Study links working remotely to more stress, insomnia

February 15, 2017
Credit: George Hodan/public domain

Working outside an office may spare you from commutes and interruptions by colleagues but it also makes you more vulnerable to unpaid overtime, stress and insomnia, the UN said Wednesday.

A new report from the United Nations International Labour Organization studied the impacts of working remotely, with continuing to revolutionise conceptions of the workplace.

Based on data taken from 15 countries, the ILO found that employees were more productive while outside of a conventional office but noted it also brought risks of "longer working hours, higher work intensity and work-home interference."

The report drew distinctions between employees who regularly work at home, highly mobile people constantly working in different locations and those who split time between an office and another site.

All three of those groups reported higher stress levels and more incidents of insomnia than those who always work at their employer's premises.

For example, 41 percent of highly mobile employees said they felt some degree of stress, a figure that was 25 percent for office workers.

A full 42 percent of people who always work from home or from multiple locations reported suffering from insomnia, compared to 29 percent for people who work at their employer's site.

Overall, there were clear risks linked to "the encroachment of work into spaces and times normally reserved for personal life," the report said.

But co-author Jon Messenger encouraged employers to try letting staff work offsite part time.

"Two to three days working from home seems to be that sweet spot", he told reporters in Geneva.

There is evidence that people need some face-to-face contact with colleagues, but there are times when physical isolation and autonomy offers the best scenario for successfully completing a task.

In some contexts, notably including India, evidence suggested that employer's were reluctant to let their staff remotely because "it involves ceding an element of control" which makes "managers feel threatened", Messenger said.

ILO urged governments to develop policies for governing evolutions in workspace, calling attention to a new French labour code provision that enshrines "the right to be disconnected" and a growing practice among some companies to shut down servers to stop emails during designated rest times and holidays.

The ILO report was co-authored by the Dublin-based research group Eurofound and incorporated data from 10 European Union countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan and the United States.

Explore further: Lack of sleep costing US economy up to $411 billion per year

More information: Report: Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work >> www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_544138/lang—en/index.htm

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cigarskunk
not rated yet Feb 15, 2017
It's not an honest study because it doesn't reflect those who WFH on a fixed schedule.

I can WFH and frequently do so, but I only work my fixed hours - 830-500.

While I don't deny that I take less breaks and a shorter lunch WFH I don't work past my normal hours and thus don't encounter any stress nor do I find WFH intrudes into my personal life.

So it ultimately comes down to how you WFH - yes, if you find yourself doing work after dinner and during family time, it sucks, but if you stick to your normal hours then losing that commute rocks.
trutherator
not rated yet Feb 16, 2017
There is a pitiful lack of explanatory detail here, and it would be foolish for any employer to assume that the apparent conclusions of the study are applicable to his situation.

There is a lack of data about the variability in this survey, and their relationship with the reporting. Mostly to me, self-reporting and supposedly "measuring" such an unavoidably subjective thing as "stress" is one of the wackiest tendencies in studies like this.

What about cultural variability. India seems to be included, or was it?
What about measuring the changes in the reports, the results, over time? Is it simply a phenomenon of changing times?
What about it being more stressful for some and not for others?
I have worked remote and it was GREAT. It was a LOT LESS STRESS.
==> What percentage reported LESS stress, LESS insomnia?
==> What about the results for different kinds of jobs?

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