Working from home sounds laid back — but it can be bad for your health

Click to play video: 'The pros and cons of working from home' The pros and cons of working from home
Dr. Melanie Peacock from Mount Royal University joins Global Calgary to discuss the benefits and potential pitfalls of working from home – Aug 22, 2017

It sounds like the ideal office space: your bedroom, kitchen and desk just steps away from each other. But as laid back as working from home can seem, some experts say it’s not always good for your health.

Beverly Beuermann-King, a stress and wellness strategist based in Lindsay, Ont., says working from home is not only becoming more adapted by employers, but a lot more freelancers and entrepreneurs treat their homes like offices.

“Employers are more open,” she tells Global News. “First, it was about face time and hours you put in, but now it’s about productivity and project completion.”

READ MORE: 5 well-paying jobs that let you work from home

According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the proportion of people working at home declined from 1996 to 2016, but employed people with no fixed workplace location grew from 3.9 per cent to 11.5 per cent in 2017.

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“One of the benefits of remote working is you don’t have to spend time commuting, but that commuting part is the transition time,” she says. “You need to find ways of to make that ‘me’ space.”

One 2014 study found teleworkers who worked from home experienced mental and physical fatigue, Entrepreneur reports, adding being closer to home or families didn’t necessarily mean more work-life balance.

And whether you’re a full-time freelancer who has to work from home or an employee that shifts from office to home life, Beuermann-King says there are potential roadblocks that could interfere with your health and stress levels. Below, she goes through some of the common ones as well as how to create a healthy working space at home.

Social isolation

Beuermann-King says feeling socially isolated is one of the unhealthiest things about working from home.

“We are social creatures and when we don’t get it, we get stressed, don’t take breaks and focus on challenges and issues instead of the good,” she explains.

READ MORE: 5 things to consider before working from home

She adds that in office spaces, there is often useful (and non-useful) chitchat, that allow us to be social and often, creative. “Chitchat is social connections where you are talking about projects and being creative… when you work from home, it can be normal to go for hours without seeing someone.”

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Tendency to overwork, burn out

If you’re spending a lot of time working from home, Beuermann-King says you are more likely to overwork.

“We don’t put boundaries on the day,” she continues. “The attraction [of working from home] is you can work how you want, but often people go in without a clear plan.”

This means people don’t manage their day properly or don’t give themselves deadlines. “Putting in extra hours doesn’t mean you’re being more productive or creative,” she adds. “When you’re in an office setting, you’re almost forced to change gears, get up and move around.”

Yes, sitting is still a problem

We already know the dangers of sitting at a desk all day, but Beuermann-King says it isn’t any different at home.

“You’re still sitting for a long period of time, often not ergonomically correct,” she says, adding people sometimes work from their dining tables, kitchen tables or even their beds.

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Schedule stresses

Beuermann-King says working from home gives you plenty of flexibility, but if you don’t set yourself up with a routine, your stresses can continue after work hours.

“Sometimes your family thinks you’re always going to be available to them,” she says, adding this can cause you even more stress during the work day and after. You need be able to set boundaries of how often people can and can’t reach you.

How to work from home

Beuermann-King says there are some important things for people to remember if they decide to work from home or if home is their permanent office.

For starters, make your home space a work space: set yourself working hours and get comfortable furniture. If you treat the day like a work day, you can avoid distractions during the day, including family members or friends taking advantage of your time.

READ MORE: 6 online jobs you can actually make a living off of

If you are feeling isolated, find a new work space. If you have the funds, try an office-sharing space to be around people or even a quiet cafe. Often, people miss having face-to-face conversations. In this case, try to set up meetings in person or have video calls with co-workers on a regular basis.

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