Working From Home – Impact on Physical and Mental Well-Being

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The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our work and life. 

Given the experience of now over a year, many companies have started to believe that WFH will become more common even post-pandemic due to the fact that employers have already paid the price of setting up remote working infrastructure. They have now realized that there is potentially a dramatic reduction in operational cost from reduced office spaces.

Significantly, companies are finding a notable direct benefit accruing to the employees from reduced commute time, flexible work hours, more time with family. Studies are showing that as employees are able to choose their most productive work hours, there is a significant rise in employee productivity. Add to this, employees are able to avoid distractions from co-workers, which was difficult in the now prevalent open office spaces.

Somewhere the initial assessment that employees are able to now have an individualized approach to work-life balance leading to a healthier lifestyle, benefitting both physical and mental health, is questionable.

The sense is that employees are now able to have better control of their work environment ranging from setting the room temperature, lighting, air quality, ambient noise, ergonomics etc., which impact their physical and mental health in a positive manner.

While there is no denying the benefits of working from home situation, there are, aspects which have a negative consequence and impact the overall physical and mental wellness of employees.

Losing Control

The initial assessment that employees are in better control and able to achieve work-life balance has been proven wrong. With surveys indicating that there is a sense of loss than control.

It has been found, those who have been full time working from home, do not have the opportunity to socialize, have reduced physical movements ( a result of not having the need to walk from one location to the other, as is the case in an office space ), extended hours of exposure to computer screens leading to increased fatigue, tiredness, head, neck and eye related problems. Injuries to spine, neck, wrists, are increasingly reported leading to lower productivity. Coupled with that prolonged exposure to technology, both work and non-work are affecting the sleep cycles in turn leading to increased levels of irritability.

Lack of face-to-face interactions everyday are adding to the misery by negatively impacting the mental wellness from social isolation.  The boundaries are blurred which is making it increasingly difficult for people to detach mentally from work which in turn increases stress and anxiety.

Blurring of work-life boundaries is challenging people to balance their work schedules around family members. For some, especially women, work from home schedule has become increasingly stressful, what with the need to take care of household chores, parenting responsibilities and running errands, in between the countless virtual meetings and work-related deadlines.

Women are sacrificing their sleep hours and have started to work late at night or very early in the morning because that seems to be the only quite time they are able to find to concentrate on their work to avoid frequent interruptions at home. This ongoing conflict to balance work and life is definitely leading to complete emotional exhaustion and energy depletion.

Mind-body Ergonomics The need of the hour!

You would have probably heard ergonomics being commonly spoken with reference to office furniture to help with your posture.

It is a fact that despite spending considerable money in the conventional office ergonomics in an attempt to make work comfortable, employees were still found to be complaining about workplace related health problems, the very issues they were intended to resolve. It is now clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not helping.

There is an increasing need for understanding that mere replacing old with more expensive and stylized furniture alone will not help tackle the occupational health issues. 

We have to look at the whole and not the part, i.e, the ergonomics of the mind and body.

When an employee undertakes tasks, which does not consider the mind and body ergonomics, they get exposed to or risk potentially serious and at times debilitating musculoskeletal disorders. This in turn starts impacting their mental states and increases stress. For some the negative impact on their mobility affects so much as leading to depression.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” said Aristotle

Nothing is more representative of the mind-body ergonomics concept than this quote. As with a Car which takes thousands of parts and components to make it look not just beautiful but perform efficiently, so with the human body.

It takes a deep understanding of not just each part but their connectedness which goes to make the human-machine, beautiful and powerful.

Mind-body ergonomics is all about understanding the parts and their connectedness.

You must know those parts deeply in order to achieve wellness.

In our next post, we will show you what does mind-body ergonomics entail and how it can be developed thru a simple yoga routine.

About the Author

Sree Kumar

Sree Kumar

Sree Kumar is a Peak Performance Coach and HR Strategist, who helps organizations optimize their human resources by engaging them with end-to-end human transformational solutions. From hiring, retention, engagement to employee transformation he partners his client’s performance development initiatives that guarantee results. As a co-founder and Partner at Equinox Consultants, Sree has co-created a Human Resource Optimization model the S.T.A.R™, Prathibimb™ Big Five, and Prathibimb-360™, which helps transform human potential into reality. In the last 30 years, these tools have positively impacted over 450,000 people from over 60 global and Indian organizations.

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