As of March 2020, the occurrence of a global pandemic “Covid-19” changed the course of the working world. New habits emerged to reduce the spread of the virus: quarantine and restrictions. For this reason, working from home became the new normal. The sudden implementation of remote work at home begs the question of whether or not it serves or damages employee health.
Downsides of at-home work on employee health:
Before Covid-19, remote work at home wasn’t an option for many employees. Most of them were obliged to undergo a sudden shift in their work life without warning.
Consequently, remote work at home affected employee health negatively:
- Unergonomic workspaces lead to health issues: time was insufficient to ensure a comfortable work setting due to this unexpected switch. According to a survey, 48% of U.S workers don’t have a comfortable desk chair that promotes good posture. In addition, 78% shared a living space to work. The absence of adequate requirements for an acceptable home office contributes to the prevalence of musculoskeletal diseases (source). Furthermore, a study conducted on 424 individuals showed that at-home employees are more prone to vocal fatigue symptoms and muscular pain than office employees.
- Physical and mental health complications stem from increased working hours: Remote work at home consists of back-to-back meetings, which reduces flexibility in the work schedule. 34% of home office workers didn’t have enough recovery periods because of a lack of flexibility (source). Due to poor time management, employees struggle to prioritize time for physical activity and diet practices (source). The findings from a survey concluded that home office employees perform more sedentary activities, which impacts employee health negatively. In addition, reduced resting time affects sleeping quality, which triggers problems in mental health, specifically stress-related symptoms. Usually, office work is interrupted by communication or even outings for lunch. For this reason, in the workspace, time passes fast, and meetings aren’t as intense in quantity and longevity.
Being stuck at home working for long periods can cause social isolation due to a lack of communication and socialization.
- Deterioration in communication is associated with a decline in mental health: Being stuck at home working for long periods can cause social isolation due to a lack of communication and socialization. The results from a survey done by the American Psychiatric Association showed that nearly 66% of home office employees experience isolation and loneliness sometimes. On the other hand, 17% go through these feelings all the time. Just imagine waking up every day to brush your teeth, make yourself a cup of coffee for breakfast, wear your clothes, and sit for hours while you stare at a screen, only for you to finish your day by eating dinner and going to sleep since you are too tired to go out. You spend roughly 24 hours with no social interactions outside of your home. That is no way to live a life. Isolation can generate feelings of loneliness, which leads to heart diseases and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression (source). Prolonged loneliness can even reduce satisfaction in life, which increases the risk of suicide (source).
- Workspace environment affects mental health: Most people undergo challenges at home, especially if they don’t live alone. Those problems can range from being a simple distraction to acts of abuse. A rise in distractions and troubles at home causes a drop in mental well-being (source). For example, if you are constantly distracted by cries for help from your toddler, you won’t be able to concentrate on your work, which will generate stress.
Benefits of at-home work on employee health:
Remote work at home has surprising health benefits as well:
- More time to heal from health problems: Employees, who are working from home, recover faster from illnesses and surgery.
Remote work at home eliminates mental and physical health issues caused by commuting.
- Lessened outings and commuting result in positive health consequences: fewer outings mean less exposure to contagious diseases. In addition, more commuting leads to elevated stress levels, anxiety, high blood sugar levels, and high cholesterol (source). In other words, remote work at home eliminates mental and physical health issues caused by commuting.
Tips on how to improve employee health:
- Amelioration of mental health with flexibility: With the removal of the “back-to-back meetings” regulation, employees could manage their time according to their needs. Based on research, flexibility promotes positive psychological outcomes. Employees will be able to prioritize their mental and physical health by having more time to eat healthy, exercise, rest, develop hobbies, and be at ease. Furthermore, employees will have more time on their hands to improve their relationships, which will boost their mental health. They will have time to deal with their emotions and solve their problems in general. In summary, the key is to maintain a healthy work-life balance (source).
- Setting up an ergonomic workspace: companies should provide their employees, who don’t possess an acceptable office setting in their homes, with the right and sufficient technical equipment. Reduced technical problems result in the betterment of one’s mental well-being by lessening stress levels. Furthermore, employees should set up a comfortable home workspace to prevent physical discomfort such as back pain. (source).
- Promoting mental health support: companies should prioritize social support and ensure a healthy virtual work environment and constant feedback to help their employees cope (source).
- Encourage autonomy: According to research, being autonomous is essential to cope with this new form of work. Employees should choose to set their schedules to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Autonomy also promotes job satisfaction, which aids employee health, specifically mental health.
However, some matters remain pending, such as the lack of in-person communication and the inadequate environment at home. In addition, ensuring technical equipment can be costly for companies, and setting up a comfortable workspace at home can be expensive for employees.
How can Worlk help?
Worlk is a worldwide business community that applies the concept of desk surfing. It gives employers the chance to enrich their employees’ remote working experience. Why should they be limited to working from home? With Worlk, they can work from anywhere in the world!
Worlk can improve employee health in several ways:
- Worlk allows employees to be autonomous and flexible with their schedules since they have the chance to travel and explore while working. As stated earlier, autonomy and flexibility help workers balance their work and their lives, which results in reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
- Employees will receive a ready-to-use office setting with features for physical and mental comfort without spending any money. No more back pain and neck pain!
- New acquaintances will welcome them into their workplace as if they always belonged. They will be part of a healthy work environment, which achieves job satisfaction and positive mental health consequences.
- They will discover new cultures and embark on new experiences, which can generate employee happiness.