Telework was born in the 70s and was quickly seen as a solution to a variety of individual, organizational and social problems. Since then, numerous investigations have been carried out on the subject that has shown that all the advantages can turn into disadvantages if implantation is not carried out with guarantees of health and safety at work.
With the arrival of the pandemic, teleworking has become the main occupational protagonist. Given the circumstances, this step has been done in an accelerated manner and the vast majority of cases were not aware that this change required a process of adaptation and learning. Due to the lack of experience in teleworking, many people have not been able to properly manage the situation. With this, if this working method is implemented as something common – as many experts point out -, problems for physical and mental health can end up developing.
How can we implement telecommuting for good health?
Here are 6 tips to make your telecommuting experience much healthier. Take care of your muscles and your vision during work hours Currently, with teleworking we spend more than eight hours in front of screens – when we move less we spend more time in front of televisions, computers, tablets, and mobile phones – resulting in poor body posture. These two factors mean that in the short or medium term we have vision problems and muscle pain, especially in the back. Fortunately, there are methods to prevent these pains from being permanent.
Healthy habits telework
In the first place, as Luisa Achaerandio and Manel Fernández point out in this article, the correct posture to adopt is characterized by having the feet aligned with the body and resting on the ground, with a straight back (at a 90-degree angle), making sure that the chair collects the kidneys.
Regarding the care of your vision, it is important that we adjust the resolution and brightness of the screens so as not to overexpose the eyes to too much light or force them too much because they do not have enough light. In addition, we must try not to keep our gaze fixed on the screen, we must blink or move our eyes. Taking visual breaks such as looking out the window or at infinity every 15 minutes, or resting the computer for 15 minutes every 2 hours is also beneficial. Finally, if our eyes hurt, we can try to relax them, gently covering them with warm hands.
Apart from that, it is also advisable to get up, move and stretch the body every 2 hours. To release tension and relax muscles we can try doing 3 or 4 repetitions of inhaling, tensing the body, exhaling, loosening it, and ending with some deep breaths. Bending your head forward to stretch your back is also effective, reducing fatigue and anxiety.
Fight against a sedentary lifestyle and take care of your mental health physical activity and telework
Teleworking causes us to spend much more time at home and therefore, much more time sitting, which can lead to diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle. Experts, like Patricia Casas-Agustench on the Healthy Week Podcast, recommend getting 10 hours of moderate exercise – walking, cycling, and activities at home … – throughout the week. This would be summarized with 1 hour of exercise a day during the week and, on the weekend, between 2 and 3 hours.
It can help us to take active breaks while we telecommute: stretching, doing housework, moving around the house, etc. We must also try to maintain the habits we had before, if we went by subway and it took 10 minutes to get to the station, now we will have to walk for those 10 minutes wherever. Another option is to create new habits like going to throw the trash or seeing if there is mail in the mailbox. The important thing is that we move to the beginning and end of the workday.
Apart from taking care of our physical health, we must also take care of our mental health. In some cases, there are people who, spending so much time at home alone and without talking to anyone, can lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, or stress. For this reason, it is important not to isolate yourself within the environment and look for some type of interaction; for example, going out to buy coffee or bread and talking to the cafeteria clerk. For the creation of interest groups with co-workers, videoconferences not related to tasks can be done and talk about topics of interest such as reading, family, or other hobbies.
Tips for better sleep
Apart from the habits to fight against a sedentary lifestyle, there are other factors that influence our health and that should be taken care of more in these circumstances: quality sleep, a good diet, diets that can be applied in times of stress, etc.
If we talk about sleep, Alicia Aguilar and Diego Redolar explain that there are several formulas to sleep well. We must dedicate between 7.5 and 8 hours a day, to rest well. A bad rest can affect memory, attention, and learning. What can we do to get quality sleep? We give you a few tips:
It is important to avoid the use of mobile phones and electronic devices an hour before going to sleep since the blue light on the screen makes it difficult to start sleep.
On the other hand, a good idea to get a sound sleep is to take a hot shower before going to bed. Body temperature rises and the brain interprets that we have made an effort and activates the recovery mechanisms.
The room where we sleep also influences our sleep cycle: we must create a comfortable and own space: silent and with a good temperature (cool, about 20 degrees), in addition to carefully choosing the surfaces that come into contact with our body (mattress, pajamas, sheets).
The food, meanwhile, also is closely linked to a good rest:
Distributing meals regularly, and avoiding fats and simple sugars is also closely linked to sleep: the lack of it can cause disorders such as obesity. To promote sleep, unlike carbohydrates and fats, tryptophan is very important (it produces serotonin): the B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium helps to synthesize serotonin and melatonin, which are necessary to avoid affecting sleep.
We must follow a varied and balanced diet, prioritizing fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, and whole grains. It is advisable to avoid excitement in the last hours of the day (coffee, carbonated soft drinks, tea) and to maintain regular meal times.
A good diet does not only benefit the rest
Continuing with the topic of food, it is worth mentioning that it is essential to take care of it to enjoy good health since an unbalanced diet can lead to a decrease in physical and intellectual performance by approximately 30%. Therefore, there are different foods that we want to mention for teleworking in good health :
Chocolate, yes or no?
Chocolate, sometimes used as a cure for stress and anxiety, is counterproductive. As indicated by Alicia Aguilar, Manuel Armayones, and Maria José Acebes in Chocolate: the blacker the better, and never to combat stress, we must avoid eating on impulse and not use this type of food for medical or therapeutic purposes, since we end up ingesting more quantity And worst.
If it is true that, according to some sources, such as the study of Chocolate and the brain: neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior published in the National Center of Biotechnology Information, consuming cocoa in small portions can have beneficial repercussions on cardiovascular health, and can improve cognitive capacity and brain function, given the presence of flavonoids and their protective effect on neurocognition. However, it must be taken into account that for cocoa to be healthy, it must be 75% or more chocolate in order to benefit from all its properties.
We can replace chocolate with more healthy foods that do help fight the mood slumps, such as fruit, flax seeds, food fermented, or nuts. To improve mood we need dopamine, and to get it in a natural and healthy way – without resorting to sugars and foods such as trans fats – we can resort to consuming slow-absorbing carbohydrates: beets, soybeans, legumes, almonds, eggs, meat, and cereals.
The essential vitamin D
On the other hand, when we are teleworking, we spend a lot of time at home and our exposure to the sun is less, this being our main source of vitamin D. That is why, as Alicia Aguilar and Anna Bach-Faig point out in Recommendations for confinement by the coronavirus, we must eat more foods with vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium, such as bluefish, – rich in Omega-3 that helps concentration -, dairy products and eggs. It is also advisable to include antioxidant foods in our diet typical of the Mediterranean diet, which strengthen the immune system, such as strawberries, oranges, green leafy vegetables, legumes, fish, or whole grains. In addition, some foods such as fish, eggs, or brewer’s yeast also help protect the nervous system and improve memory and mood, since they have vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid. They also increase energy and help fight depression, also associating them with long-term prevention of cognitive decline.
Feeding the brain
We not only want to take care of our health, but we also want to improve our intellectual performance while we work, and for this, a good diet is also necessary, as explained by Anna Bach-Faig and Diego Redolar . The foods that help our brain, improve cognitive function and memory, are red fruits, olive oil, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, legumes, and cereals. In addition to foods that contain acetylcholine such as livers, eggs, soybeans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
One of the main consequences of teleworking and the long hours that we must spend at home is an increase in levels of stress and anxiety, which we can also combat with a good diet. For this, it is essential to maintain the alkaline state of our body; In this way, we will strengthen the immune system, thus helping us to be centered and being able to manage moments of stress more easily. Some examples of foods that help to enhance this alkalization are citrus fruits, probiotics, prebiotics, vegetables rich in sulfur such as leek or seaweed, legumes, ginger and turmeric, red fruits, and olive oil. In short, the foods that support a balanced Mediterranean diet.
The importance of five
5 pieces of fruit a day
We must not forget that a balanced diet requires 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. To encourage the intake of these five pieces, we can follow the theory of the five colors: try that in all our dishes there are always five different colors present. In addition, it is important to remember that cooking food tends to reduce its properties. Therefore, the less we cook items such as vegetables, for example, the better they will maintain their alkaline state and the more benefits they will report to our body.
Finally, it is essential to respect the number of usual meals and moderate the amounts to avoid uncontrolled weight gain, due to the lower energy expenditure we have when we are at home. For good work performance and complete cognitive development, it is necessary to eat breakfast and caffeine should not be abused: the recommendations indicate that we should not exceed three cups a day. However, moderate consumption of this drink can result in protective effects. Some studies such as the Impact of Coffee and Cacao Purine Metabolites on Neuroplasticity and Neurodegenerative Disease published in the National Center of Biotechnology Information, they hypothesize that coffee consumption, along with tea and dark chocolate, promotes brain health and may prevent cognitive decline and the onset of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
In conclusion, the foods discussed in this article should be consumed regularly for a rich and varied diet, without the need to resort to food supplements.
Stop smoking teleworking? it’s possible
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in developed countries, as well points Antoni Baena in e-work and snuff. In the situation we find ourselves in, it may seem that quitting smoking is more difficult, but there are data that contradict this. Next, you will find some recommendations that exist to quit smoking more easily and to be able to do it from home.
First, all tobacco from the environment and all stimuli associated with consumption must be removed. We can perform other actions when the urge to smoke arises, such as drinking infusions, eating a piece of fruit, or simply drinking water. Once we get rid of it, it can help us to replace the nicotine in tobacco with other very effective products to stop smoking such as nicotine gum, patches, tablets, or mouth spray (non-addictive products). Currently, the health system finances other first-line drugs, so you can go to the reference health center and ask about the treatment programs.
It is important to give yourself positive self-instruction such as ” I’m going to be capable “, ” I’m going to lose the desire “, and so on. As time goes by and we have more control, the recommendations are simple, the best strategy that exists is to distract yourself and if you also do sports or relaxation exercises. These will help you control the feeling of restlessness that addiction produces.
Finally, sometimes, quitting smoking causes other reactions to our body such as not falling asleep or having more appetite, that is why the last tips to quit smoking are: keep track of your diet to avoid gaining too much weight, control sleep, achieving adequate physical conditions, carry out mental deactivation and control stimuli.
digital health and telework
Digital health as part of the solution
On the other hand, it is interesting how digital health can help us to improve and combat the problems derived from these situations imposed by teleworking. There are several mobile applications that allow us to limit our sedentary lifestyle and improve our daily habits. Some of the elements that these apps should have are movement monitoring, stress control, control of time spent in a sedentary attitude, and warnings to get up and walk every few minutes. In addition, there are applications that help improve the well-being of people who suffer from chronic pain, as Rubén Nieto explains in this post.
It is also convenient to have the help of other applications that control water intake since by spending so many hours in front of the computer, we can neglect aspects as important to our health as this.
In conclusion, for a good teleworking with health, it is advisable to follow the aforementioned advice and apply the tips of good posture, visual comfort, breaks, and stretching, as well as having a good diet and a good rest. Take care of your health, it is the most important thing!