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How to work at home and remain healthy

Is there a sacrifice made when it comes to mental health and well-being?

Working from home is becoming more and more popular, with many choosing to remove themselves from the rat race of office life and commuting.

The vast opportunities presented by the internet and its networking possibilities make it easier to now work from the comfort of your own living space – but while there may be many undeniable positives to this lifestyle, is there a sacrifice made when it comes to mental health and well-being?

There are approximately 4.8 million freelancers in the British workforce, and companies are more and more likely to allow their staff to work remotely from home, providing laptops and smartphones with the ability to connect to the company intranet.

The ‘digital nomad’ way of life can mean that you avoid the daily journey to work, spending money on petrol or train tickets. It can mean that you work remotely, as it pleases you, with more flexible hours and allowing for travel and leisure pursuits (as long as you have that all-important Wi-Fi connection). It can mean that you fit life around your working hours, picking the kids up from school or attending your weekly Pilates class. But it can also mean a whole lot of alone time.

While you can communicate through email, phone calls or Skype, you are still missing out on some important human interaction. In the office, you will be able to pick up on body language, catch up with colleagues around the water cooler and generally spend some time with people in the same boat as yourself.

Frances Holliss, of the Sir John Cass School of Art Architecture and Design, based her doctoral thesis on the study of people working from home. She found that, no matter what their area of expertise, these professionals were almost all suffering from some form of disadvantage caused by their lone-wolf career structure. Many had notable mental health issues, ranging from anxiety and stress to depression.

Most felt that isolation and the lack of surrounding colleagues had a major impact on their well-being. Day-to-day tasks when working from home require self-discipline and rigorous structure in order to keep away from the temptations of your own home, meaning some had difficulty managing the work-life balance and avoiding distractions like television or raiding the fridge.

Working alone can mean being unable to put names to faces or to build trust in colleagues and their abilities through daily interactions – things we may take for granted when faced with the office grind.

To get the most out of the home-working lifestyle, you need an abundance of self-confidence as well as the ability to communicate impeccably. You need the self-discipline to get you through a productive day, as well as knowing when to step away from the desk and give yourself a well-earned break!

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