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By Christine Vogt
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
Working from home, once an outlier experience, entered the mainstream when millions of American workers were sent home in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to that time, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 7% of US employees regularly worked remotely. Almost overnight, that number increased to 64%, or almost two-thirds of U.S. employees—abruptly transforming the U.S. into a largely “work-from-home” economy.
While the summer ahead shows the promise of life getting back to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, the shift to remote work will remain in effect for many workers. A February 2021 MindEdge/Skye Learning survey of 830 American managers found that 35% expect that many employees will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. While this shift to working from home has come with some advantages—reduced commute times perhaps being the most obvious one—working from home in the age of COVID restrictions has proven costly to our overall health and well-being.
A survey of 2000 Americans, age 18 and older, conducted in September 2020 by OnePoll, found that since March of 2020:
- 70% report that they are struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance
- 65% of those surveyed report working longer hours, with 56% feeling more work-related stress
- 74% find themselves sitting for longer periods of time, compared to what they did before the pandemic began
- 40% report spending seven or more hours sitting each day
- 52% report an increase in aches and pains—particularly joint, low back, and neck pain
- 34% report eating more unhealthy, fatty foods since the start of the pandemic
- On average, Americans are spending nearly five hours a day sitting and watching entertainment—compared to just three hours prior to the pandemic. And they are spending three hours a day scrolling through social media—up 1.5 hours a day since 2019
In addition, the American Psychological Association notes that nearly 67% of American adults report an increase in stress over the course of the pandemic.
Considering these statistics, it is not hard to see how more time at home has come at a tremendous cost. Increased screen time and feelings of isolation and stress, combined with a more sedentary lifestyle, can lead to a variety of health issues. Chronic musculoskeletal pain, increased anxiety and depression, poor sleep, increased eye strain, unhealthy eating habits, and cardiovascular disease are just a few of the health risks that are associated with our “new normal.“
In the face of spending more time at home, it is important—perhaps now, more than ever—to protect your mental health and well-being. The good news is that there are simple strategies that you can implement into your daily routine to combat these health risks.
- If you find yourself struggling with sleep, dedicate yourself to keeping a consistent sleep schedule. The best sleep schedule is the one that works easily for you. If you are a night owl, it is okay to go to bed at 2 a.m. every night if your schedule allows you to wake up at 10 a.m. every morinng. Or, the other way around, if you are always worn out by 9 p.m., waking up at 5 a.m. to start your day may be a good routine.
- Counter feelings of Zoom-fatigue and eye strain associated with increased screen time by wearing glasses that filter out blue light. Or follow the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look away at an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- One of the main health risks associated with quarantine restrictions is a lack of physical activity. The good news is that even a little activity— 30 minutes a day—can go a long way toward reducing the health risks associated with being more sedentary. Research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown that regular exercise can improve your mood and increase feelings of happiness. Build time into your workday to move and stretch every hour, or perhaps take a walk during your lunch break.
- The simple act of breathing can assist with managing stress. One simple technique is to exhale for longer than you inhaled. For example, inhale for a count of two (or three, or four—the duration is up to you), and then exhale for four (or six, or eight). At first, try this technique for a minute or two, working up to five minutes (or more if you desire). The best part is that you can do this anytime, anywhere.
Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented our society with a variety of new and unique challenges. As we continue to navigate a path forward, it is important that we all seek out ways to improve our work-life balance in the face of continued time at home.
Copyright © 2021 MindEdge, Inc.