Working from home - also called telecommuting - is a growing trend worldwide. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about four percent of America’s working population consists of telecommuters but the figure can be very high - over 20 percent if one considers self-employed persons and home-based businesses.
Various sources in Canada estimate between 10 percent and 12 percent of the country’s workforce works from home.
Advantages of Working from Home
Working from home consists of two categories: Employees hired full-time by companies and self-employed persons.
Research conducted by Canada Life Group reveals some startling facts.
- Employees working from home took average 1.8 days as sick leave per year as compared to 3.1 days by office-based workers. This implies stress levels of people working from home are much lower than office bound counterparts.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, home based workers ranked 7.7 in productivity while office-based workers ranked only 6.5.
- Office-based workers are six times more susceptible to stress compared to those who work from home.
- Also on scale of 1 to 10 for good health, home based workers ranked 8.1 while office workers scored only 6.1.
- The research also revealed, job satisfaction levels were higher among home based workers as compared to counterparts to work from offices.
The research clearly indicates that people who work from home enjoy relatively lower stress levels and healthier life.
However, merely working from home does not relieve stress or translate into better health. Work from home employees as well as self-employed people also need to take steps to ensure they stay healthy.
Ways to Stay Healthy
Working from home comes with an inherent trap: It allows people to work on flexible hours. This leaves sufficient scope for home-based workers to lead a sedentary or sometimes, a lazier lifestyle. There are several proven ways to prevent falling into the veritable quagmire of inactive life.
Create A Work Schedule
The first step any home-based worker can take towards ensuring good health is by creating own work schedule. This means fixing work hours, coffee and meal time. This schedule should ideally be based on conventional eight-hour work at an office.
Fixing a work schedule enables home-based workers to complete given tasks within a specific time. This helps reduce or eliminate hidden stress that can result from work left incomplete because of flexible hours.
Completing work within the fixed hours enables home-based workers to enjoy their leisure time without the nagging worry of something left undone.
Distraction Free Environment
Working from home comes loaded with distractions of all sorts. These can range from duties towards family, social obligations and even phone calls for non-work related issues.
Generally, office-based workers are free from these distractions. Hence, they can focus on the work at hand.
Allotting a separate area for the home office that is somewhat insulated against domestic distractions is extremely helpful. It allows home-based workers to concentrate on the tasks they need to complete during the day. Restrict phone use to work related calls only.
Utilizing Commute Time
Since home-based workers are not required to commute, the time can be utilized for engaging in activities that promote good health. Such activities can include jogging, bicycling, walking, Yoga or exercising at gym or home.
For example, a Canadian spends average one hour commuting between home and work daily. Instead, home-based workers can utilize the time they save on commuting for healthy physical activity.
This ‘commute’ time can be blended into the daily schedule for working from home to ensure it becomes part of the daily routine.
Outdoor Coffee Time
While taking a coffee break daily, home-based workers can engage in some outdoor activity like strolling outside the house. Sitting long hours in an office chair has proven to cause several diseases that can be prevented by some simple physical activity like walking or climbing stairs.
The list of disease caused by long hours in office chairs is rather scary.
It includes cancer, diabetes, cardiac problems and obesity, among others. While office workers are unable to venture outside their workplace during coffee breaks, home-based employees can avail the luxury of a small walk during this time.
Home-based workers have the comfort of enjoying a full meal with family as compared to packed lunches or hurried meals typical of office-bound workers.
While nobody denies a person’s right to wholesome and healthy food, a heavy lunch has several adverse effects on working from home.
A fair sized meal sends sugar levels in humans soaring. Consequently, the body pumps out extra insulin to counter this burst. Higher levels on insulin in blood serum triggers two brain hormones- Melatonin and Serotonin- which invariably lead to the post-lunch sleep syndrome.
Feeling groggy after lunch adversely impacts productivity while working. Hence, home-based workers need to guard themselves against heavy lunches. Instead, a small packed meal that does not cause drowsiness is preferable.
Smaller meals also help prevent a plethora of disease such as diabetes and obesity or even high cholesterol levels.
Shunning Overtime Work
Generally, home-based workers are not required to do overtime by employers. However, a lot of telecommuters invariably end up spending an hour or more at work daily.
This is to cover up for time lost on non-work related activities that may crop up during the day.
Adhering strictly to work schedule would negate the need to work extra hours. Every hour spent extra on working from home deprives the worker of leisure time that can be used for engaging in activities for physical and mental wellbeing.
These can be anything such as spending quality time with family, socializing with neighbors and friends, indulging in hobbies and pastime activities or simply shopping for groceries. Extra hours at desk disturb the fragile work-life balance and hence are best avoided.
Working from home allows various types of freedom, regardless whether a person is hired by a business or self employed. Hence, home-based workers need to be extra cautious about how they will go about executing their tasks and striking an astute work-life balance. Maintaining this balance holds the key to staying healthy when working from home.