncertainty about the future and the health of loved ones is causing chronic anxiety. The combination of loneliness and anxiety is also giving rise to sleep disorders as people are spending more time on their phones. 

In a CBS interview, Dr. Ganz Ferrance, who is a practicing psychologist in Edmonton, Canada was asked why people are having a hard time sleeping during COVID. He acknowledged the issue and recommended creating a routine of healthy sleep and wake-up times and following a more structured lifestyle.

With the rising death tolls, a lot of people are losing their loved ones at a time where it can be challenging to find emotional support.  The loneliness and the heartbreak of losing someone can result in depression and other mental health problems.

The Best Fix: Making a conscious effort to connect with loved ones on Skype and other video chat tools can be therapeutic. Get into the habit of calling your friends and family members and have heartfelt exchanges. If you have lost someone during this time, reach out to support groups. Many support groups conduct remote consultations and support sessions.

The Daily Fix: Create a routine of healthy habits. Find time for exercise and force yourself to go to sleep at a set time every day. Watch at-home workout videos and get those endorphins flowing. 

There is no telling how long it might take for things to go back to normal. During these troubled times, we need to make a conscious effort to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy. That’s not just restricted to wearing masks when going outside or following proper hand sanitization protocols. You need to make sure you stay healthy both indoors and when venturing outside. 

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