Return to Work or Stay at Home Working?
As most employers are taking a cautious approach to reopening workplaces it is clear that remote work remains widely prevalent. Many human resource (HR) experts agree that these accommodations will be made permanent for some of the workforce which were not working from home before. Naturally, remote work is contingent on the specific industry and job position. For example, remote work is more suitable for finance, insurance and professional services compared to retail and manufacturing. Nevertheless, the growth of remote working is apparent – it is here to stay.
A recent survey by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that over 70% of salaried employees can work from home and effectively perform their jobs. Interestingly, a Harris Poll of 1,200 US employees commissioned by Zapier stated that 80% can better manage interruptions from coworkers and 65% believed their productivity had increased since they moved out of the office.
However, we know working from home is an adjustment for many and harbors both physical and mental health risks. The current Working from Home Wellbeing survey from the UK-based Institute of Employment Studies paints a concerning picture going by the interim findings:
- A significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints: more than half of the survey respondents reported new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58%), shoulder (56%) and back (55%).
- A deterioration of diet and exercise with 20% of respondents admitting to an increase in alcohol consumption, 33% eating a less healthy diet, and 60% exercising less.
- Poor sleep and increased risk of exhaustion: 64% reported a loss of sleep due to worry and corresponding increased symptoms of fatigue (60%), likely linked to working patterns that include long and irregular hours (reported by 48%).
- Mental health at risk with 50% reporting not being happy with their current work-life balance, 33% frequently feeling isolated, 21% being worried about job security and 41% worrying about their family members’ health.
Employers are not sitting idly by but rather have recognized the wellbeing challenges of remote working and are offering resources to their employees. The above mentioned survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions reported 53% of US employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce, from professional psychotherapy to online resilience programs to regular check-ins with employees. At the same time telemedicine is rapidly becoming a regular feature, often with waived co-pays. Other key strategies include ergonomics programs and provision of ergonomic furniture, digital wellness platforms including exercise, healthy eating and coaching programs and also the reorganization of work processes.
To learn more about the Working from Home Wellbeing survey (updated findings) and workplace strategies from around the world join the Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces webinar on May 5 at 11am EDT / 5pm CET: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/webinar-working-from-home-what-is-the-impact-on-wellbeing-registration-103687624476.
Return to work guides:
Randstad-Adecco-ManpowerGroup – Safely Back to Work in the New Normal
SHRM-IOE – Return to Work During COVID-19