If you’re one of the 5.8 million Americans who work from home, you know that it’s not always the perfect scenario that cubicle dwellers make it out to be. In fact, working from home has its own downsides, and one of those is the toll it can take on your body. Here are 20 reasons why working from home could be bad for your health.
1. Lack of Preventive Care
About 31 percent of those who work from home are uninsured. Since preventive healthcare goes a very long way toward good long-term health, it’s a good idea to work health insurance into your budget. If you make less than 400 percent of the poverty level, you may qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to help you pay for health insurance.
Working from home can be very stressful, especially if you’re self-employed. Stress causes a number of serious health problems, and it lowers your body’s immune function. When you’re feeling stressed, take slow, deep breaths to decrease your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Meanwhile, learn how to manage your stress for long-term good health.
3. Poor Diet
Working from home makes it easy to pig out on junk food when you feel unmotivated, stressed or, well, hungry. A poor diet leads to poor general health. Keep healthy snacks on hand so that when you find yourself needing to nibble for whatever reason, your choices will bring good health instead.
4. Caffeine Overload
Do you drink from a bottomless cup of coffee all day? Too much caffeine causes a number of health issues, including anxiety and insomnia. Have a cup of coffee or two, then swap out the rest of your daily java for green tea, which will provide your body with antioxidants and help increase your metabolism.
5. Indoor Air Pollution
According to the EPA, air in the home is a top five environmental hazard. Improve your home’s air quality by installing a good-quality air filter in your HVAC system, and replace it when it’s dirty. Open your doors and windows on nice days to bring in fresh air, and consider a portable air cleaner for your home office.
If you eat at your desk, you may be hosting a pest party in your office after hours. Crumbs invite rodents and roaches, and the dead skin cells you shed daily are a feast for dust mites, whose droppings and saliva are potent allergens. Vacuum and dust your office regularly to help keep pests out.
7. Vitamin D Deficiency
If you work from home, there are probably several days a week when you don’t leave your house, which means you may not be getting the Vitamin D your body needs to help maintain your immune system. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight, so make it a point to bask in the sunshine for about 5 minutes every day.
8. Workaholic Tendencies
Working from home means your office is open 24/7, and chances are, you work more hours than you would if you commuted. Working too much may contribute to stress-related illnesses and lower your overall quality of life. Set reasonable office hours, and abide by them.
9. Skipping Lunch
Without a designated lunch hour, you may find yourself working straight through the day without eating a single thing. Your body needs regular fuel to perform efficiently, and when you skip meals, your concentration wanes and your overall health suffers. Make it a point to fuel up with a protein bar or an apple every few hours.
10. Poor Home Humidity Levels
Low humidity increases your chances of catching viruses and makes your skin, eyes and lips dry and itchy. High humidity worsens allergy and asthma symptoms and increases your dust mite population. Keep your home’s humidity level between 30 and 50 percent with a whole-house or portable humidification system.
11. Social Isolation
Working from home can be lonely, and loneliness increases stress, reduces your immune function and boosts inflammation. To avoid feelings of isolation, socialize daily with other humans, whether on the phone, through Facebook or with a lunch date.
There probably isn’t a water cooler in your home office, but maybe there should be. Dehydration slows your metabolism, ages your skin and interferes with your body’s essential functions. Keep a water bottle at your desk and make an effort to fill it up at least four times during the day.
13. Musculoskeletal Disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders result from poor posture and repetitive tasks like typing and holding the phone between your ear and shoulder. Give your home office an ergonomic makeover, starting with a high-quality desk chair that provides lumbar support.
14. Poor Hygiene
If you tend to forget the last time you showered, you may be inviting health problems like yeast infections and skin conditions. Even if you don’t plan on leaving the house all week, make it a point to shower every couple of days.
15. Weight Gain
Whether your metabolism is sluggish from sitting at your desk all day or you’re eating too many high-calorie snacks, staying in shape while working from home can be a challenge. Start by keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy, low-calorie foods.
Take time during the day to move around: No one’s watching, so jog in place at your desk while those files download, or pace while you’re on the phone.
16. Work-Life Balance
Convenient access to your workplace makes it easy to neglect your family and friends in the name of finishing a spreadsheet before bed or taking a call during dinner. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for good relationships, which are, in turn, essential for good physical and mental health.
17. Eye Problems
“Computer vision syndrome” is a blanket term for a large number of problems like blurred vision and headaches that result from staring at your computer screen for too long. Look up from your computer every 15 minutes, and focus on a distant point for 30 seconds to help prevent vision problems.
18. Lack of Movement
Sitting at your desk for too long can make your muscles stiff, lower your metabolism and increase your blood pressure. Get out of your chair and move around every hour during the day. A short walk around the block will clear your head and get your heart pumping.
19. Catching Viruses
You might think that working from home means you’ll miss the latest stomach bug, but the truth is, it’s easier to catch viruses at home than in a commercial building.
Not only do you not have the commercial-grade filtration and humidification system that office buildings have, but you may also have kids and spouses who bring viruses home from work and school. Disinfect your workspace and wash your hands often to help you stay healthy.
20. Not Taking Sick Days
It may seem silly to stay in bed all day with a nasty cold when you can shuffle across the hall to your office and get some work done. But getting quality rest when you’re sick is essential for getting well. The next time you come down with a bug, ask yourself: If you had to commute to an offsite office, would you call in sick? If the answer is yes, you’re too sick to head into the home office.