Work-at-Home and the Immune System

Are you like me, a freelancer who enjoys the wonderful opportunity to make money from your home?  You may be a writer, or an artist, or a medical transcriptionist or any of the hundreds of other jobs that can now be done from the comfort and security of your own home.   The internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for those who never quite managed to hook into that whole unpleasant office scene.  Perhaps that is why I don’t really find The Office in either its British or American versions to be particularly funny; I just don’t get the humor, having done everything in my power to withstand my own personal version of hell: working in an office and dealing with office politics.   That is not to say I haven’t worked outside of the home; I have probably had more different kinds of jobs than almost anyone I know.  But finally, with the growth of the internet, I was able to live my dream of working full time from home.  Of course, as with any job there is a downside. 

Many people who work from home spend a considerable amount of their leisure time at home as well.  If you’re like me, you work during the day and then help take care of the kids in the evening.  As a result, many of us don’t exactly get out into the real world and come into contact with other people as frequently as others, nor as frequently as we should.  The hidden health danger of being a freelancer, or someone who works from home, is that the less time you spend among other people, the more your immune system weakens.   I have it particularly bad because my wife happens to be a teacher and I occasionally go down to the school to help her out or just to pick her up.  The key word here is occasionally.  If I were to go twice as much I’d be okay, and if I were never to go to the school at all, I’d be okay.  The problem is I go just often enough that, seemingly without fail, I bring home some kind of bug.  It has become something a joke around here.  Any time I spend more than a just few minutes at my wife’s school we can count on my being sick in a few days.  Usually, it is not anything serious, of course, but a day or two of running on a half-full engine means a lot when your income is dependent on your being at full power mentally and physically. 

Of course, many of you who are just now experiencing the joys of working from home won’t be in quite the situation I am.  I am scandalously antisocial and tend to avoid contact with other human beings as much as I can.  This means I don’t get calls at 2:00 AM in the morning from some friend asking me to pick up him because he’s too drunk to drive home and, believe me, that is worth a few extra colds a year.  At the same time, I have to be conscious of what I touch.  A good example is my notorious visit to Disney Hollywood Studios in the summer of 2008.  I brought home a nasty bug that essentially had me out of action (for me, of course, out of action means that I may only get two or three articles done a day) or else running on low cylinder for a full week.  If I was a brilliant person, I’d wear gloves whenever I go out in public, but it probably still wouldn’t help.   

Most of you probably are not as antisocial as I am and so won’t be quite as subject to the vagaries of a weakened immune system.  Nevertheless, especially if you are just now embarking upon a life of working from home, it is imperative for you to realize the dangers inherent in this solitary lifestyle.  By withdrawing from society even just eight hours a day during working hours you are immediately going to begin experiencing a weakening of your immune system.  This is doubly true if you are coming from a job, like teaching, where you are dealing with a high level of communicable viruses that you have naturally built up an immunity to.  God help you if you are coming to a solitary existence after working in a hospital or clinical setting.   If you worked as medical transcriptionist in a hospital and go to work doing the same thing on a freelance, be prepared to get sicker more often than you used to. 

Is there anything you can do to help offset the problems associated with a weakened immune system caused by long periods of solitary confinement that comes with working from home?  Well, you’re asking the wrong guy, but the first thing you might try is to get out more often.  Develop a social life away from the home after working hours.  Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after shaking hands with people.  Try not to touch things outside your house as much as possible.   And, like I should, perhaps consider wearing gloves.  Yes, you may get some strange looks, but if your salary is dependent on your being healthy, consider it a form of non-conformist rebellion.