Are You a Healthy Telecommuter?

In the last decade, we have seen a huge shift in the number of people who telecommute permanently. The list of reasons is endless - high gas prices, cost of office space, environmental concerns and technological advances.

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Working from home, or telecommuting, has been the nirvana many cubicle warriors have been dreaming about for years. Short commute, casual attire and the sheer feeling of indulgence that comes from being in your own private space are some of the sought after privileges. Alas, it seemed that working from home were perks enjoyed by only the most senior members of an organization. In the last decade however, we have seen a huge shift in the number of people who telecommute permanently. The reasons? High gas prices, increased cost of maintaining office space in prime locations; environmental concerns caused by the number of cars on the roads; and, technological advances.

The Economist, in response to Yahoo President &CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to force everyone back to the office, printed an article citing statistics of telecommuters successfully managing workload, being productive and feeling happier than their office-bound coworkers. In its article, The Economist cited results obtained by the US Census Bureau indicating that 70% of workers in the tech field telecommute, while the percentage of non-tech workers increased by 0.7% from 2005 to 2010. What do all these figures mean for us and for our health? It is one thing for statistics to show that we are happier and more productive working from home, but it’s a completely different thing to see how this is affecting our overall health.

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2Most of you are probably thinking there are only benefits to our health because we no longer stress about our commute and we can finally take a full lunch hour to eat healthfully. Or can we? Think about it. How many times have you found yourself working straight through your lunch, coffee break and even past your usual quitting time? If you are like most, you’ve probably done this more times than you can remember. You may catch yourself getting up halfway through the day only to realize your neck is stiff and your legs are sore from sitting all day. Oh yeah, and you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.

Missed lunches or eating at our desk may be a small price to pay for the convenience of working from home, but if we continually do so, we will end up doing more damage to our body than we intend. A study conducted by the University of Bristol, and reported by The Daily Mail, tested our ability to eat lunch while distracted and found that most of us who eat while engaging in some other activity like working, watching TV or playing a video game, are more likely to feel less full than someone who engages in mindful eating. The downside of not being satisfied with our portion is that we will no doubt eat larger quantities at our next meal or load up on sugary or salty snacks.

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Rick Rockwell
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