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Summary:

When our grandparents said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, they were referring to the fruit, not the computer.  But it’s not far-fetched that the same thing could be said about teleworking.  By opting to telework, employees and freelancers have a better chance […]

When our grandparents said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, they were referring to the fruit, not the computer.  But it’s not far-fetched that the same thing could be said about teleworking.  By opting to telework, employees and freelancers have a better chance of keeping themselves physically healthy.

How does this happen and to what extent is it valid?

648495_my_doctor_2Less stress – in an ideal situation, at least.
Too much stress is something that should be avoided, whether you’re a teleworker or not.  It reduces the efficency of your immune system and also makes you prone to allergies.

Without the stress that comes with commuting and rushing to the office, there’s a general consensus among surveys that for most people, web working is less stressful.  Still, it’s important to remember that some teleworkers (in one survey, 10% of respondents) experienced more or the same amount of stress while working from home.  In other words, while web working gives employees more opportunities to lower their stress levels, it doesn’t always happen.

Avoids the spread of diseases in the office. Traditional offices generally have several people working near each other for 8 hours each day.  This makes airborne illnesses spread easily from one employee to another.  Web workers rarely have to worry about this, even in co-working setups where only a few people work in the same office.

“…the relatively close confines of most workplaces are ideal for spreading respiratory infections like flu – and that workers who are not in that environment have less risk of catching flu, or if they are sick themselves, less risk of infecting their coworkers.”
Source: “Telework and Health”, from The Clean Air Campaign

Fewer chances of getting infected by outdoor pollution. Working from home reduces the outdoor pollutants you encounter.  No more smog, engine exhaust, or second-hand cigarette smoke for you to inhale.

“By reducing smog in the summer months and reducing the risk of respiratory infections in the winter months, telework programs provide benefits throughout the year. “
Source: “Telework and Health”, from The Clean Air Campaign

With that said, we should also remember that there’s indoor pollution for us to worry about, even if it might be a smaller issue in a home office compared to a traditional office.  In a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, they noted that printers emit hydrocarbons and ozone.  Computer terminals also released low quantities of ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Modifiable work environment. Since we’re not forced into one particular office or cubicle everyday, we can have better control of our working environments.  The air conditioning in the office might be better than the smog outside, but it has its own problems.

“…up to 80 percent of air conditioning samples he sees are contaminated with mold. And keep in mind there are no federal standards for indoor air quality, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
Source: “Battling a Sick Office” by Gerri Willis

Even if your home air conditioning units have problems, they are under your control.  You can get them repaired, cleaned, and maintained without making requests to upper management. In fact, you might not want air conditioning at all.  Since I don’t live in a highly populated area, I don’t mind working in my garden to get some fresh air.

It’s not just about the air, either.  Your furniture, lighting levels, room temperature, and surroundings can also be altered if you want to consider your health.  You don’t always get that kind of freedom when working in a traditional office.

While web working seems to have several health advantages, it’s important to note that these advantages require work and planning.  The decision to telework won’t automatically make you healthier.  You need to be aware of your stress levels, your diet, the quality of air you breathe, and the safety of your home office and equipment.  The good news is that the average teleworker can control these factors, since he works under his own roof.

How has web working affected your health?  Did your health improve or did web working cause more problems?

Image Credit: Photo by Sanja Gjenero from sxc.hu

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  1. I find that when I have telecommuted or otherwise conducted my work from home via the web, that the situation is a trade-off. In other words…it depends. The advantages of working in a “corporate campus” type of setting exist.

  2. Brandon J. Mendelson Friday, November 21, 2008

    I agree with @A.Acevdeo, the experience of working at home is entirely subjective.

    A major drawback is having to explain to people who work a “normal” job that all because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re not working.

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  5. WOW for me working from home was the one and only thing I ever did. Yet I am most of the times in stress of completing projects before its deadline. Don’t know how it might feel if I was working somewhere else.

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