Global Health & Safety insights: The top 3 factors influencing remote working wellbeing
12 April 2021
Remote working wellbeing is becoming a hot topic as companies navigate the route out of lockdown. The demand for homeworking is clearly there: half of employees report that they would quit their job if their employer would not allow flexible working after lockdown. Ministers are planning to introduce more legislation around this and are currently drafting plans to strengthen employees’ rights to work from home. So, it all sounds positive with steps being made to make this a more permanent feature of British working life. But to what extent has working from home achieved real benefits in terms of increased wellbeing for employees?
Before we push forward into a more permanent flexible-working style, it is useful to reflect on the lessons we have learned from a year of working from home. What does homeworking ‘best practice’ look like? And what steps can organisations take to ensure that homeworking leads to positive increases in employee wellbeing?
To understand remote working wellbeing across the global landscape, Lloyd’s Register surveyed 5,500 people globally. They measured everything from different countries’ transitions to homeworking, to how employees think the future workplace should look.
We have rounded up 3 key factors identified by the survey as impacting employee wellbeing while working from home.
1. A safe working environment
A safe working environment is a basic right of any employee but has traditionally only been concerned with the organisation’s main base, such as the office. Before homeworking was commonplace, the importance of a safe homeworking environment could easily be overlooked.
The global survey revealed that through the transition to homeworking:
- Only 23.9% of workers had received a home office risk assessment
- 25% of employees received no consultation at all regarding the way they worked
These figures are undoubtedly concerning and may reflect a lack of awareness on how to manage homeworking. For health and safety professionals, working from home and managing the risks of each individual set-up may seem like an incredibly daunting process.
But home office risk assessments need not be time consuming or costly. In fact, employees themselves can conduct them with the correct training.
E-learning is an effective tool to provide training to employees that they can complete at their own pace and from their own home working space. Ideagen offer a complete solution to inform and educate employees on best practice for home worker environments.
2. Managing stress and workload
If the only difference in working practice is the location, surely it follows that there is no cause for increased stress or workload. However, this study found compelling evidence that across-the-board employees are feeling more stressed, working longer hours and are closer to burning out:
- 70% have seen an increase in work-related stress levels
- 32% say that reduced capacity has led to higher stress levels and workload
- 22% are working longer hours than before
The impact of increased stress levels on productivity, engagement and employee satisfaction is huge. Managing work-related stress should be a priority for all organisations, and there are actions managers can take to mitigate the risk of stress. The first step is understanding what best practice in the prevention, reduction and management of work-related and personal stress is.
3. Focus on mental wellbeing
The survey also observed that the mental impact of homeworking was having a detrimental effect on overall wellbeing for remote workers:
- 48% felt negatively about working from home, with working longer hours, feelings of isolation and higher levels of anxiety all cited as reasons
- 50% of employees believe their employer places greater emphasis on physical safety, rather than general well-being
- 48% thought that disclosing a mental health condition would impact their career progression within their current organisation
Again, these statistics are certainly concerning when taken alone. It is worth remembering that these findings should be understood in the broader context of the pandemic and the immense stressors that brings.
Nonetheless, this evidence reveals the need for organisations to focus on mental wellbeing for remote workers.
Interestingly, their findings also revealed that employees are almost twice as likely to feel comfortable sharing a mental health concern with a peer, when compared with a member of HR or senior management. So, training teams on how best to support each other may be an effective strategy to manage this.
Health & safety implications for remote working and wellbeing
Overall, the survey found that although employees recognise the potential for homeworking to improve work-life balance, this does not automatically translate to improvements in employee wellbeing. In fact, global figures indicate that employee wellbeing is in decline.
Although it is important to keep these results in perspective of the broader picture, they clearly demonstrate that organisations are not yet fully harnessing the benefits that homeworking can achieve.
Homeworking clearly presents an opportunity to deliver benefits to employee health, wellbeing and productivity, and employee demand for it is significant. However, the more we learn about existing homeworking habits, the clearer it becomes that there are emerging sets of mental health risks associated with poor homeworking practices.
To be positive agents of change, there are several steps organisations can take, including:
- Be thorough in ensuring the correct H&S processes are followed to equip employees with the tools they need to create a safe working environment, wherever this may be
- Be proactive in balancing the provision of physical and mental health support
- Be innovative with new approaches of delivering H&S management, including monitoring, measuring and training
- Utilise the strong framework provided by ISO 45001 to review the effectiveness of occupational health and safety management systems
The move towards homeworking reflects a turning point for health & safety professionals. At Ideagen, we are here to help your organisation keep up with these increasing demands and meet your H&S goals.
Discover our wide range of health & safety e-learning courses, including those focused on enhancing remote working wellbeing.
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