As more employers begin to offer a flexible approach to work so increases the number of us choosing to work from home. Less meetings and interruptions from co-workers are just some of the advantages but just as important is taking the time to understand the potential disadvantages.
Probably the primary disadvantage is sedentary time as it relates to computer usage. Prolonged sitting before a screen can be problematic and have health implications to the home office worker, partially because the typical home ‘office’ setup is not ergonomically sound. Long hours computing on the sofa or at the kitchen table can lead to other issues related to back, neck or wrist pain—especially as the sedentary hours sneak past six to seven a day.
Whether at home or in the office, a work environment should inspire focus, engagement and support a healthy workstyle. Spending the majority of the day sedentary impacts both worker health and productivity, and more specifically, metabolic and musculoskeletal wellbeing as well.
One of the easiest ways to start creating an environment more conducive to health is to get moving—just the act of standing more burns more calories than sitting. Breaking up sitting time also increases our metabolism, tones muscles and improves blood flow. Answer a call standing up. Get up to file something. Just adding movement to your workflow can help a lot. Alternatively, you could make a change to your desk set up. Converting a workspace like a home office desk to sit-stand ensures you can adjust your sitting or standing postures as your body demands throughout the day. Whether by purchasing a sit-stand desk or making one yourself, the proactive measure to be more active during work time is key. Here are five additional ways to improve productivity and wellbeing when working from home:
1. Analyse your workspace
A good starting point is analysing your workspace and devising ways in which you can optimise your sit-stand time. Online tools can help you factor in proper ergonomics whether seated or standing and make-shift standing stations can be made by using your laptop at the kitchen counter or even on the ironing board. These should be short-term options. Sit-stand equipment factors in proper ergonomics, but when you do have to sit down make sure that you have a comfortable chair with proper support for your back. This will go a long way towards making the home working experience positive.
2 Have a routine
Routines are good, so create a schedule to ensure that you factor in adequate time to stand or move away from your desk. For example, set a timer at 10am, then stand for 15-20 minutes before sitting down again, then repeat a few more times during the day. You could even break up work tasks into 30-minute chunks before taking a break for a drink or snack which increases stand time and also gives you time away from the your screen. The ideal situation would be to be able to do all of this seamlessly at your desk, however, with any other desk alternative at home, building in this rest and recovery time is very important.
3. Standing is good
Look at your work and make a list of what tasks can be done standing up. If very little can be done standing then consider other ways to break up your day such as standing to make lunch, do an errand, stretch or to go for a quick jog or brisk walk. We can all benefit from a bit of fresh air and vitamin D on the sunny days.
4. Keep work and leisure separate
Working from home can often mean that your work space takes over your leisure space so try to keep them separate. Stick to a set a time schedule as if you were working in an office so that you preserve your home time. Logging off at a set time and putting your work away will help you to switch off from work and ensure maintain a sense of work-life balance.
5. Keeping track of sedentary time
Assess exactly how much time you spend sitting – online calculators, wearable fitness trackers and apps are all good for this and will provide you with a realistic view of your sedentary time, although it might give you a shock to see how little you are moving. By working with these tools, you can determine measurable goals to work towards, like extra calories burned, or reduced sedentary hours.
Start by making small changes to your schedule and working habits. The good news is that wherever your desk resides, studies show standing up even one more hour a day produces some significant results: 66% felt more productive, 87% felt more energised, 71% felt more focused and 50% experienced reductions in pain (upper back, neck, shoulder). Certainly more than just a few good reasons to make a change.
By Betsey Banker, Vertical Manager, Wellness, Ergotron.
An online sit-stand calculator can be found here.