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.
Most 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.
A way around this is to schedule breaks (and take them); treat ourselves to lunch at the new neighborhood café; and,plan meals ahead. Sounds simple yet planning meals can be a full-time job in itself. Thankfully there are online resources available for the time-strapped worker that can reduce that time in half. Most people find it difficult to come up with new ideas of making the traditional weekday meals so they fall into the trap of staying with the familiar. The ideal situation would be to have delicious, new recipes that require little prep time with easy clean up.The online community and social media have increased the availability of fresh recipe ideas, online shopping lists, time saving tips and tricks, while providing the overworked an outlet to share their plight. There are so many to choose from, that if you Google “quick recipes” you are bound to get almost 1 million results.
For those who are really looking to cut down on their meal planning, eMeals offers a comprehensive array of solutions that can be modified for any family size and dietary requirements. What started off as a way of sharing recipes and increasing face time with the family is now an opportunity for people to enjoy nutritious meals without sacrificing time away from the important things in life. Not only will eating healthy meals help keep us strong, it can actually provide us with much needed energy we need to make it through our day.
Connecting with people:One final way that working from home can affect our health is that it can deprive us of the daily contact with individuals, other than family, who often provide much needed socialization or that feeling of belonging to the work unit. Depending on how much time we spend communicating with colleagues during the day, we realize that there can be some missing elements when we communicate only by texts and emails. Certain emotions and messages do not translate well on the written page and there is a greater chance of misinterpretation. If the company offers an opportunity to use office space a few times a week or month, it is a good idea to take advantage of it. The change in scenery can provide a much needed break, not to mention the act of getting ready to go the office (which requires grooming and dressing habits that might be slightly different than your home office) is like a jolt of adrenaline. You would be surprised how good it will feel to experience it on occasion; not to mention how important it is to have face time with management.