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Remote work amid COVID-19 pandemic led to spikes in mental, physical issues: survey

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Los Angeles — A recent survey of people who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that nearly three-quarters experienced new mental health issues, while 65% developed new physical issues.

Via an online questionnaire, researchers from the University of Southern California Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy from April 24 to June 11 surveyed nearly 1,000 adults who were working from home. Respondents were from 40 states, and 6.4% were located outside the United States.

Since working from home, 74% of the respondents said they’d experienced a new mental health issue, and 55% said they’d experienced two or more. Those issues included anxiety, sadness, trouble sleeping, low motivation, mental stress and trouble concentrating.

The respondents, on average, spent about 90 minutes more a day working than they did in their office environment before the pandemic. Longer hours were most often associated with having a school-age child at home, having a desk or adjustable chair at a workstation, and the adjustment of specific work hours.

 

“Although it was apparent that the pandemic disrupted our lives in a way that was stressful, we were a bit shocked by the high incidence of new health issues among the home-based workforce so early on in the pandemic,” study co-author Shawn Roll, director of USC’s doctoral program in occupational science, said in a press release.

Roll and his colleagues said organizations that continue hybrid work arrangements should develop supportive policies and resources, along with considering work-life and home-life balances among their workforce. Meanwhile, workers should pay close attention to their feelings of stress, anxiety or musculoskeletal pain, and track their symptoms to help identify how they relate to each other.

The study was published online in Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation; the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; and OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health, the journal of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation.

 

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