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Working from home is here to stay. Back in September, after Boris Johnson encouraged people to return to their normal workplaces, the percentage of employees working from home exclusively declined to 21%. A month later, with the prime minister pivoting on his initial call, the percentage of UK employees working remotely rose to 24%, and can potentially climb higher in the coming months — perhaps as high as or even higher than the 38% recorded by the Office for National Statistics back in June.
In fact, HomeWorkingClub founder Ben Taylor believes that working from home will, indeed, be the new normal. And HomeWorkingClub’s latest poll on remote working backs this claim up, with 1 in 3 employees admitting that they’ll change jobs if not offered a work-from-home arrangement. Moreover, 90% of those surveyed say that this pandemic has broken barriers to remote working, thus leaving employers little to no choice but to make it available.
This, of course, is great news for employees, who'll potentially save £800 a year on commuting, £154 annually on work clothes and bags, £114 yearly on coffees and teas and £1,580 a year on lunch. That said, the work-from-home setup isn't without issues. It might actually be impacting employees' wellbeing in a negative way.
According to the Working at Home Wellbeing Survey conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) early this year, over 50% of those polled reported new aches and pains, with 58% reporting neck pain, 56% reporting shoulder aches, and 55% reporting back discomfort. Just as worrying, 20% of respondents admitted to drinking more alcohol, while 60% said they have exercised less. Worse, 64% suffered from loss of sleep, and another 60% experienced symptoms of fatigue. In other words, the wellbeing of employees working from home is being compromised.
That's not to mention the mental health strain that working from home can cause! The same survey found that 50% of work-from-home employees aren't happy with their current work-life balance, in part due to feelings of isolation brought about by remote work and in part due to external concerns, like connectivity, productivity, and even job security. These can all pile up, and cause dips in performance, or worse,result in employees getting sick. However, it is possible to nip this potentially serious problem in the bud by emphasising wellness right off the bat, and actually doing something to ensure it.
Now, in case you're one of those working from home, here as some simple wellness tips to keep in mind:
1. Perform simple exercises. Anyone spending hours working are at risk of pain and discomfort, particularly in the neck and shoulders. They are to be expected, with Pain Free Working attributing them to a variety of causes, like leaning forward too much and uneven desk and shoulder height. Fortunately, you can perform easy exercises that’ll provide quick relief. In particular, look to do shoulder and neck stretches, along with the double chin (where you lean your head forward and tuck your chin in) and some shoulder rotations.
2. Take breaks. Part 2 of the 'How to Work Effectively from Home During Lockdown' series suggested taking the same coffee and lunch breaks at home as you would if you were working in the office. Whilst doing so, look to liaise with family or friends,whether physically or virtually. That's because these breaks are a great way to relax, and share with others work-related issues that could be stressing you out.
3. Don't do everything all at once. In a BBC compilation of work-from-home tips, literary editor Hannah Allyse Kim warns against doing too much. In short, don't pressure yourself into immediately finishing tasks outside of work, like home renovations or organising your things. Work can get toxic enough, so cut yourself some slack! Look to recharge as often as possible by finding some much-deserved 'me time'.
To be fair, there are many benefits to working from home, like scheduling flexibility, eliminating the need for energy-sapping commutes, and better opportunities for work-life integration. But if one's well-being isn't emphasised enough, these benefits will go for naught. This is why wellness is now so important.
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