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WHO, ILO offer guidance for ‘healthy, happy, productive’ telework

Photo: International Labor Organization

Geneva — As telework grows more common, the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization are encouraging employers to develop programs to help make the practice “healthy and safe.”

In a recent report, WHO and ILO say that “when organized and carried out properly, telework can be beneficial for physical and mental health and social well-being” by improving work-life balance and reducing traffic and commuting time. Flexible work schedules often lead to more time for physical activity and may boost productivity while lowering operational costs. Additionally, telework is associated with decreased air pollution, among other public health and social benefits.

Still, employers must be cognizant of the importance of properly organizing work and arranging home workplace equipment to help prevent workers from developing mental health issues, unhealthy behaviors and musculoskeletal disorders, the organizations say.

Guidance for employers includes:

  • Urge workers to keep regular work schedules and set boundaries on hours; establish individual telework plans and clarify expectations about timelines and expected results.
  • Provide information and training to mitigate psychosocial and mental health impacts of telework.
  • Encourage employees to connect with co-workers for virtual gatherings and informal chats.
  • Encourage employees to take short breaks for physical, social or recreational activities.
  • Ensure workers set up a safe and efficient workstation and practice sound ergonomics by keeping wrists in a straight position when typing or mousing. Keep screens about an arm’s length in front of you and make sure bright light sources remain at the side of the screen.

“Teleworking and particularly hybrid working are here to stay and are likely to increase after the pandemic, as both companies and individuals have experienced its feasibility and benefits,” Vera Paquete-Perdigão, director of the Governance and Tripartism Department at ILO, said in a press release. “As we move away from this ‘holding pattern’ to settle into a new normal, we have the opportunity to embed new supportive policies, practices and norms to ensure millions of teleworkers have healthy, happy, productive and decent work.”

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