Employers are increasingly offering a more flexible approach to work, meaning there are more of us than ever choosing to work from home. Whilst working from home can have its advantages, like fewer meetings or interruptions from co-workers, it does pay to understand the potential disadvantages to make it a productive and fruitful experience.
One primary disadvantage relates to sedentary time. Too much sitting time, as in the office, can be problematic. Considering people are also likely to work longer hours at home, a routine of inactivity that can extend into the evening hours watching TV or other home entertainment activities, can have health implications. Another disadvantage is that frequently home ‘office’ setups are not ergonomically sound, and long hours computing on the sofa or at the kitchen table can lead to other issues related to back, neck or wrist pain – especially as the sedentary hours sneak past six to seven hours a day.
So what does this mean from a wellbeing point of view?
The goal of any work environment, whether in the office or at home, should be to inspire focus, engagement and do so in a healthy setting. Spending the majority of the day sedentary affects both worker health and productivity, and more specifically, impacts metabolic and musculoskeletal wellbeing as well. Taking proactive measures to be more active during work time is key to creating and sustaining a healthier home office experience.
So what should we do?
One of the easiest ways to get moving and stay productive is to simply stand up more. This might mean taking a phone call or catching up on some reading whilst standing – in fact, standing more can be as beneficial for us as walking. It burns extra calories, increases our metabolism, tones muscles and improves our blood flow.
Additionally, making a simple change to your desk set up can have a real impact. Whether you make a sit-stand desk yourself, or purchase one, this approach can give you the flexibility to choose when and for how long you want to stand, and as your body demands. This will help increase low level activity simply by encouraging you to stand in 20 to 30 minute periods, and keeps you productive by allowing you to bring movement to your workstation, versus taking you away from your desk for symptom relief. But whatever approach you choose, keep it ergonomic.
Top tips to improve your productivity and wellbeing whilst working from home:
1 – Analyse your work space and optimise your sit-stand time. Online tools can help you factor in proper ergonomics whether seated or standing, and make-shift standing stations can be made by using your laptop at the kitchen counter or even on the ironing board. These should be short-term options. Sit-stand equipment factors in proper ergonomics, and getting yourself a comfortable chair that gives you proper support for your back – for when you decide to sit down, will go a long way towards making the home working experience positive.
2 – Create a routine. Set a timer at 10am, for example, then stand for 15-20 minutes before sitting down again, then repeat a few more times during the day. Consider working in 30 minute periods – do your task, then take a short break and make a cup of tea to increase standing time, which also gets you away from the screen. An ideal solution will allow you to do this seamlessly at your desk, however, with any other desk alternative at home, building in this rest and recover time is very important.
3 – Analyse your work and decide what can be done whilst standing. If your work doesn’t translate easily to standing, then breaking up your blocks of sitting time with some standing to make lunch, do an errand, stretch or to go for a quick jog or brisk walk. Everyone can benefit from a bit of fresh air and vitamin D on the sunny days.
4 – Try and separate your working space from your leisure space. In order to preserve your home time, stick to a similar work schedule, like logging off at the same time, or putting away your work so you aren’t look at it and thinking about it all night. Put on your “leisure hat” to start your evening off right, and help maintain a sense of work-life balance.
5 – Work out how much (or how little) you are currently sitting. Wearable fitness gadgets, apps or online calculators can help you get a realistic view of your sedentary time, although it might give you a shock to see how little you are moving. By working with these tools, you can determine measurable goals to work towards, like extra calories burned, or reduced sedentary hours.
The good news for all workers is that wherever their desk resides, studies show, standing up even one more hour a day produced some significant results: 66% felt more productive, 87% felt more energised, 71% felt more focused and 50% experienced reductions in pain (upper back, neck, shoulder). These are the kind of results that employee and employers can feel good about.
An online sit-stand calculator can be found here.
By Betsey Banker, Vertical Marketing Manager, Wellness, Ergotron