Back in March 2020, when the UK government first imposed a national lockdown in response to the global health crisis, no one could have envisaged how such a dramatic change in working conditions would have long-term implications for both the physical and mental health of workers. Health problems are on the increase from home working according to a survey carried out by a leading furniture company* .
Research shows that the past year of working from home has already extracted a toll on the physical wellbeing of UK workers, with one of the main issues being back pain from a lack of correct equipment. Over half (54%) of UK workers aren’t sitting at a proper desk, with 27% working from their kitchen table and 15% working from their sofa, resulting in a possible 8.2 million UK home workers at serious risk from back problems. The research, which surveyed 2,000 office-based workers who’d been forced into home working, found that men (55%) are more likely to have a desk for working from home than women (41%), whereas nearly one-in-five (18%) 16 to 24-year-olds said they regularly worked from their bed.
Change in eating patterns
It’s not just our working environments that show health problems are on the increase from home working. There’s also been a change to eating habits, with only 26% saying they’d managed to improve their diet when working at home and 37% saying they’d eaten more unhealthy food. A new survey commissioned by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has revealed that 63 percent of people in Britain attribute ‘boredom’, and 45 percent of people attribute ‘stress, anxiety and tiredness’ as being one of their main reasons for eating less healthily than usual during lockdown. Nearly half of people (48 percent) say ‘not feeling motivated enough to eat well’ is one of their key reasons coupled with 30 percent of people claiming that not being able to go to the supermarket as often is making it difficult for them to eat healthily.
Exercise on the decline
Almost four-in-ten have become much less physically active since they started working from home, with the lack of exercise on the commute to work being citied as one reason for a decline in physical activity. The survey also found a difference between males and females when it came to their health. Men were finding more time to do exercise, with 27% managing over half an hour a day, compared to just 19% of women. Looking at our activity levels, with the closure of gyms and many people not being able to get outside as often, the decline in exercise has been highlighted. A lack of motivation is also a factor as we still try and navigate, on a daily basis, this huge change to our lives and mental health.
Nearly two-thirds of the UK public have reported some negative impact on their sleep from the Covid-19 crisis, clearly showing just how unsettling the pandemic and lockdown measures have been for a very large proportion of the UK. This disturbed sleep is clearly tied to both how stressful people have found the virus itself, and how much fear and worry the impact of the lockdown has had on our employment and finances.
It’s not all negative though. The coronavirus pandemic has given some employers, that may not have otherwise considered working from home an option for staff, a practical insight into how it affects their business and employees. It has enabled employers to have first-hand experience of the advantages and disadvantages of home working. This experience can be very beneficial in feeding into the future direction of employees’ working practices moving forward.
From an employers’ perspective we would always recommend that you have robust home working policies in place and ensure that staff undertake a workstation assessment to check that they mitigate themselves from repetitive injury strains and the onset of poor posture and exacerbation of any existing ailments/injuries.
Ensure that you check in on employees to not only monitor effectiveness and performance, but more importantly to check on their health and wellbeing. It is essential to try and maintain social interaction with the team that is not solely about work but is also fun. Actively encouraging breaks and a general healthy attitude all round will provide much needed moral support for all staff.
For further information on how we can assist in home working and other HR advice please contact us here.
*Source: Furniture At Work surveyed 2,000 office workers based in the UK through Opinion Matters.