Six tips on working from home safely

With many Canadians still teleworking, staying healthy and safe at home is essential

Six tips on working from home safely
With a year of the pandemic under our belts, many employees are still working from home.

It’s never too late to pick up good habits! Though many of us have been working from home for over a year now, some workers may still be adjusting to this new setting.

At the start of the pandemic, working from home seemed like a temporary solution for many employees. A year later, our conception of the workplace has dramatically changed.

There are a number of employers now pondering the move to permanently asking workers to work from home. Telework certainly has its advantages, it can reduce a lot of overhead and extra costs for the business, and numerous studies have shown that working from home doesn’t negatively impact productivity (quite the opposite, in fact!). But staying healthy and safe at home is not easy.

The threat of COVID-19 is still very much a reality for most Canadians despite a vaccine campaign that is picking up steam. Our return to the office may still be quite a few months away. While we wait, here are six things that you can do to optimize your working from home experience.

1. Set up an ergonomic workstation

Home offices at the start of the pandemic were hastily put together, usually consisting of a few books to elevate a laptop on a kitchen table. A year later, and due to the uncertainty of our collective office return, many workers are still working at the same makeshift workstations. Some employers have invested in ergonomic solutions for teleworkers, and this is something that should be done if shifting to telework permanently.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are a common problem for workers who engage in repetitive tasks or other strenuous activity. It can be a problem for office workers too, who will often develop issues around their back, neck or wrists. Maintaining a proper posture is crucial for comfort:

“Maintain proper posture, paying careful attention to positioning of head, neck, spine, arms, wrists, hips, thighs and feet. Basically, ensure the small of your back is supported, your shoulders are relaxed (not slumped and not elevated), and that there is no pressure under your thighs,” says WorkSafeNB.

2. Pay attention to your surroundings

Writing for Previsor Insurance, Doug Davis, the company’s Operations Manager says that employers should encourage workers to stay aware of their surroundings. For example, by making sure they have fire extinguishers or first aid kits at hand – basically, all the equipment we take for granted in an office setting.

READ MORE: Fire drills amid COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know

3. Take breaks

Teleworkers spend most of their day looking at computers screens and taking video calls. More so than in a regular office environment, at home we are really glued to our screens. This can obviously have a negative impact on our posture, our eyesight, etc. Plus, a number of studies have shown than people working from home struggle to make boundaries between personal and professional. Setting up a break schedule might help to add some structure to the day and build healthier boundaries.

4. Avoid distractions

WorkSafeNB recommends working in a quiet room with the door closed if possible (no small feat for families with children who are being homeschooled). If there are distracting noises, you can use earphones or ear plugs to keep sounds out. This is not just important to be able to stay productive, it is also important to stay safe! Though there may be fewer dangers at home than on site, staying aware and vigilant is important for worker safety.

READ MORE: Workplace ergonomics: Four key things to consider

5. Exercise and stay active

Easier said than done, I totally understand. Physical activity is a great way to stay healthy, both body and mind. But as mentioned before, it can be a bit difficult to take breaks or make the time to commit to exercise. Keep your fitness levels up by finding an activity that is the best fit for you – and what environment and equipment you have on hand. This could be doing following a yoga tutorial on YouTube, going for a run, using at-home equipment (safely) or simply going outside for a walk. The best exercise is one that you will truly commit to in the long run (pun intended).

6. Wash your hands regularly

This should be second nature by now. If it’s not: wash your hands! Regularly! Preferably with soap and water! Hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. COVID-19 fatigue may have set in, but it’s as important as ever to remain vigilant to protect your health and the health of others. And when leaving the house, always remember to wear a mask and physically distance from those outside of your household when possible.