Thanks to COVID – 19, the whole world has been under a situation of a near total lockdown. Except the most essential services like the medical profession or police almost everyone has been confined to their homes for over 2 months. Working From Home (or WHF as it has now popularly known) which was common in the information technology (IT) sector even prior to COVID – 19, became the only way of working for the majority of people irrespective of their profession that one was in. The field of telemedicine was also born in India, thanks to the COVID – 19 and the lockdown !
So, is working from home good or bad, particularly from the health point of view. Undoubtedly, working from home provides many benefits particularly for working mothers. For some others, working from home does not make any difference to their job, compared to physically working in an office. However, working from home can have several undesirable side effects as well.
Not everyone has the luxury of living in an independent house or a gated community where there is scope to exercise either by walking around the house or on a terrace. Many well to do individuals even have a gym or at least a Treadmill at home. However, the average middle class person would be confined in a small flat most of the time. This would almost certainly mean that his or her exercise levels would drastically come down. It is generally recommended that everybody tries to get 10,000 steps a day. If one was able to go for a walk in the morning, one could easily accumulate 5,000 – 6,000 steps. When going to an office for work, some level of commuting in addition to walking about within the office will facilitate completing the 10,000 steps by the end of the day. When one is confined to one’s home, it would be extremely difficult to get 10,000 steps. Over a period of time, this would mean that the calories consumed would not be expended. This can lead to weight gain and obesity and to either precipitation of diabetes or worsening of the diabetes state, hypertension and even to heart disease.
At home, one is mostly confined to a chair and possibly to a computer. This could mean prolonged sitting which can affect the health in many ways including back problems, disuse of muscles, strain on the neck and the eyes. Indeed sitting as they say, is the new smoking. The diet also tends to be irregular and most people confess that they snack much more when they are confined to their homes. At office, the schedule includes fixed ‘lunch’ and ‘break’ times. Perhaps the greatest toll is on the mental status. Human beings need to interact with others and in an office one tends to meet many people and thus have an outlet for one’s emotions and also get help with some of their job related problems.
When one is confined to the four walls of one’s home, this often leads to depression, anxiety and stress. To some extent, this can be overcome by taking breaks, relaxation, having a hobby and by yoga, pranayama and meditation. However, one still gets the ‘cooped up’ feeling and this can be quite frustrating in the long run. Thus while, in the initial days, working from home might seem like a boon, in the end it often turns out to be a bane. Having said that, there are many people who successfully work from home and are able to balance their work life situation very well. It is up to the individual to look after his or her health even if working from home.
Possible solutions :
- Using ergonomically designed chairs.
- Wearing special goggles which protect against the ‘blue light’ of the computer screen.
- Better Mattresses to protect the back.
- Eat more vegetables, fruit and protein.
- Do indoor exercises, yoga, meditation and pranayama.
- Spend time with family, relax and develop a hobby.
- Take enough breaks and finally
- Sleep well and on time.
By following these simple measures, one can convert working from home into a boon rather than being a bane.
M.D., FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Ireland), Ph.D., D.Sc.
D.Sc (Hon. Causa), FNASc, FASc, FNA, FACE, FACP, FTWAS, MACP
Chairman & Chief of Diabetology,
Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre & Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai, India