NSC Business and Industry Division news Research/studies Workplace exposures

IOSH report looks at the ‘positive and negative’ of pandemic-prompted remote work

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London — Although many employees “clearly benefited from the increased flexibility and other benefits” provided by remote work arrangements amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many others “found it to be challenging, with poor work-life balance and the inability to connect socially with colleagues,” according to a new research report from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

On behalf of IOSH and other organizations in the Work, Health and Wellbeing Research Consortium, researchers from the occupational health psychology consultancy Affinity Health at Work interviewed workers from five organizations on three occasions between November 2020 and this past June. Employees and managers also participated in a combined 20 focus groups.

The researchers, who looked at how the organizations responded to worker health and well-being challenges related to the pandemic, found that certain themes remained consistent over the eight-month period.

“Employees described a range of work from home challenges, including physical health consequences caused by a lack of office equipment and mental health challenges due to a lack of boundaries,” the report states. “Digital fatigue was a key concern that had not resolved over time.” In addition, the workers cited “increased operational demands,” including greater workloads and an “always on” work culture.

 

However, the employees agreed that their organizations “were consistent in giving employee well-being the highest priority.” That included increased flexibility and amended work targets.

The report includes eight recommendations for employers to help protect worker health and well-being during this and any future pandemics. Among them are communicating the employer’s approach to well-being continually and consistently, as well as prioritizing job design with collaboration from employees.

“This research really brings to life some of the experiences employees have had, both positive and negative, during the pandemic,” Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice at IOSH, said in a press release. “With some people continuing to work remotely while others have moved to a hybrid system as we continue to live with the pandemic, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect the health and well-being of workers, and I hope that organizations might be able to follow some or all of the recommendations.”

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