This week is Flexible Working Week, and a great opportunity for employers to consider the health and wellbeing of employees who are working away from the office.
The number of people working from home has grown by 25% over the last five years, with more than eight million employees now working at least one day a week from home. Employers need to be aware of this shift away from conventional offices, and take steps to ensure that their employees stay healthy wherever they work.
Employers with remote workers should consider:
- If the wellbeing strategy fits the evolving needs of employees
- If all services be accessed by employees when working remotely
- If specific benefits should be offered for employees who regularly work from home
Health and wellbeing provider BHSF, found that 37% of home workers reported suffering new back pain since working from home. Even more worryingly, 58% of employees said they had received no help or guidance from their employers about how to set up their workstation at home.
Figures released earlier this year by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) show how significant a problem this is, with 33% of employees having taken a least one day off due to back or neck pain in the last year. More than half of these employees said the problem was triggered by spending long periods of time sitting at their desks. BCA also found that workers with back or neck pain are absent on average for 12 days each year, a significant amount of time to be out of action.
It’s also important for employers to consider their employees’ mental health too. Although BHSF’s survey found that most employees found home working made them feel “calm”, “happy” and “in control”, around a quarter said they felt “isolated”, “lonely” or “remote.”
Those who work at home also find it difficult to switch off. The survey found that 82% of home workers checked their work emails out of hours on a weekly basis. The benefits of downtime, physical activity and a good night’s sleep are well documented. Employers should encourage their employees, including those working from home, to take proper breaks, take time off if sick, and to have a healthy work/life balance.
For flexible working to be a true success, policies could be introduced to put guidelines in place for home workers.
- Where are employees working?
- Do they have the right equipment to support their posture?
- Do they know where to turn to for help with their physical or mental health?
- Do they feel included in their team and the company?
- Do home working practices allow employees to switch off?
Brian Hall, chief operating officer at BHSF said, “As the trend towards home working accelerates, employers need to think much more holistically about their health and wellbeing programmes. If they fail to address the challenges of keeping a more transient workforce healthy, employers can expect to see increased levels of sickness absence.
“We want to work with employers to tackle this issue head-on by providing useful, practical advice that is simple to implement and has a significant positive impact on home workers.”