The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) in the UK has released interim findings from its ‘Working at home wellbeing survey 2020’, which seeks to provide information that can help monitor the effects of homeworking on wellbeing. Its findings are drawn from the initial 500 responses to the anonymous survey, which was launched at the end of March 2020, a time when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had made working from home a reality for many. Of those surveyed so far, 71% reported they were working at home as a result of COVID-19.
A key work health and safety interim finding of the survey is a significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints. The findings also note other health-related issues, including that 60% report worry that they are taking less exercise, 33% report a deterioration of diet and 20% state that their alcohol consumption has increased. Of those included in these initial findings, 50% reported not being happy with their current work-life balance, 33% reported frequently feeling isolated and 64% reported a loss of sleep due to worry.
“The COVID-19 crisis has obliged many thousands of employees to become homeworkers, raising issues about the impact of this change on their physical and emotional wellbeing, their morale and their motivation,” researchers Stephen Bevan, Beth Mason and Zofia Bajorek wrote in their interim results report.
The findings suggest that organisations should be doing more to support homeworker wellbeing, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents reporting that their employer had not carried out a health and safety risk assessment of their work from home arrangements. Although the researchers note that the findings suggest work motivation is holding up for most — in particular those in regular contact with their manager — emotional concerns in relation to finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance and family health were also noted.
Of those who have taken part so far, 46% reported managing people in their roles, and that they are working up to five hours longer than they are contracted for each week. In their advice to employers, the researchers suggest making sure home offices are set up in a safe and ergonomic way, and that employees are mobile and take exercise. It is also advised that employers rethink performance targets and monitoring, and provide mental health support via modes such as informational messaging groups, virtual coffee meetings and using technology to have regular contact with managers and between colleagues.
The survey remains open until the end of April, and the researchers will continue to monitor results over time to track changes in wellbeing patterns. Those who have been working at home for at least part of the time over the course of several months, or who have recently started working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are encouraged to take part. “Your assistance will help us build a bigger, more accurate picture of how homeworking is affecting our working lives through these unprecedented times,” IES said about the survey.
A copy of the interim results report is available here.
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