Is WFH accelerating the ageing process?
The bliss and the pain of WFH.
The quiet of an empty house, removed from the distractions of chatting colleagues; working from home is often an oasis of productivity. Purposefully hunched over the keyboard, frantically typing for hours on end. In flow. It feels fantastic until it’s time to move. On straightening up I realise my neck, shoulders and back have temporarily fused together. As I squint out into the middle distance I’m reminded of my optician’s diagnosis of my blurred vision which had been caused by the muscles in my eyes being weakened due to a lack of proper use. Is there any muscular strength left in my body at all?!
Now I reminisce about the time my working week involved 5 days of commuting to arrive at my place of work, where every day I’d climb the stairs to my open plan office. Was my body so much stronger then? Is working from home accelerating the ageing process and restricting my mobility? Well according to research, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. There are multiple research projects proving that prolonged periods of in-activity relate directly to mobility issues in older adults.
The Take-a-Stand Project undertaken in 2011 (a decade before the work from home revolution) revealed that the behaviour of office workers and their long periods of sitting at a desk were already contributing to major health issues. The fact that, for many, the working day is no longer bookended with a commute or the requirement to walk further than the length of the home office to reach your work station, this is a bigger crisis than originally predicted.
3 Things to Change
For many none of what is mentioned here is new information. It’s unlikely that ‘The Hunch’ is going to become next season's new ‘look’ (although not impossible!) so it’s time to introduce some good habits into the working from home routine.
- Commute At Home. I’ve had several people offer their version of their ‘CAH’, from running up and down the stairs to circling the garden, although you may feel a little strange doing it, it absolutely makes sense to get a few steps in before starting the day.
- Take a stand. Stand-up desks are not a new concept but they are certainly a lot more popular which has increased the choice on the market and brought the average price down. Research has shown that opting to rotate between standing and sitting is the most beneficial so a motorised stand-up desk that is easy to adjust is the best option.
- Look Away. Even if you’ve been lucky to be blessed with 20:20 vision up until now if you neglect to exercise your eyes, using near and far distance muscles regularly, your eyesight will deteriorate. Simply sitting by a window, or even better, getting up and walking to look out of the window, periodically greatly benefits your eyesight and keeps the eye muscles active. Implement the 20-20-20 rule - every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Putting these 3 simple actions in place is not going to remove all of my bad habits overnight but they will definitely go some way to easing the pain.