Not feeling as great as you did when you used to go to the office? Here are 5 potential ways home offices harm your health
By Chere Di Boscio
If you’re like the Eluxe staff, you’ve probably been working from home for over a year now. How is that going for you?
If you ask someone how they’re liking their home office, their response is often a sarcastic, “Oh you know. Living the dream.” That’s a lot shorter and kinder than the truth.
While there are a lot of benefits working from home (no nasty commutes, PJs all day, your pets and kids will love you for it), the truth is, there are a lot of detriments, too. In fact, working from home could harm your health in ways you never thought of before.
6 Potential Ways Home Offices Harm Your Health
1. The Zoom Effect
Can we start with how universally loathsome group Zoom calls have become over the last year? You have probably already heard of people suffering from Zoom Fatigue, and that is a very real problem. However, the bigger problem might be people suffering from The Zoom Effect. This phenomenon refers to thousands of people logging into Zoom calls, and zooming in on the parts of their faces that they wish they could change.
The result? Lowered self esteem, to the point of neurosis.
“This is certainly one of the busiest periods we’ve ever seen at our clinic,” said Dr. Stephen Mulholland, owner of Toronto Plastic Surgeons.
“People are trapped in lockdown. They’re looking at their own faces on these Zoom calls and they’re asking, when did I get this double chin? How long have I had these wrinkles?”
As a result of paranoia about how we look online, the plastic surgery industry experienced a mini-boom during the pandemic. In fact, according to The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), 70% of surveyed surgeons reported an increase in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, while 90% of those respondents said they have seen an increase of over 10%. A whopping 83% of those surgeons attributed their increase to the so-called Zoom Effect.
The most popular procedures during the pandemic have been:
- Rhinoplasty (78% of surgeons reported an increase)
- Facelifts (69%)
- Eye lifts (65%)
- Neck lifts/treatments (58%)
It’s funny how even though we’re having less contact with real human beings than ever, many of us seem to be stressing more than ever about our looks.
The solution: Be aware that most of us feel we look terrible on video calls! But if it really bothers you, consider putting two lamps on either side of your laptop, and raising it around 2 feet above your desk. This allows for the most flattering lighting and angles.
2. The Quarantine Fifteen
Since many petty tyrants have decided that the solution to keep us all healthy is to close public gyms, yoga studios and even parks and beaches, more of us have gained what many are calling the ‘quarantine fifteen’. Fifteen pounds, that is.
But one way home offices harm your health, even when there’s no quarantine, is because you’ll be exercising less.
It might not seem like much, but just walking from your home to the bus stop or subway station counts as a bit of exercise. And let’s not forget your lunchtime walk down to your favourite cafe, or going with colleagues to the pub after work.
When you’re stuck at home all day, the most walking you do may well be from your desk to your fridge. Which brings me to my next point, below.
The solution: Try to get outside to exercise whenever possible. Take a 30 minute walk around your neighbourhood at lunch if you can. And if you can’t, consider investing in some home exercise equipment, like a bike or stair climber.
3. Insatiable Snacking
By now, many of us have discovered that home offices harm your health by adding on the pounds.
When you’re going to the office every day, it’s easy to control your caloric intake. You can bring your lunch with you, or easily track the nutritional information on the lunch you buy from the local bistro or cafe But when you’re working from home, it’s easy to fall victim to insatiable snacking. And that’s yet another reason why working from home could harm your health.
You’re now working just a few feet away from your refrigerator, and temptation is always right there. When you’re in the office, you can power through a 3:30 craving or hunger grumble. But that’s a lot harder when you’re at home and you’re tempted to eat last night’s leftovers as a snack.
And as mentioned above, you’re burning fewer of those calories off, thanks to less walking. The result? Well, those ‘quarantine fifteen’ of course.
The solution: Ensure you’re only eating three meals a day. Avoid snacking altogether. Plan meals in advance, and ensure portions are a bit smaller than usual (if you’re not walking outside as much as before). Take time away from your desk to eat. Make it a ritual, not a habit.
4. Non-Existent Schedules
We probably don’t have to tell you that there is no greater sleep-killer than stress or anxiety. But when you work from home, it’s hard to ‘leave your problems at the office’ and unwind in a totally different environment. Not only that, but when our routines are interrupted, our sleeping cycles often are, too. And nothing provides routine quite like waking up, going to work, having lunch, returning from work, unwind, sleep.
Interruptions to our routines and anxiety brought on by pandemic measures and news have had terrible consequences on our shut-eye. A startling survey from the American Journal of Accountable Care revealed that 98% of respondents said they have developed new sleep problems during the pandemic.
Anxiety also increases as more and more of us are finding it hard to differentiate between work time and fun time if we’re working at home. While the office space provides us with a clear 8 hour day, thanks to technology, those hours have been extended. We’re available 24/7, and it’s even worse when we’re at home. We may end up working from our beds in the evening, on the sofa in front of the TV in the afternoon, and we may even take a call while we’re walking the dog. In short, working from home can mean we’re all work and no play.
Almost nothing about this lifestyle encourages healthy sleep patterns, despite the fact that you get to sleep in a bit later without a morning commute. Sure, you can stay up a bit later and watch one more episode of something on HBO Max. But that one episode quickly turns into 3 – especially knowing you don’t need to be up early the next day. Which means….maybe you won’t be up that early after all.
The solution: Even if you live in a small flat, create a space for your home office. This is the place where you will do your work. All other areas are off – those are for leisure! Also, create a work routine. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, and take lunch at the same time, too. Consider meditation and/or yoga to reduce stress and anxiety.
5. Poor Furnishings
It may not be the most stylish stuff, but another reason home offices harm your health is because you probably don’t have office furniture at home.
What that means is this. You’re probably sitting in a really uncomfortable chair at a kitchen table, or slouched on the sofa with your computer on your lap. Not good, for a variety of reasons.
First of all, good office furniture is designed to support your back and good posture. Without this, you’re probably suffering more head and back aches.
Secondly, it’s never a good idea to spend a lot of time with electronics directly on your skin. This means more EMF (electromagnetic) radiation. You know that ‘hot’ feeling you get with your laptop on your body? Well, that would be the radiation. Which, of course, can lead to all kinds of health problems, ranging from reproductive issues to even cancer.
The solution: If you’re spending a lot of time working from home, you’re going to have to invest in a good table and chair to avoid straining your neck and back.
6. Binging on Booze
Another reason why home offices harm your health is, in a word, booze.
While it’s not unusual (here in the UK anyway) to pop into the pub for a pint post-office, when we’re home, it’s just so much easier to over drink when you’re alone at home.
At first it feels a bit cheeky and fun. And then the next thing you know, it’s become a habit.
Once it’s time to physically return to work, many of these habits will surely change. But in the meantime, if you do find yourself drinking too much whilst working from home, ask yourself these questions.
- Why am I drinking? Is it boredom? Anxiety? Get to the root cause
- Is my drinking creating problems in my daily life?
- Am I fully in control of my drinking? If so, can I promise myself no drinks for a full week? Month?
The solution: If you’re drinking due to anxiety or stress, consider meditation or yoga to help you cope. CBD inhalers are a better way to calm yourself down than drinking alcohol, and there are plenty of good, non-prescription ones available today. Don’t worry about feeling ‘lazy’ after using one of these: they’re formulated to target wellness, clarity of mind, energy and so on.
And if you feel you’re no longer in control of your drinking at all, consider seeking help through a group like Alcoholics Anonymous.
It’s clear that home offices harm your health in various ways. The first step is to recognise the danger signals, and then try to control them.
Have you found that home offices harm your health? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments, below!