Given that road accidents, slips, trips and falls make up a massive amount of the injuries sustained by any workforce, you might think by not leaving the house you mitigate any risk to your health. However, working from home jobs come with their own set of fairly unique risks – and it’s important you keep them in your awareness for the good of your health, other people’s well-being and associated organisation’s business interests.
Although the two are undoubtedly linked, we’ve broken the things to consider down into two categories – firstly your physical health, secondly, your mental well-being.
There are some fairly obvious elements to your physical well-being when working at home, for most people being based at home means long periods in front of your computer and the associated risks to health that come with posture – but there’s a lot more to be considered.
If you spend a lot of time in front of a screen your eye-sight can suffer – referred to simply as ‘eye strain’ – the toll that your screen takes on your eyes can lead to headaches, brow-ache, migraines, twitches and pulling sensations from deep in your eye.
There’s no substitute for professional help if you’re getting problems that you feel might be associated with your eyes, but even if you’re not, it’s good to stay aware – try some eye-exercises or resting from your screen every 30-45 minutes to reduce the strain.
Vitamin D deficiency
It might sound quite severe to think your job means you’re lacking in vital vitamins, but for home workers it really can be the case – especially considering the lack of commuting that would normally get you outside. This is because vitamin D is produced by your body after exposure to sunlight.
A lack of vitamin D can cause aches and pains, low mood, weakened bones, excess sweating and feelings of general weakness. The good news is, you can bolster your vitamin D levels with some fatty fish, egg yolk, supplements and some other enriched foods. If you’re feeling any of these symptoms and would like to make sure you’re not deficient, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Inviting clients to your home
While we’re sure you’re an excellent judge of who you work with, it pays to be careful when you’re inviting people to your home. If you’re ever uncertain or meeting with new clients – it might be prudent to meet people in a public location, you can always make an excuse about family or a boiler repair meaning home isn’t feasible.
It’s always worth letting a colleague or friend know you’re meeting with a new client. While we’re sure the overwhelming majority of meetings pass without any issue, it’s always better to be safe.
Health and safety in your home
Ah, ‘health and safety’ – Even though it’s what you’ve been reading about it up to this point, the term still strikes boredom into many people! Don’t worry, we’ll keep the formality quick.
Generally speaking, health and safety responsibility falls to you if you’re working from your own residence. If you do have colleagues or clients visiting it can get a little more complicated – especially if they were to injure themselves. Talk to your company HR team if the situation arises – if you’re self-employed, think about putting some public liability insurance into place.
As Briton’s our mental well-being is something we don’t traditionally bring up – especially not in the workplace. As a result, our lack of awareness and intervention lead to some of the highest levels of stress and diminished mental health in all of Europe. We’re not here to diagnose – but we can offer you some things to keep an eye on…
Watching your mood
It can be difficult to gauge your own mood, for many of us it takes a loved one or colleague to tell us we seem ‘a bit off’ on any given day. Taking some time out of your day to consider your mood can be the key to catching stress, depression and anxiety as early as possible.
If you’ve heard about mindfulness it might sound a bit ‘kooky’ – it’s essentially taking a moment to work on quietening your thoughts and focusing on how you physically feel. Some people refer to it as ‘meditation’ – which can have religious or hippie type connotations. The reality is very different though, modern takes on meditation (aka mindfulness) are deeply researched and medically recognised and recommended – they’re often the first stop for people experiencing low level mental health issues.
You won’t become a mindfulness master overnight – nor should you aim to be, but learning a little about the practice means you stand a very good chance of becoming more objective and aware of your moods – which is the first step toward taking control of them, rather than moods controlling you.
Many people find it useful to start their day by ‘journaling’ their thoughts, ideas, worries – or anything else that spring to mind. If you can imagine your mind as being a huge and messy desk with no order – journaling can help to rationalise some of your quick-moving thoughts. For some people, giving their mood a mark out of 10 can be useful in tracking your feelings on a particular job, task or project. For others, it might be useful to think about positive things in life as a focus to begin the day with.
There are some great guides and apps to help with journaling – and there are no hard and fast rules, keep looking until you find something you like, your brain is likely to thank you for it.
Working from home can be lonely – it actually doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve got a house full of family, being cut off from your company and colleagues can feel deeply unpleasant. If you’re a remote worker and you’re not feeling great, you might want to start scheduling calls with colleagues or managers to feel like you’re part of the bigger picture.
If you’re self-employed, stay in touch with employees or your business partners. Don’t be afraid to invite yourself to the offices of companies you work with. Call friends and family – even better, video call them so you can see their faces.
Awareness is everything
This is not an exhaustive list of the things you might come up against when it comes to your health and working from home. If you’re feeling the strain in any way, let your doctor know, all your conversations are confidential and they’re not going to kick up a big fuss – it’s more likely that they’ll help you find the right resources to keep you on the right track when home is your office.