Work on Your Wellness: Work from Home

Though the number of employees working from home full-time has decreased compared with what it was last year, there are still many more people working at home than before the COVID pandemic. According to a February 2023 survey by the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of people who had the remote work option were working remotely, down from 55 percent in October 2020. Before the pandemic, 7 percent worked full-time from a remote location.

Many, many companies still offer employees remote or hybrid work options. This includes companies as diverse as Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Pinterest, Allstate Insurance and others.

Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Working remotely comes with both perks and challenges. People respond differently, depending on their personality, circumstances, and organization.

Let's walk through some of the good stuff, first. Here are some of the more commonly cited advantages of working from home:

Time Saved on Commuting — This is one of the more impactful advantage of working from home. You can save a great deal of time and money that would otherwise be swallowed up by driving to and from the office.

Flexibility — Many of those who work remotely have the flexibility of working according to a variable schedule. This leaves time to attend to family and other commitments at one’s convenience. The extent of flexibility depends on the type of work and office schedule, and the organization.

Increased Mobility — You don't have to live close to an employer's physical location to work from home. Remote workers enjoy the freedom to live in far-flung locations and change one’s workstation once in a while. (More about this in a moment, but it's generally better to stick to a dedicated workspace most of the time.)

Freedom from Office Distractions — Office chatter, a toxic coworker, or the general noise, activity, and physical clutter of an office environment can be distracting. Working from home can circumvent all of these.

Better Work-Life Balance (in Some Cases) — Disciplined and highly motivated self-starters can focus on their work as well as make enough time for non-work activities, such as exercise, that often get lost in the rhythms of commuting.

Working from home is not without its challenges. Here are some of the more commonly-cited problems you can expect to encounter when working from home:

Difficulty Sustaining Motivation — The absence of in-person interaction, with coworkers and managers being physically present to monitor employees, can lead to loss of motivation for some.

Disturbances — Work-at-home disruptions can come from various sources: little children, family members who tend to forget you have a job to do, other domestic matters, or inconsiderate neighbors.

Isolation — Professional and social isolation can lead to low confidence, loneliness, declining performance, and mental stress.

Poor Health Outcomes — Working at home can lead to weight gain (spurred by continual proximity to a well-stocked refrigerator), increased stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Work-Life Balance — Blurred work and personal life boundaries can affect relationships, children’s wellbeing, and work performance, resulting in high stress.

Burnout — Not setting work and personal boundaries and working longer hours regularly can lead to burnout.

Best Practices for Working from Home

Low motivation, lack of performance feedback, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of work equipment and supplies, and burnout are some of the common drawbacks of working from home. So what can you do to avoid these outcomes?

Set a Routine — Establishing a routine and sticking to it helps prevent overlap of work and personal time. When the lines between work and personal life are hazy, productivity and health suffer. This can lead to high stress and poor work-life balance.

It’s helpful to start work at the same time each day, as you would generally be doing in an office. Take breaks and stop working at the end of the workday. Try not to check emails and take official calls after work hours. Also, make sure you get adequate sleep.

Take Breaks — Most organizations offer a lunch hour and two shorter breaks to full-time workers. A lunch break is necessary for workers to refresh and reset mind and body before they get back to work in the afternoon, and should last at least 30 minutes. Resuming work with a clear mind and relaxed body can help you focus and work better, leading to enhanced work outcomes and higher productivity. Fix a time for your lunch break and stick to it.

Eat Healthy — Don’t neglect nutrition. It’s important to eat a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, eggs, fish, and poultry, and minimise consumption of sugar, sodium, white flour, and trans fats.

Keep Yourself Hydrated — Drink enough water to prevent low hydration. Poor hydration can cause constipation, headaches, and other problems. Avoid drinking sodas, sugary juices, and energy drinks. Coffee and tea in moderation are okay. Set drink intervals. This is also an opportunity to stand up, stretch and move around.

Get Regular Exercise — Physical exercise benefits both mind and body. Exercising outdoors for even a few minutes each day is great. Green open spaces can relax and calm the mind. Find a suitable time to step out to walk, ride a bike, or run. Since you don’t have to commute to work, you might want to spend that time working out. If you need something to get you going, use an app or a fitness video.

Apart from the outdoor session, try to get as much physical activity as possible, indoors. You can walk around during phone calls, as well as every time you need a drink. Standing up and stretching beside your desk at regular intervals is very beneficial.

Connect with Others — As much as you may enjoy not wasting time on long chats with coworkers, some human interaction is necessary. Stay in touch with colleagues on the phone whenever you can instead of emailing.  

Protect Family and Personal Time — Working from home can upset work-life balance and productivity if you don’t define time and space boundaries. It’s important that children and other family members know you need to work without disruptions during a specific time each day.

Similarly, devote time to family, friends, and yourself at the end of the workday. Research indicates that many workers who switched to WFH mode during the pandemic struggled to disconnect from work after office hours, worked longer hours, and suffered sleep problems.

Organize a Dedicated Work Space – You need a quiet, comfortable workspace where you can work free from disturbance. It’s best to have a separate room for work if you live with family or others. Otherwise, designate a quiet ergonomic space where you can work comfortably in peace.

Make sure you work at a desk. Working on a couch or on the bed is bad for posture. If you don’t have an adjustable office chair, it’s prudent to invest in one. Maintaining good posture while you work can help prevent neck and back pain, and eye strain. Place your computer so that the monitor is at least an arm’s length away and the top is below or at eye level.

Your forearms should ideally be level with the table and elbows at 90 degrees, and feet flat on the floor. An office chair with armrests that supports the natural curvature of the spine and this posture is the best. Otherwise, use cushions and a foot rest to maintain the right posture.

Separating Work Hours from Personal Hours

Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to succeed at working from home is to draw a clear line between time spent working and "off the clock" hours. Everything else about your experience will benefit if you can ensure that you work during work hours and attend to family and personal commitments at other times.

Set space boundaries by keeping a door shut while you work. This will help minimize distractions. Disconnect from work after office hours. Try not to think about work. Walking outdoors, spending time with family, meeting friends, meditating, engaging in a hobby, and journaling are a few of several ways to take your mind off work and relax.

Working from home can be rewarding and productive. And the odds are good that most workers will have at least one job that either permits or requires it over the course of a career in IT. With the right preparation and focus, you can have a successful and positive experience.

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About the Author
Reena Ghosh

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit.