While working from the safety of home is undoubtedly a privilege, adjusting to the change in daily routine has its challenges. Now that we’re nearly a year into the pandemic, a recent study looks at the early impacts on overall health (both physical and mental) of working from home.
Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) surveyed 1,000 participants on their lifestyles, home office environments, and their physical and mental well-being while working from home during the pandemic.
The results, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, revealed 64% of people developed at least one new physical health issue, and nearly 75% developed one new mental health issue.
At-home workers overall lowered their physical activity levels and increased their junk food intake, according to the study. Those changes in movement and nutritional patterns were directly related to a decrease in both physical and mental health.
The lack of movement may have been due to the closure of gyms, but it could also be linked to the increased hours spent working (read, sitting at a desk). Three-quarters of participants said they adjusted their work schedules while WFH, and the time spent at a workstation increased by about one and a half hours.
While the length of a work day increased, productivity may not have. Staying focused while working from home can be difficult for anyone, but parents of young children have an especially tough time.
According to the study, participants with toddler and infant-aged children were more likely to develop at least one mental health issue (however, their overall well-being improved). The paradoxical finding may have something to do with the power of social connection in overall health.
Participants who identified as female were more likely to develop depression, and those who made less than $100,000 were at higher risk of developing a physical or mental health problem.
Finally, and maybe most closely associated with these changes in well-being, 47.6% of people working from home shared their work station with others. “The quality of your home workspace is important. Having a dedicated workspace signals to others that you are busy, and minimizes the chances of being distracted and interrupted,” study author Burcin Becerik-Gerber, Ph.D., said in a news release. “In addition, knowing how to adjust your workspace helps with physical health,” she added.
To improve these overall outcomes, try implementing these seven tips for staying healthy while working from home, adjust your office chair to make it more ergonomic, and take breaks often to check your alignment and counteract the effects of sitting.
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