11 Ways Working from Home Is Unhealthy, According to Experts
Do the perks of working from home outweigh the toll it can take on your health?
Just a few months ago, working from home might have sounded like a dream. However, over the past several weeks, you likely learned that typing emails from bed, not leaving for lunch, and taking meetings in sweatpants isn't all it's cracked up to be. From cabin fever to migraines, working from home comes with its own set of unique challenges—many of them physical. While you may have noticed some of the ways your new routine has started to take a toll on your body, a handful of potential complications are a bit more sneaky. We asked experts to weigh in on these 11 different ways working from home is unhealthy for your body.
Sleeping becomes more difficult.
It seems everyone you talk to these days has trouble sleeping one way or the other, and working from home isn't likely to help things when it comes to you getting more rest.
"Our bodies crave consistency. Each of us is equipped with an internal 24-hour body clock known as our circadian rhythm. This tells us when to rest and when to be alert," says sleep-science coach Bill Fish, managing editor of SleepFoundation.org. "The problem now is that most of us are working from home, the kids are home from school, and our schedules have been turned upside down."
Some possible health problems that result from lack of sleep include impaired cognitive function and immune system, depression, anxiety, and hypertension. To learn more about the impact an inadequate amount of rest can have, check out 7 Ways Being Sleep Deprived for One Night Affects Your Body.
It puts additional strain on your eyes.
As you transition to working from home, your workday can easily bleed into personal time, which can result in your eyes being plastered to screens for nine or ten hours a day. Like many people, with little else to occupy your time, you may find yourself reaching for the TV remote or smartphone right after work—maybe even both! According to the American Optometric Association, all this screen time can lead to computer vision syndrome (CVS), sometimes referred to as digital eye strain—which can cause headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. Some situations that may exacerbate CVS symptoms include poor lighting, glare, improper viewing distance, and poor posture.
Your risk of thrombosis increases.
Thrombosis—or a clot forming in a blood vessel—is one of the more concerning side effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Mary Cushman, MD, editor of the journal, Research and Practice in Thrombosis and Haemostasis, says, "When we work in our offices we constantly move around and keep our blood flowing without having to really think about it, however, this is now a challenge for millions of Americans forced to stay at home." To prevent thrombosis, Cushman suggests taking hourly breaks, giving your legs ample space beneath your desk, moving your legs and toes occasionally while working, and staying hydrated.
It becomes harder to get the appropriate amount of vitamin D.
With access to the outside world limited, your chances of experiencing a vitamin D become much higher.
Lisa Bruno, RDN, says the "sunshine vitamin" is essential for maintaining cognitive health and functioning. She adds that even before COVID-19, about 50 percent of the population didn't get enough vitamin D, so sheltering in place has only exacerbated the problem. To learn about side effects of not getting enough of the essential vitamin, check out 20 Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency, According to Medical Experts.
You don't get enough exercise.
Health experts often suggest a minimum of 10,000 steps per day, which is about 5 miles. While this might already sound like a lofty goal, working from home certainly makes reaching that number significantly more difficult. Still, you should be making a concentrated effort to reach at least half of that target number.
"Walking 5,000 steps or less is considered sedentary living which is hazardous to our health," says Lynell Ross, founder and managing editor of Zivadream. For simple indoor workouts, check out 23 Easy Exercises You Can Do at Home During Quarantine.
Your posture gets worse.
Let's face it, sitting at your desk, shoulders slouched and tense, just isn't a good look—nor is it a healthy one. And because you're working from home, you're less likely to take breaks, which only exacerbates the negative impact of your poor posture. "The cumulative impact of this can have serious long term health implications such as musculoskeletal injuries to nerves, tendons, and spinal discs when working in prolonged static postures," says certified professional ergonomist Jonathan Puleio, VP of Humanscale Consulting.
You feel more aches and pains.
Poor posture isn't the only problem you'll encounter when working from home. Nick Rizzo, fitness research director at RunRepeat.com, says that spending hours in a not-so-ergonomic position can result in tighter hips and pain in the shoulders, neck, lower back, and knees.
You gain weight.
If you've put a few extra pounds since beginning self-quarantine, know you're not alone. In fact, David Buchin, MD, has found that many people are eating in excess, chowing down on fast-food, and snacking more rapidly during isolation. Buchin refers to this phenomenon as "corona binge"—reporting that some people gain upwards of five pounds a week as a result of deteriorated diets and lack of exercise.
Digestive issues become more likely.
Do you know that familiar feeling of needing to "walk off" a huge carb-loaded meal? It turns out that it's not an imagined phenomenon, as sitting for too long can negatively affect your digestive system. According to the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, a lack of exercise—a chief characteristic of a sedentary lifestyle—compresses the body's organs and decreases blood flow, which can lead to inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, the compression of your abdomen while sitting slows digestion, which results in bloating, gas, cramps, and heartburn.
Your sex drive decreases.
Low libido can be caused by many things—from lack of exercise to increased stress to sleep deprivation, which are all side effects of working from home, says Rizzo. "Many people may see their sex drive significantly reduce due to being a lot less active than they were at work, and since many gyms are now closed."
Your anxiety increases.
With the buffers of commuting, lunches with colleagues, and coffee breaks removed, it's no wonder you might find yourself feeling more stressed.
"People are spending a lot of time indoors looking at screens and their four walls," says Lissa Michalak, a registered somatic movement therapist and educator. "This has a serious effect on the somatic organism-somatic, meaning the combined mind and body. When we are looking only at things that are close to us, we literally lose perspective." Mischalak explains that this loss of perspective, combined with the limited ability to release stress outside your home, can easily cause anxiety to increase.