Managing Your Health as a Remote Worker

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Remote work has transformed the workforce in the last few years — but not all changes are for the better. The Integrated Benefits Institute recently found that remote workers have higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to in-person workers, and Stanford University reported a close relationship between remote work and a sedentary lifestyle.
Remote workers are also more susceptible to vision problems due to the time they spend looking at computer screens.
If you work remotely, you must care for your physical and mental health—arguably more so than in most other types of workplaces. Let’s examine the importance of prioritizing your health as a remote worker and how you can do so.

What Is Remote Work?

Remote work, or working from home, is where you complete your job without going into the office. Remote jobs utilize computers and online task management software to create jobs that can be performed entirely online. Often, remote organizations utilize Zoom or Google Meets to have face-to-face meetings in different locations.

Some jobs are fully remote, meaning that you are never expected to come into the office. Others utilize a hybrid model, in which you go in-office some days of the week but stay home other days. Either way, people working remotely for a significant portion of the week are vulnerable to the same health issues.

The Health Impacts of Remote Work

Working remotely changes your lifestyle — but not all changes are for the better. While many remote workers report that it’s better for their mental health, the physical side effects of remote work should not be ignored.

Health Benefits of Remote Work

One of the primary benefits of remote work is the flexibility it allows employees. Workers can do laundry, walk their children to and from the bus stop, or fix a nice lunch while checking emails and updating spreadsheets. The autonomy and flexibility allowed to remote workers can directly lead to lower stress levels and better mental health. Remote employees can also design their workspace to meet their ergonomic and mental needs, promoting better focus and productivity.
Workers who face stress due to office politics and the social side of in-person work also benefit from remote work arrangements. Some workers find they can better focus on their output by minimizing exposure to workplace social politics.

Health Challenges of Remote Work

Remote work necessitates sitting still in front of the computer for multiple hours daily. This generally isn’t healthy for your body and can lead to side effects like back pain, eye strain, and even migraines. You’re also exposed to more blue light from your computer screen, which can cause dry eye and disrupt your sleep schedule.
Remote work can also lead to a more sedentary lifestyle because you don’t walk from your car to the office or between your office and a meeting room. Even the simple act of walking to your work buddy’s desk for a chat helps promote physical activity. Maintaining an active lifestyle as a remote worker can be more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Woman working from her bedroom

Home Health Tips for Remote Workers

Even though remote work is linked to the downsides of a sedentary lifestyle, you can take active steps to mitigate these effects. Focusing on nutrition, exercise, and work-life balance can significantly improve your health and well-being from the comfort of your home office.

The Importance of a Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is your best ally in maintaining high energy levels and productivity throughout the day. The temptation to snack on readily available, unhealthy foods can be strong when working a few steps from the kitchen. Combat this by planning your meals in advance, ensuring they are balanced and packed with nutrients like protein and fiber, making you feel fuller for longer. Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can also help keep you on track, making it easier to resist the lure of less nutritious options.

Remaining Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial, yet often overlooked. Adequate water intake is essential for maintaining focus and energy levels, directly impacting your productivity and cognitive function. Keep a water bottle at your desk and set reminders to refill it throughout the day to ensure you drink enough. Incorporating hydrating foods into your diet, like fruits and vegetables, can also boost your fluid intake, helping you feel more alert and refreshed.

Taking Breaks

Regular breaks are not just a relief; they are necessary for your mental and physical health. Short breaks throughout the day can prevent burnout, reduce stress, and even enhance creativity. Use this time to step away from your screen, stretch, or engage in a brief activity that you enjoy, like a quick walk or meditation.

Scheduling Regular Exercise

For remote workers, incorporating exercise into the day is crucial for counteracting the sedentary nature of their work. Exercises like yoga, Pilates, strength training, or even short, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions can be done at home with minimal equipment. Walking or cycling, if possible, is also beneficial. The key is finding activities you enjoy so they become something to look forward to rather than a chore. Just as you schedule work meetings, blocking out workout times can help make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day.

Developing a Routine

Creating a structured daily routine can significantly enhance your productivity and mental well-being. A healthy routine might include specific start and end times for work, scheduled breaks, exercise, and periods for meals. It should also allow for flexibility when necessary. Setting and sticking to a routine helps segregate professional and personal time, reducing stress and preventing burnout. Establishing this routine takes practice. You can do this by planning your day the night before, using alarms or reminders for transitions between activities, and giving yourself time to adjust to a new schedule.

Work-Life Balance

Working from home can blur the boundaries between your work life and leisure time. However, you must not let that happen if you want to maintain your mental health. This might mean having a dedicated workspace that you can leave at the end of the day, setting strict work hours, and communicating these boundaries to colleagues and family members. Finding ways to “log off” both mentally and physically from work is crucial. Techniques can include a ritual to end the workday, such as a walk or a leisure activity that signals your brain it’s time to shift out of work mode.

Maintaining Personal Connections with Your Coworkers

Staying connected with colleagues is vital for maintaining team cohesion and ensuring you don’t feel isolated. Utilize communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom for regular check-ins and meetings. Don’t underestimate the value of video calls for face-to-face interaction. Beyond work-related conversations, engage in virtual social activities such as coffee chats, lunch meetings, or after-work hangouts. Organizing virtual team-building activities, like online games or competitions, can also strengthen bonds and improve morale. These efforts support mental health and promote a sense of belonging and teamwork.

Man working from a home desk

Taking Care of Your Physical Health While Working from Home

Alongside regular exercise and practicing healthy boundaries, you should be mindful of your physical health regarding posture and ergonomics. Sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can lead to poor posture, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. Make sure that your workspace is conducive to your health and wellness.
Your chair should support your spine’s natural curve, with your feet flat on the ground and your knees at a 90-degree angle. The top of your computer screen should be at eye level to avoid neck strain, and your keyboard and mouse should be positioned to keep your wrists straight. Investing in ergonomic furniture and accessories, like an adjustable chair, desk, or monitor stand, can substantially improve your comfort and health.

Maintaining good posture and moving regularly throughout the day are essential to avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle. Make a conscious effort to sit up straight with your shoulders back, which can help prevent back and shoulder pain. Incorporate regular movement into your routine, such as standing or stretching every hour. Simple exercises, like neck rolls or shoulder stretches, can be done even during short breaks.

Preventing Eye Damage When Doing Remote Computer Work

Working remotely often means spending long hours in front of a computer screen, which can strain your eyes and lead to long-term vision problems. One simple yet effective method to reduce eye strain is the 20-20-20 rule. To follow it, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This is like a stretch for your eye muscles and can significantly reduce the fatigue caused by staring at a screen.

In addition to regularly exercising your eye muscles, you should also schedule regular eye exams every year. These check-ups can catch vision problems early, ensuring you have the correct glasses or contact lenses prescription. Discuss your screen time with your optometrist; they might recommend specific lenses designed to reduce glare and block blue light, improving comfort and protecting your vision.

For some, undergoing LASIK surgery may improve or eliminate the need for corrective lenses and reduce the discomfort associated with prolonged computer use. LASIK can correct certain vision problems, potentially lessening eye strain or headaches caused by these issues. Consult with an eye care professional to determine if you’re a suitable candidate for LASIK.

Managing Your Mental Health as a Remote Worker

Because remote work can isolate you from the rest of your team, you may notice that it negatively affects your mental health over time. This can include changes in mood, sleep patterns, appetite, concentration difficulties, a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, and feelings of hopelessness or overwhelm.
Regular exercise and social time can be your best defenses against remote work-induced isolation. For example, you can take an exercise class at your local gym occasionally or work at a coffee shop once a week to fulfill your social needs. If you’re not eager to sign up for these social occasions, still focus on ways you can be active. Even at home, techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help center your thoughts and reduce stress levels.

While remote work offers flexibility and other benefits, it’s crucial to proactively address the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle and the potential for isolation. By establishing healthy routines and seeking professional help when necessary, remote workers can enjoy the advantages of working from home while minimizing its downsides. Remember, your health is your most valuable asset; taking care of it is essential for achieving professional success, personal fulfillment, and well-being.

In addition, don’t let the strain of remote work compromise your vision health. Contact Diagnostic Eye Center today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and explore our personalized solutions to protect and enhance your vision. Take the first step towards clearer, healthier eyesight and ensure your screen time is safe and comfortable.

FAQs About Managing Your Health As a Remote Worker

How Can I Make My Remote Work Setup More Ergonomic to Prevent Physical Strain?

Adjust your chair and desk to promote good posture, use external keyboards and monitors to reduce neck and eye strain, and incorporate regular stretches or movement into your workday.

What Are Some Effective Ways to Maintain a Work-Life Balance While Working Remotely?

Set a consistent schedule for starting and ending your workday, create a dedicated workspace separate from personal areas, and make time for hobbies and activities outside of work.

How Often Should I Take Breaks, and What Should I Do During Them?

Aim for a 5-10 minute break every hour, engage in physically or mentally refreshing activities, and use breaks to step away from your screen and move around.

How Can I Stay Connected With My Coworkers While Working Remotely?

Schedule regular check-ins or virtual meetings, use messaging apps for informal communication and updates, and participate in or organize virtual team-building activities.

How Can I Reduce Eye Strain From Looking at Screens All Day?

Adopt the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, adjust your screen brightness to match the lighting of your room, and make sure your screen is about an arm’s length away from your eyes.

Are There Specific Types of Computer Glasses That Help With Eye Strain?

Consider using computer glasses with blue light filtering to reduce eye strain, ensure your glasses have an anti-reflective coating, and consult an optometrist to find the best option.


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