Remote work was the holy grail of employment situations for millions of Americans before the pandemic. Avoiding a two-way, daily commute and spending 9 or more hours per day in the office promised to be less stressful and free up more time for physical activity and other leisure pursuits. Workers believed they might even be able to eat healthier during the day if they could cook from home instead of grabbing a quick bite at a fast-food restaurant.
But the reality of remote work hasn’t always lived up to its potential.
Productivity or Procrastination?
Rather than using their extra free time to go on a morning jog, remote workers might simply lay in bed for another hour or even work from that bed if they can’t quite make it to the couch. That image certainly doesn’t reflect every remote worker’s work-from-home habits, but the broader point is that workers often develop certain habits working from home that are harmful to their overall health.
“While we still don’t know much about the long-term implications of remote work, researchers agree that working outside of a traditional office setting can negatively impact our brains and our bodies with everything from eye strain to back pain,” says L’Oreal Thompson Payton in an article for Fortune. But similar issues exist in physical workplace settings, he adds, where spending too much time at a desk has long been a wellness-related downfall of the office setting.
Fighting the Call of the Couch
There are, fortunately, some things employees can do to offset these potential health and productivity risks. Thompson Payton writes there are some simple strategies remote workers can follow to mitigate the negative impacts of remote work. Focusing on proper posture alone can make a tremendous difference when it comes to ergonomic issues like back pain, and working breaks in between Zoom meetings can help cut down on the Zoom fatigue that comes from so many video meetings.
Remote work was on the wish lists of many workers before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those who have been working from home for the past few years may be experiencing some unexpected health impacts, both mental and physical. But, some relatively small tweaks may be enough to mitigate those impacts.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.