For most of us, freelancing is a dream come true. We work from home, set our own hours and are our own boss. The flip side of this however isn’t all that attractive. What we don’t realize (read choose to overlook) is that freelancing involves working more hours than a conventional desk job, there’s no difference between a weekend and a weekday and there is no paid leave.
This punishing pace of work life affects our health and work habits. This article covers some of the most common Health Hazards of Freelancing that you might be suffering from or may do so in the future.
1. Caffeine Addiction
If after waking up in the morning, your first thought is “Must.Have.Coffee”, you’re a coffee addict. You put your java to brew before you brush your teeth and it isn’t before your second mug kicks in that you feel able to function normally. And God forbid if for some reason you don’t get your caffeine intake, all hell might break lose!
Solution (that is if you want one): If you drink 2 mugs before starting work, change the size of your mug. Your brain will register the fact that you’ve had 2 mugs and won’t be bothered about the quantity all that much.
Brew a smaller amount to last you through the day. Once you know you only have so much coffee, you’ll be careful with the intake.
2. Working/Sleeping late
A lot of freelancers are night owls. This might not necessarily be because they function better at night. There’s a good chance that this habit formed from working late into the night trying to meet deadlines.
Working late to meet a deadline is fine once in a while but when it becomes the norm you’ve got a problem.
Solution: Set your deadline a day before the actual one. That way, if some work is still left over, you’ll have one more day to work on it.
Smoking is bad for your health. It’s a universal fact. Freelancers who smoke tend to do it more while working. Hey, there’s no office policy here to adhere to! As you keep working, you work through your pack of cigarettes too and before you know it, your ashtray is full and your pack is empty and you’re still craving a cig!
Excessive smoking brings all kinds of health problems with it – both short and long term. I won’t tell you to quit, but I will tell you to smoke less.
Solution: Make your home office a smoke free zone. Throw away your ash trays, and remove every pack of cigarettes from there. If you want to smoke, make it a point to step out of your work space.
If you’re in the middle of something and concentrating hard at work, chances are you’ll keep delaying going out for a smoke. Before you know it, a project is wrapped up and you haven’t smoked in 3 hours!
4. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a very real threat for freelancers and a lot of us have been through it. It’s caused by repetitive actions and CTS can affect our fingers, wrists and hands. Consider this: We’re at our computers for hours at a time, typing. We hit the backspace or delete key countless times, click countless time, and our fingers are poised in one position continuously as we use the mouse.
At its worst, CTS requires surgery to be corrected and has a 6 week recovery period. Can you imagine not working for that long? Who will pay the bills?!
If we don’t take preventive measures, we’re putting ourselves at a higher risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Solution: Exercise your hands after every hour or so. Stretch your arms, flex your fingers and rotate your wrists. Keep a massage ball or a similar hand exercise item at your desk and use it whenever you’re thinking or brain storming.
5. Burning eyes
What did you expect after looking at your computer screen all day? Combine that with lack of sleep and your eyes will start burning something fierce!
Solution: Close your eyes for a few minutes and rest them. Take off your glasses if you wear them. Wash your face with cold water or soak some cotton in cold water and press them on your eyes gently.
6. Short Attention Span
This I’ll blame on the internet. In order to work, we need to stay connected 24/7. With email, RSS readers, twitter etc we’ve managed to reduce our attention span drastically. We keep getting distracted by one thing or the other. If it’s not email, then it’s twitter and if it’s not twitter it’s going through our favourite blogs and commenting.
Before long, our day is over and we didn’t get much work done. The deadline is a day closer too!
Solution: Prioritize. If you need to work, close off everything else. Close your inbox, twitter, and any websites you always keep open.
Divide your work in stages and give yourself breaks when you complete that stage. Check your mail, tweet, facebook or read your favourite blogs then. It’s tough in the beginning, but it’s doable and yields great results!
7. Back/Neck ache
We’re at our desk for most of the day. Sitting in a chair and staring at a screen isn’t the most comfortable things to do. After a few hours our neck starts to stiffen and our back begins to ache. We shift in our chair trying to get more comfortable but are too engrossed in our work to notice it. It’s only when we’re finally getting up from our chair that realization dawns.
Solution: Stretch your neck and back at regular intervals. Get up and move around before coming back to sit. If the back ache gets really bad, try placing a cushion behind your back for added support.
8. Bad posture
After being hunched over your computer for hours daily, your posture is bound to suffer.
Solution: To avoid looking like a hunched up old person, invest in a good ergonomic chair. It’ll be expensive but it’ll serve you well for years to come. And if you can afford it, get an ergonomic desk too.
Insane amount of work, demanding clients, crazy deadlines and late nights all lead to stress. You might produce your best work under pressure, but if it continues over a long period of time you’ll get burned out.
Some stress is good for us. We need to take freelancing seriously in order to produce our best work but if it’s giving you sleepless nights and constant headaches, something needs to change.
Solution: Figure out what’s the most stressing part of your freelancing. Are you stressing over a certain client? A big project? Whatever it is, identify the culprit and look for ways to eliminate that stress inducing situation.
10. Big bum
Get up and check. You have a big bum don’t you? Unless they exercise vigilantly, freelancers tend to gain weight.
Solution: Get off your behind and start exercising. Nothing strenuous, just a few stretches and a walk or a jog is enough to get you back on the road to getting and staying fit.
As a freelancer, I’ve faced all these hazards except Carpal Tunnel. While I’ve corrected some, I still struggle with others.
What health hazards do you face as a freelancer?