Four Freelance Health Risks You Should Be Aware Of
6th May 2016Karl Bilby0 Comments.8 minutesArticles
The freedom of freelancing can help some people live a healthier lifestyle – fitting in a favourite exercise class, perhaps, and avoiding the temptation of those high calories lattes and lunches consumed by colleagues. However, for many freelancers, working from home and/or on your own for much of the time brings its own health risks – and as your own health and safety officer, it’s up to you to tackle them.
The Cookie, Crisp and Cake Cupboard
It’s not time for lunch, but the cupboard is just sitting there, taunting you – full of snacks that you know should be eaten sparingly (and possibly by the whole family and not just you, in one stress-ridden morning).
Obesity ad a high sugar intake are triggers for a whole host of lifestyle-limiting, life-shortening diseases, so you need either to find the willpower to resist or to remove or reduce these offending items. Ensure you stock up on snacks that you enjoy to replace them, and if you’re often hungry between meals, set a definite coffee break time in which you allow yourself one small, healthy snack such as a banana, a cracker or two, a bunch of grapes or a healthy yogurt (because believe the health writer in me here – many yogurts really aren’t!).
The Screen and CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome)
Most freelancers today have to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer or other internet-enabled device, which puts them at risk of Computer Vision Syndrome. This condition is caused by your eyes constantly struggling to cope with glare and readjust their focus as they flick back and forth among tabs, images and text. This can put strain on the eye muscles and cause dry, red, irritated eyes along with blurred or double, double vision, headaches and neck pain.
To avoid this becoming a problem:
Reduce the glare in your workroom by installing a dimmer switch and consider a glare filter for your screen.
Adjust your monitor’s settings for brightness and contrast (accessible either via your computer or on the monitor itself, often on the underside at the front).
Every twenty minutes, look away from your screen at an object some distance away from you – preferably twenty feet or so – or just look around your room for twenty seconds. This is a known as the 20/20/20 rule and it give your eyes a break from close-up focussing.
Ensure your monitor is around twenty to twenty-eight inches away from you.
Your Chair (The Silent Killer)
A risk otherwise known as constant sitting. Now before you protest that you go to the gym three times a week or do a yoga DVD every day before you start work, I’ve got bad news; that doesn’t make a jot of difference. Recent research has shown that sitting for prolonged periods can still seriously damage your health and shorten your life expectancy even if you exercise regularly, causing a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular accidents, diabetes and obesity. We’re just not built to sit around. James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, has said he believes “sitting is more dangerous than smoking… We are sitting ourselves to death.” To ensure you don’t spend too long sitting:
Regularly break up periods of seated activities with short one to two minute sections of activity. A pomdoro timer is ideal for helping you to get in this habit.
Consider investing in a standing desk or one that can quickly and easily convert to a standing desk (devices to convert your existing desk are available too).
Stand up when travelling on public transport or talking on the phone.
Ensure your leisure time isn’t spent sitting for prolonged periods too – more hours spent in front of the computer, or reading, playing video games and watching TV are a no-no.
Question everything you do: how many things do you do sitting down that could be done standing up? Make standing a habit!
Aches, Pains and Poor Posture
To avoid risking RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or back problems:
Keep the area under your desk clear so that you can stretch your legs and you’re not twisting or sitting at an angle.
Sit as close as possible to your desk, and adjust your computer monitor’s height so that it’s at eye level.
Keep your hands and wrists warm and use ergonomic keyboards and mouse-mats. Consider getting a wrist support.
Check your posture regularly. You may start your session sitting up straight, but ten minutes later, are you slouching, leaning forward, craning your neck – or hunching over with your shoulders up under your ears?!
Never buy an office chair without trying it out, and consider getting an ergonomic chair. Sitting in the ideal chair:
your back should meet the back of the chair
your knees should be level with or slightly higher than your hips
your lumbar region is supported – a cushion that fits snugly into the curve at the small of your back may be necessary
the seat should be of the right depth so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor
the seat shouldn’t dig in behind your knees but should be deep enough to support most of your upper thigh – around three inches between the front edge of your seat and your calf is ideal
adjust your seat height and any armrests so that your elbows are at a 90° angle to your desktop and your arms are just slightly raised at the shoulders
Sitting comfortably? Good. Just don’t sit there too long…
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