More people are now working from home for a variety of reasons, including a flexibility not found in a 9 to 5 office job. Unfortunately, even in this ideal work scenario, health (as well as productivity) can be negatively affected. When considering working from home, all challenges should be explored carefully, with a strategy put in place to mitigate the negative impacts.
As a freelancer, I juggle the needs of my clients, family and myself. While I enjoy the freedom and flexibility working from home offers, it can sometimes put huge pressure on my health and wellbeing. Sometimes I cram work into school hours and don’t’ take breaks. And why does the kitchen call so loudly with its lovely goodies? When bidding pressure is on, how on earth do I stop?
Let’s look at the positives first, because there are lots. Some of these depend on your working patterns, Client/ Manager expectations and the stage of a bid. Apart from the obvious flexibility of working patterns, working from home means you could work in your PJs, find concentration and focus (no office politics or tea runs!), complete helpful home tasks like washing and taking in parcels, go for a walk/run/cycle during the day, attend school functions – the list is endless!
Challenges to our health & mental well-being when working from home
I’m not a medical professional, so I can only give you my personal take on these challenges and how we can overcome them – obviously not everyone faces the same issues and impacts.
- WORKSPACE: Room, desk, chair, tidiness, light, suitability of space, equipment
- ISOLATION: Lack of social and physical interaction with other people
- DISTRACTION: Social media, television, household tasks, visitors
- EXPECTATIONS: Working times, volume of work, availability, deadlines
- BALANCE: Family, home, fitness, ‘me time’, switching off, guilt
- Impaired Vision
- Weight Gain
- Cardiovascular issues
- Relationship Breakdown
- Reduced Drive
- Feeling of inadequacy
- Difficulty Switching off
- Lack of focus
How can we mitigate these challenges?
- WORKSPACE: Keep it separate, ensure natural light, invest in good furniture, tidy up at the end of every day, move regularly
- ISOLATION: Get out and about, attend events, network, make phone calls, arrange a coffee/lunch with a colleague, get a pet, take your work out, consider sharing space
- DISTRACTION: Set a schedule, plan for social media time, silence mobile, leave a note on the front door
- EXPECTATIONS: Ensure clarity first – hours, working times, outputs, calls etc, set schedules, keep communicating, use web-based document collaboration
- BALANCE: Work out what’s important to you, introduce a ‘commute’, take a day off to recharge, make a written note of the hours you work so you can flex around them if possible.
Is there a right way?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ in any situation. Our health & wellbeing is personal, and so are the ways in which we, as individuals, need to deal with the potentially negative aspects of home working. Working from home isn’t for everyone – if you try it and you don’t like it or can’t manage it, be honest with yourself.
And if you love it? Make sure you take care of yourself too.
This article was written by Pippa Birch.