During lockdown working from home has become the norm, and as we look ahead to the future and the hopeful easing of lockdown many companies have stated that working from home may still remain the norm. More and more businesses have realised they don’t necessarily need their whole team in one place at one time to be effective.
Working from home has loads of benefits – a shorter commute, you don’t have to wear office attire, and you can cook yourself up a tasty lunch – but we wanted to take a closer look at just how to make sure we are staying physically and mentally healthy when working from home.
We turned to medical experts and asked them, what are the healthiest and unhealthiest spots in our house for working from home?
Here’s what they had to say.
The Unhealthiest Spots in Your House to Work from Home
The bedroom was the most cited unhealthy spot from all the experts we spoke to, in particular working from your bed.
Working from bed not only comes with physical risks to your health but mental risks too. Carlos Sponton, Head of Behavioural Science at Yerbo says,
“A person that spends all day in the bedroom stops having social stimuli and this can prove detrimental to one’s health by, for example, increasing the risk of depression.”
Sponton also points out that working from bed will naturally make you less productive, saying,
“The mental-activation states that are required to accomplish flow are generally not produced while in the same bed where one usually sleeps.
Psychologically, the mind associates the bed with rest, relaxation, and energy recovery, as opposed to the necessary tension that’s required to sustain high states of attention and concentration that pertain to intellectual work.”
Even if you are able to set up a desk or table in your bedroom, working in this room at all is still considered a bad idea by health experts due to the negative impact it can have on your personal mental wellness and sleep patterns, as well as making you less productive at work.
Alternative and East Asian medicine expert Tsao-Lin Moy, highlights the importance of feng-shui and finding the right room for the right task saying,
“Bedrooms need to be a space of restoration, rest and rejuvenation and is where we are psychically vulnerable when we sleep. This is one room that needs to be a healing sanctuary. Anything that is not related to sleep needs to be out of sight, this means clutter, papers, books, and electronics.
If work is invading your bedroom this is a form of negative energy accumulating and affects your health, especially your sleep. Poor sleep is linked to many chronic health conditions and with depression.”
Working from bed also brings physical health problems, due to lacking the necessary support for sitting up and working.
For those without a home office, the kitchen table has become an impromptu desk for many – but the kitchen is actually one of the unhealthiest rooms in your house for working.
This is largely because working from the kitchen can bring potential sanitation risks to your cooking and eating area. Studies have suggested that the average laptop keyboard is 20,000 times germier than a toilet seat – do you really want that in your kitchen?
Lynell Ross, Founder and Managing Editor of Zivadream says,
“It is best not to work from the kitchen if you can avoid it. While keeping the kitchen clean, sanitary and germ free is ideal, if you must work from the kitchen table, do your best to wipe up crumbs and spills. Save the kitchen counters for food, and keep your work on a desk or table.”
Working in the kitchen can also lead to excessive snacking and unhealthy eating habits, which over a prolonged period of time can bring health risks.
Registered dietician Trista Best warns,
“As we find ourselves at home more often than normal due to remote working we should be cognisant of potential health downfalls. We are likely moving less and eating more through mindless snacking.”
Given the current situation, many of us are working from home alongside our partners or flatmates – and potentially looking after kids too, but our experts stress the importance of finding some alone space for working from home to benefit not only your productivity but your mental health too.
Psychologist Eamonn Leaver, Founder of The Home Fit Freak says,
“Shared spaces such as the kitchen and living rooms are particularly unhealthy working from home hotspots. Shared spaces have lots of distractions, which can kill your productivity; we can take up to 30 minutes to completely refocus on a task after a distraction. Compound this over a whole day and you may find yourself perpetually distracted. This is likely to cause stress and anxiety, and lead to a very unrewarding working from home experience.”
Next to the TV
For some of us who are missing the buzz of office life we may turn to having the TV on in the background as we work, but our experts warn that working next to the TV is one of the most unhealthy spots in the house.
GP Dr.Giuseppe Aragona explains,
“Any room with a TV can be hazardous – both physically and mentally to your health while working. Having a TV on in the background will cause you to lose focus often, unable to concentrate on the work tasks, and then become stressed that regular tasks are taking longer than normal and may not be as complete as they should be.”
Aragona also explains that straining to watch the TV or naturally lounging into a TV viewing position will take its toll on our physical health too stating, “People tend to sit on sofas and loungers while doing work in the TV room, this can cause problems with posture and exacerbate back pains – especially if done over a long period. Often the worker will sit in a position where they can view the TV at the same time, sacrificing work posture for a clearer view of the TV.”
The Healthiest Spots in Your House to Work from Home
Of course, having a specific home office which is dedicated to work tasks only is the healthiest work from home setting.
“Areas of the house that are designated as work areas are by far the healthiest hotspots. This means a home office or study nook that is set up specifically for your work. Ideally, you’ll have a room with a door so you can close yourself off to distractions such as partners, pets and kids. At a minimum, you’ll want an area of the house in which you can set yourself up with the equipment and technology you need to perform your role effectively.”
Ross also states the importance of having a dedicated work area to help separate work and home life when working from home. She says,
“If you have a dedicated office, that is the best possible scenario because you can keep your office clean and separate from your home life.
Having your own office can help you make the division between work life and home life. Working from home can contribute to over working, but learning how to leave your work ‘at the office’ goes a long way towards creating a better work life balance and is much better for your health.”
If you are lucky enough to have your own home office, our experts also provided key tips in maximising this space to provide the healthiest work environment.
Dr Ashley Katiskos, dry eye specialist at the Golden Gate Associates stresses the importance of having the right ergonomics for your home desk, screen and chair to protect your eyes when looking at a computer all day.
She advises to ensure that your monitor is situated 20-28 inches from your eyes. If you must have the screen at a further distance she suggests that you increase your font size so as to avoid eye strain. Katiskos also advises that your screen is 15-20 degrees (or 4-5 inches) below eye level from the corner of the screen. Not taking these precautions can lead to digital eye strain which causes headaches.
By the Window
Whichever room you are working in it is a good idea to try to position yourself by the window. Dr. Lina Velikova states that,
“The healthiest hotspot in the house for working from home is by the window. Setting your work desk near the windows will expose you to the natural light, which, by the research, causes a drop in health problems such as headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision by 84 percent.”
Leaver agrees that getting natural light into your work setting is important, stating, “Good-quality, natural light reduces eye strain, especially when working on a computer screen.”
While it may not be practical for everyone to work in their garden, if you have good quality garden furniture available that allows for best posture, working outdoors in short bursts can bring many benefits – including natural light and vitamin D. Leaver says,
“If you have a laptop you can work on, occasionally sitting outside in the fresh air can be great. A pleasant change of scenery can interrupt the monotony that often accompanies working from home. Ensure you have a comfortable chair to sit on, and limit the time you spend out there to 90 minutes or less.”
Holistic health expert and owner of the Natural Healing Centre Jared Cohen agrees, stating,
“It’s extremely important for mental and physical wellbeing to leave the house when possible. Not only does vitamin D from the sun provide essential nutrients to the body, but oxygen intake through movement and fresh air is vital to ongoing health.”
Wherever you find yourself setting up your work from home station, health experts advise that you keep it consistent.
Raffi Bilek Director of Baltimore Therapy Centre advises,
“Whatever location you choose for your ‘home office’, it’s a good idea to keep it consistent. Even if you don’t have an actual office at home and are using the kitchen table, establishing a set spot where you do your work helps you keep up a productive mindset: “when I’m sitting here, I’m working.”
If you move around from room to room, you may find yourself feeling a little more scattered and a little less motivated. Consistency and habit are good foundations for an efficient mindset and good work-life balance.”