Health mistakes when working from home
Eat, work, sleep, repeat – that’s been our mantra ever since most of us started working from home during the Circuit Breaker. Unbeknownst to us, we may have cultivated a few bad habits that are detrimental to our well-being as we adjust to this “new normal”.
From not having a dedicated work space to over-snacking, here are seven work from home health mistakes that we may be guilty of committing, and solutions on how to curb them so that we can prevent any potential long-term effects on our well-being.
1. Listening to loud music through earphones or headphones
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A downside about working from home is the mundanity of our routine – we can’t just spontaneously jio colleagues for lunch or have a conversation with them. That’s why some of us plug in our earphones and blast our favourite tunes at a high volume to tide us through the day’s work at home.
While sonically barricading ourselves in our “work mode” can help us focus better, listening to music at full volume repeatedly could initially lead to ringing sounds in our ears and eventually end up in irreversible hearing loss.
Tip from audiologists: If you are using earphones, the best rule of thumb is the 60/80 rule – listening to music for 60 minutes a day at 80% volume. This allows you to enjoy your favourite songs at semi-loud volumes, and yet restricts listening to well within safe guidelines.
2. Not having a designated workspace
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Doing work in non-conducive environments can leave you vulnerable to distractions, procrastination and unnecessary stress. As someone with a very short attention span, one moment I’m sprawled on my bed trying my best to focus, the next I’m out in the hall typing furiously on my laptop.
However, not having a proper workstation could result in blurred lines between work and play, which could lead to a decline in mental health. Just like how offices have cubicles or designated desks, it is important to reflect that same environment at home.
Tip from clinical psychologists: Find a designated and comfortable workspace at home. Stick to it when you are working – preferably away from the bedroom! If you’ve a study desk or perhaps a comfy ergonomic chair, placing yourself there during work hours will help you to create that separation of work and playtime, and give you better peace of mind.
3. Working with laptops on the lap or on a coffee table
Despite its name, you actually shouldn’t use your laptop on your lap or on a coffee table. Doing so means you’ll naturally hunch your neck and back to use the device, which can lead to pesky aches and sores.
Laptops are more suitable for on-the-go meetings rather than long-term use. And for the guys, you know what they say about how these devices emit electromagnetic field radiation that could harm your fertility – best to be safe than sorry.
Tips from occupational therapists: Set up an ergonomic workstation to keep your spine upright. Standing desks are an effective option to keep your posture in check since they can be adjusted optimally to your height.
Keep these pointers in mind for the set-up of your workstation:
- Top of the laptop screen should be at your eye level
- You should be seated comfortably on a chair with a backrest
- Your arms should be comfortably placed and rested on the table with elbows slightly bent
4. Irregular lunch timings and frequent snacking
At least you can share your snacks in the office. At home, solo snacking over time can lead to bad dietary habits.
There’s always that urge to nibble on some chips or biscuits over the course of the work day, and it’s worse when your kitchen is just steps away from your workspace. On stressful days, being too engrossed in your work also means you tend to skip breakfast or work past lunchtime, and end up stuffing yourself during dinner instead.
These poor eating patterns can eventually lead to weight gain and increase the risks of diet-related conditions like hypertension, heart diseases, stroke and diabetes. That’s why eating regular meals and having the self-control to not snack excessively is crucial to keeping your body healthy.
Tips from dietitians: Practise mindful eating by setting aside sufficient time for at least three regular meals daily. Eating pace should also be slow and not rushed. Remember to chew thoroughly and stop eating when you feel full.
Each individual should aim to have at least two servings each of fruits and vegetables daily and sufficient fluids of 1.5 to 2L – about eight glasses of water a day. Keep a glass or bottle of water by your side as you work to ensure you stay hydrated as well.
5. Reading work emails in the dark
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Working in the dark strains our eyes unnecessarily, especially when the only light source is from our devices. Sometimes, we just can’t help but read work emails in the dark before sleeping or when we just wake up.
Staring at our electronic devices for too long in the dark causes dry eye syndrome, which leads to irritation and blurred vision over time. Digital screens also produce artificial blue light that disrupts our sleeping patterns and makes it harder for us to fall asleep – all the more why we should not work in the dark just for the cosy #mood.
Tips from occupational therapists: Use a polarised desk lamp to give you much-needed illumination in your dim setting.
You can also install applications on your computer to help reduce eye strain. There are plenty of free apps that reduce the blue light emitted from your computer, so you can put less pressure on your eyes and get a good night’s rest.
6. Having your smartphone way below eye level
Sometimes, using your phone or tablet for virtual meetings is a lot easier than using your laptop. However, similar to using laptops on your lap, spending prolonged periods of time on these gadgets at the wrong eye level can cause a strain on your neck.
Using your tech devices more than five hours a day can eventually decrease your eye blink rate. This results in eyesight-related issues like myopia and astigmatism, which means you won’t be able to naturally clean and refresh your eyes as often as you should be.
Tips from occupational therapists: Care should be taken to ensure a neutral neck posture with a viewing angle slightly below eye level. Keep your phones and tablets about 50CM away from your eyes.
You can also get a tablet or phone holder to prop up the phone to rest comfortably on your desk, so that no slouching or excessive neck bending is required.
7. Piling too much work on your own plate
It’s easy for people to fall into the trap of taking on too much work when working from home because it’s easy to overestimate time. With commuting time removed from the equation, you may feel inclined to keep working past office hours if there’s more to be done.
When your workload gradually encroaches on your personal time, your mental health is bound to take a hit from the upset in your work-life balance.
Tip from clinical psychologists: To avoid becoming a workaholic and burning out, stick to office hours and manage your time well. Opt to set clear goals for the day with online project management tools.
Avoiding health mistakes while working from home
As we adjust to the “new normal”, it’s important to be mindful about our health and avoid these common health mistakes while working from home.
Whether it’s a dip in our mental well-being or persistent neck sores, we can get sound advice from allied health professionals (AHPs) such as dietitians, clinical psychologists and other health experts. Their expertise and advice help provide solutions for our health woes and improvements to our overall quality of life.
Make a difference as an Allied Health Professional
Image credit: Care To Go Beyond
The 14 different AHP vocations available
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With 14 different AHP vocations, there are multiple avenues for you to find your calling in the healthcare sector. You can specialise in areas like occupational therapy or audiology, and serve patients who need your help in that niche.
Image credit: Care To Go Beyond
It’s never too late to change careers too – the Professional Conversion Programme for Allied Health Professionals (PCP-AHP) is the perfect opportunity to help you acquire the necessary skills to take up an AHP vocation.
Mid-career switchers interested in roles like diagnostic radiographers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and medical social workers will want to keep this in mind if they’re looking to break into the industry. Through the programme, students can pursue higher education in relevant fields to eventually become an AHP too.
Making a difference in someone else’s life rewards you with immense satisfaction. If a role in the healthcare industry sparks your interest, take this opportunity to pursue an undiscovered calling in life.
This post was produced in collaboration with Care To Go Beyond.