Several years have passed since the first people were infected with a new type of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which was then called the “mysterious virus”. Starting in China, the epidemic quickly developed into a pandemic, covering almost all countries of the world. To prevent the situation from worsening, the authorities have introduced a number of measures, including the transfer of company employees to remote work. On paper, working from home looks almost perfect – spending both time and money on the road there and back becomes zero, there is more time for yourself and direct control from the authorities disappears. The positive effect of slowing down the spread of coronavirus is undeniable, but is remote work really safe for the health of workers, mental and physical? And what can be done today to prevent harm to well-being as a result of working from the “home office”?
How has the mass transition to remote work and learning affected our health?
This question has become the main topic of research by scientists at the University of California (USA), the results of which were recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1). More than half of the people (64%) surveyed about the project complained of marked malaise due to unwanted weight gain, back, neck, spine problems, frequent headaches, apathy, and feelings of general malaise. 75% of respondents indicated problems of a psychological nature due to lack of personal space: decreased attention, and creativity in the implementation of tasks, and a marked decline in productivity. In addition, people who were forced to switch to remote work format lamented the inability to establish a proper, healthy daily routine. Attempts to do so only made it worse. About 80% of respondents complained that they began to eat more harmful foods and virtually withdrew from physical activity. According to researchers, the root of the evil lies in the fact that being at a remote job, people seem to lose their sense of time and, as a result, process 1.5-2 hours longer than expected.
The survey also showed that women with children suffered the most from remote work. In addition to physical health problems, they were twice as likely as men to complain of depression.
Remote work and physical health
Doctors claim that at remote work, the activity most often decreases – after all, to get to work, you don’t need to go anywhere, and not everyone can force themselves to train. This leads to the fact that the risk of various diseases increases – chronic back pain, and problems with the heart and blood vessels.
Therefore, now neurosurgeons are noticing a very large surge of patients with such complaints. This may be attributed to a change in lifestyle in a pandemic (2). First, by reducing physical activity. Due to this people lose muscle mass, which increases the risk of problems with the spine and joints. Secondly, this, of course, is weight gain – it increases the risk of both the already listed problems and problems with the cardiovascular system because people have less opportunity to walk and thereby train their heart.
At remote work, many people do not feel the necessary physical activity, and because of this, extra pounds may appear. Because of this, pancreatitis, and problems with the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system may occur.
The wrong choice of place to work, for example, working with a laptop in bed or sitting on the couch, also has a negative impact on human health. All this can lead to the development of osteochondrosis, as well as physical inactivity and muscle strain. Therefore, exercise therapy, walking, and movement may be required (3).
Staying at home also causes some people to change their attitude towards food – they begin to eat differently and more, which increases the risk of developing endocrinological problems. That is why doctors advise “not to eat stress or boredom” and try to lead an active lifestyle even in new conditions. To do this, you can either walk in the fresh air or buy a simulator for yourself at home to maintain the necessary activity.
In addition, it should be remembered that people with chronic diseases should not ignore their problems because of the pandemic. If you have any chronic serious disease that needs to be monitored, it is important to establish a connection with the doctor so that control is not interrupted. Especially when it comes to serious cardiological pathology, and oncological diseases. It is necessary to minimize the negative impact with the help of consultations with a doctor.
Remote work and mental health
In addition, the transition to remote work negatively affects the mental health of people (4). Now for those who are prone to depression, phobias, and anxiety disorders, a real paradise for the opportunity to worry.
Experts clarify that many, against the background of anxiety, also have somatic symptoms – even similar to COVID-19 – even though they are physically absolutely healthy. Many people in the background of anxiety and isolation] begin to listen to themselves and see non-existent respiratory symptoms, fever, or other symptoms of diseases.
In addition, employees suffer from mental problems, and are used to leaving household chores every day, coming to the office, and communicating with colleagues. Switching to a new mode of work deprives them of this and leads to a whole bunch of difficulties, working from home can lead to increased levels of stress and feelings of loneliness. This, in turn, increases burnout – fatigue from work and reduces efficiency (2). Separately, researchers highlight the fact that remote workers are less able to cooperate with each other. Because of this, the effectiveness of group work suffers, and in those areas where the exchange of ideas and thoughts is important, the process of creating a new one is stalled (1). Many who have switched to remote work have begun to work longer – on average, the working day has increased by two hours worldwide. Most of all – by 40% or three hours – residents of the United States began to process. In the UK, France, Canada, and Spain, the remote working day has become two hours longer.
How to work from home so as not to harm your health?
Today, the Covid pandemic is declining, but many companies will leave their employees partially or completely remotely. Therefore, the question of how to improve your mental and physical condition during remote work and get only positive aspects from it remains relevant. These tips are based on our team’s own experience and the recommendations of doctors and psychologists, that identified several key points that help “removers” feel more energetic, healthy, and active (1).
- Follow a work schedule. If you came to the office at 9 and left at 18, then also remotely monitor such time limits while working;
- Do not forget the right light. Lighting should be on the left side so that you can clearly see the numbers;
- Drink more water so that the body can work in a healthy rhythm;
- Take breaks: for lunch and coffee. Try to periodically get up from the table, knead the body, and distract from work, so as not to get tired quickly;
- Work at a desk and dress as if you were in an office. This will significantly increase your productivity and add a working mood. And bed and home clothes will continue to be associated with home and rest after work;
- Turn on the camera during business calls. This technique will strengthen the sense of presence and not lose emotional connection with colleagues;
- Limit time eaters. When you work from home, it is tempting to hang out on social media or watch one episode of the series. Allow yourself such things only during breaks from work and with a clear timing;
- Try to take some supplements to gain more energy and to increase productivity (5), like NADH Original Instant Power® and Premium Asta O3® to support the activity of the cardiovascular system, and brain and improve vision (6;7);
- Have a healthy lifestyle and more physical activity, walks in the fresh air, and a healthy diet;
- Focus on the good and support each other in the family, so that remote work at home brings only pleasure and joy.
- Guler, Mehmet Akif MD; Guler, Kutay; Guneser Gulec, Meryem MD; Ozdoglar, Elif. Working From Home During a Pandemic, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2021 – Volume 63 – Issue 9 – p 731-741; doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002277;
- Xiao Y, Becerik-Gerber B, Lucas G, Roll SC. Impacts of working from home during COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental well-being of office workstation users. J Occup Environ Med 2021; 63:181–190;
- Bouziri H, Smith DRM, Descatha A, Dab W, Jean K. Working from home in the time of COVID-19: how to best preserve occupational health? Occup Environ Med 2020; 77:509–510;
- Mann S, Holdsworth L. The psychological impact of teleworking: stress, emotions and health. New Technol Work Employ 2003; 18:196–211;
- Forsyth LM, Preuss HG, MacDowell AL, Chiazze L Jr, Birkmayer GD, Bellanti JA. Therapeutic effects of oral NADH on the symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1999 Feb;82(2):185-91. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)62595-1. PMID: 10071523.
- Lunn J., Theobald H. The health effects of dietary unsaturated fatty acids. Nutr. Bull. 2006;31:178–224. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2006.00571.x;
- Suhn Hyung Kim and Hyeyoung Kim. Inhibitory Effect of Astaxanthin on Oxidative Stress-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Nutrients 2018, 10, 1137; doi:10.3390/nu10081137.