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Working from home and your health: Get yourself set up

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WORKINGFROMHOMEANDYOURHEALTH
Working from home and your health and wellbeing are now inextricably linked

Working from home is becoming a permanent setup for many mums after more COVID clusters in Australia over Christmas and the New Year. Scott Gentle, a physiotherapist from Butel Health Services in Hornsby, is here to share a second installment of WFH wisdom to help you survive.


Before I jump into my work from home checklist and guidelines, let’s look at the pros and cons of our “new normal”.

Working from home and your health: The positives

There is much still to learn about the world of WFH, but I always like to start with the positives:

  • Lowered, if not obliterated, commute time
  • Greater flexibility with working arrangements
  • Extra family time
  • Increased free time to dedicate to exercise, eating well and getting healthy (yes, in theory)

Working from home and your health: The negatives

Working from home and your health are now forever connected. WFH has transformed how we interact (and not always in a good way). The impact of working from home has on incidental exercise is substantial. Previously a 10,000 steps-a-day goal was ticked off, in part, by the above activities. Now it takes planning and dedication.

  • Walking to and from public transport has been replaced by rolling out of bed and straight onto the computer
  • Walking down the hall to ask your colleague about his questionable email has been replaced by a call
  • Using the stairs has been all but been abolished
  • The 50-metre saunter to the kitchen for a cuppa has been cut to a five-metre stretch
  • Face-to-face conversations are now via phone or video conference

Other than reduced incidental exercise, a work from home set-up can bring with it other negative impacts. In my practice, I’ve seen these four particular challenges decrease the wellbeing of my patients:

  • Inadvertently working longer hours
  • Diminished social interaction
  • Increased stress, anxiety and depression with uncertainty around employment and the future
  • Poor workplace set-up

Are you inadvertently working longer hours?

It’s so easy to get caught up in effect, being on call. After all, in our digital world and in a WFH era, the tools of the work trade are right at our fingertips; computer, email, phone. A Roy Morgan survey found that when Aussies work from home, the majority find switching off tricky. Setting work aside becomes difficult. This is terrible for our work-life balance. If your inner voice is screaming, “What balance?!”, listen! It’s time to set — and stick to — boundaries.

Working from home and your mental health

Your mental wellbeing: Start socialising!

If you work with frustrating, loud or otherwise irritating colleagues, working from home might feel (and sound) like bliss. And it may be. But diminished social interaction can harm your health. We are, at our core, social creatures. If your new work situation has stripped your communal engagement, seek a connection elsewhere. You might find that actual or Zoom dates with friends and chatting with loved ones often is enough to soothe your social soul.

Worried about work and your future? Some strategies

One constant with our COVID-inspired work from home world seems to be its ever-changing nature. This can be extremely difficult, especially if it eats into security around your employment and future. If you are finding chronic stress and its bedfellows, anxiety and depression, difficult, The Black Dog Institute has some advice:

  1. Set up a workday routine and structure
  2. Set boundaries between work and home
  3. Settle on a workspace (not in your bedroom: that’s for sleep)
  4. Stay connected to your co-workers
  5. Switch off technology in the evenings
  6. See nature, every day
  7. Seek the silver linings

Working from home: Ergomonics

Workplace set-up is a biggie. The great news is that with the right advice and equipment you can swap work from home back pain for comfort and ease, horrible headaches and neck pain for pain-free poise and shoulder and wrist soreness can become a long-forgotten memory from the past. To do this, we need to discuss something called ergonomics.

Firstly, let’s discuss ergonomics!

You’ve probably heard the terms hundreds of times, but do you know what it means?

Ergonomics is the holistic process by which workplaces and products are arranged to safely fit and support the people that use them. Ergonomics assesses a variety of factors to achieve the best outcome.

Why is Ergonomics Important?

In short, because it protects you from injury and pain. According to Safework Australia, the Australian government will spend almost $60 billion on work-related injuries and illnesses, with lower back pain being the most common cause of absence from work. The goal in ergonomics is to achieve comfortable, safe and efficient workspaces.

Ergonomics is governed by 5 main principles:

  1. Anthropometry: how variations in body size and shape impact on form and function
  2. Applied psychology: how learning, skills and errors occur and impact the workplace
  3. Biomechanics: how levers, the skeleton, muscles and forces work together
  4. Environmental physics: the roles light, temperature, noise and sensations play
  5. Social psychology: the impact of communication, groups and behaviours at work

Let’s discuss the role of ergonomics in working from home. Why? Because the benefits of a well thought out and implemented ergonomic set-up will reduce, even eliminate pain, and improve your wellbeing.

How Can You Set-up Your WFH Workstation With Ergonomics in Mind?

Start with the basics: a decluttered space is key. Remove all unnecessary belongings and distractions.

Now, if you haven’t completed an ergonomic assessment before, it can seem daunting. But there are a few key things to keep in mind. Let’s go through my work from home checklist…

 

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