The global workplace is evolving. Traditionally all employees worked on site. Executives flew across the country and overseas for face-to-face meetings where all deals and negotiations took place. With advances in technology, allowing for easy flow of information and virtual meetings from any location with internet access, many businesses are moving away from this traditional workplace model. Work from home and hybrid work are becoming the norm.
Many think that working from home is a luxury that only specific jobs permit, particularly because Covid-19 has become an epidemic and is being treated as such. That’s why the need for social distancing – and hence telework – has slowly but surely been scrapped in many workplaces. Yet, there are still various companies who have remained steadfast on providing all the flexibility to employees, allowing them to keep their office space in their living room or any other place they deem fit.
However, the reality is that it might be contributing to an underlying problem that’s often a time left unaddressed: a sedentary, inactive lifestyle. It’s not enough that many remote workers almost have to justify their productivity levels with friends and family who might question it – but, the fact that there’s no commute to and from work only increases lack of movement and overall daily activity.
And let’s face it, if one does decide to take a break, there’s always that temptation to spend even more time in front of the screen. After all, it’s far easier to watch a couple of YouTube videos or play an adrenaline-pumping game at some new casino, than get up and go for a walk or hit the gym. That way, you’re still at your desk, and should you hear that anticipated email notification, you know you’ll be responsive as soon as possible.
Are Employees Who Work From Home More Sedentary?
Current research indicates that employees who work from home, even part time, are more sedentary. In a survey completed by Streetar, Rouche and Frielander, they found that among over one thousand adult workers, those that work remotely sit longer than those who don’t. Individuals who work from home spent 9.2 hours per day sitting as compared to 7.3 hours for office workers. Hybrid workers, sit .88 hours per day more than those who regularly go to work. For a sense of how much our lifestyle has changed, in 2007 the average American adult sat for 5.5 hours per day. In 2020 over 40% of adults in the United States sit for 7-8 hours per day.
In addition to increased sitting time, those who work from home are less likely to exercise. When asked, 65% of people who work remotely say they engage in more sedentary behaviors since the COVID-19 outbreak, as compared to 45% of people who go to their place of work. In addition, 40% of those who work from home report that they are exercising less that they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 26% of those who do not work from home report the same.
Does a Sedentary Lifestyle Affect Health?
A sedentary lifestyle is known to take a toll on a person’s health. It contributes to weight gain, poor cardiovascular health, increased vulnerability to disease, and ultimately higher mortality rates.
Individuals who work from home are more likely to complain of eye strain and headache. Spending a lot of time on a laptop creates even more physical stress. Arm, shoulder, neck and upper back complaints are higher amongst home workers. In fact, 50% of laptop users report that they can’t do their best work because they are limited by upper body pain. Among individuals who work from home, 27% report negative health outcomes.
Healthy Habits for Remote Workers
Despite the health risks, work from home and hybrid work models are likely here to stay. Employers and employees both reap too many benefits. Workers enjoy the flexibility and autonomy of the home office. They also report improved life-work balance.
Employers also benefit from a flexible work model. It improves worker retention as well as productivity. In a survey of 1,004 full time employees, they worked on average an extra 1.5 days per month since switching to a home office.
It is important, however, for those who work remotely to make lifestyle changes to offset the added stress to their health. Here are some suggestions:
- Start your day with a walk outside.
- Move away from your desk and put away all electronics during your breaks.
- Work at a coffee shop or your local library.
- Stand or walk during work calls.
- Take frequent movement breaks
With a bit of effort, you can enjoy the benefits of work from home, without the risks to your health.