Working from home is an amazing opportunity that thousands of people would love to have. For many of us, it’s a reality – hustling our side gig from home and enjoying the flexibility that comes along with a work-from-home position. On the flip side, though, it can be hard to balance the challenges of maintaining your personal life, managing your home, and maintaining your health when you work from home. Many work-from-home jobs involve long hours at the computer. For example, I work as a transcriptionist and let me tell you, I’m spending way more time at the computer than I ever expected when I graduated from school as an occupational therapist!
However, this sidetrack to a different job has allowed me to stay home with my 10-month old son, Thaddeus, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. Although many office jobs also involve long hours at a computer, they also tend to allow for more interpersonal engagement and physical activity than working at home. Let’s briefly go over some of the health-related challenges associated with working from home and how to overcome them!
Your Workstation Working From Home
Whereas office workstations are often set up to be ergonomically correct, this is not always the case when you’re working on your laptop at your dining room table! If you’re going to spending long hours at a computer, it is completely worth it to invest in a set up that is comfortable for you and that reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury (think carpal tunnel syndrome!). Take the time to find a desk you can sit at comfortably, a chair that gives great back support, and a good lamp or lighting to avoid glare from the monitor (side note: these don’t have to be expensive. I got a great desk and a super comfy office chair at a yard sale!). If you’re going to be a doing a lot of typing, get an ergonomic keyboard with a quality wrist-rest.
When I first started transcribing, I wasn’t ready yet to invest in these things, and I started out exactly as I just stated – with a laptop at my dining room table! But once my side gig started taking off and growing, I knew that a good office set up was one of the first investments I needed to make – and let me tell you, I can feel the difference now that I’ve upgraded!
Although you might start off with a laptop, and they are super convenient for their portability, remember that having the monitor physically attached to the keyboard does NOT allow for good, ergonomic positioning while typing. It also angles your head down to look at the monitor, which can cause neck strain. A separate keyboard and a monitor that’s just slightly below eye level will help mitigate these problems.
When you work in an office, you’re naturally taking breaks now and then – chatting with your coworkers, going to the water cooler, getting coffee, etc. I know for myself, though, that when I get into a “groove” with my work at home, sometimes I don’t move for hours. Unlike an office setting, when you work at home you don’t have those built-in factors that help you take a mental and physical break now and then. If you’re like me, you really have to consciously build those breaks into your day.
I’ll set an alarm on my phone to remind me to get up and do things every hour or so – things that need to be done anyway, so I’m really killing two birds with one stone. For example, I’ll run downstairs and start a load of laundry, or I’ll clean my bathrooms. Glamorous, I know… but truly, you need the mental break, to mentally exit the work you’re doing for a short time, and your body needs to move!
When you get back to work, you’ll feel energized and refreshed and ready to get back at it. But as I said, if you don’t build these breaks in, they’re not likely to happen, so even if it seems ridiculous, build them into your day intentionally. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to! I also really enjoy yoga so sometimes I’ll take a shorter break and just do a few stretches on the floor before hopping back into my desk chair.
Also, having a 10-month old to chase around is a GREAT way to build breaks into your day… just saying!
For the introvert such as myself, being home all day alone isn’t really a huge strain. However, there are times when I can feel myself going slightly crazy from being home all day and only having my 10-month-old to interact with (and as cute as he is, his conversational ability just isn’t quite there yet). Like many stay-at-home moms, I live for the moment that my husband walks through the door and I can have an intelligent conversation with someone!
And that’s for me as an introvert. If you thrive on interpersonal interaction, working from home can make for some long, lonely days. Maybe those built-in breaks would be better served with phone calls to friends or family or a little coffee break to the café down the road. Or maybe you should think about sharing an office space with someone else who’s also working from home. Although it can seem trivial, don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining human connection while you work from home. It’s vital for your mental and emotional health!
I hope you find these tips helpful in your endeavors to work from home! Taking the time to set yourself up for success from the very beginning is so worth it in the long run. You will enjoy your work and have a way better quality of life and quality of work if you take the time to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health along the way.
Laura Quartey is a transcriptionist and stay-at-home mom in West Michigan. When she’s not typing, she’s busy chasing around her ten-month-old son, Thaddeus, and gardening. You can find her at https://lauramquartey.wixsite.com/qtranscription.
Please feel free to contact me if you are looking to start your own business at home, and would like to talk about a logo or website.