While flexible working hours have been preferred by many because of the supposed benefits, experts in the United Kingdom have found that it can actually do more damage than good.
People who work at home or away from the office are part of an "always-on" culture where their work is easily accessible and reachable.
However, they are also more susceptible to falling ill because of the constant stress that comes along with being unable to switch off from their work, researchers said.
The arrangement of work-from-home employees may meanwhile irritate other people who feel that flexible hours provide a more comfortable work-life balance. In turn, work-from-home employees are often isolated socially.
The findings contradict sophisticated campaigns in which the goal is to allow people to achieve a work-life balance in rich economies that often overwork some employees and under-utilize millions of others.
Work-Related Stress And Anxiety
In the UK, the pressure and demands from work have led to work-related depression, stress and anxiety in employees.
According to the Labor Force Survey (LFS), about 440,000 cases of work-related depression, stress and anxiety were recorded in 2014 and 2015. Because of work-related stress and anxiety, almost 10 million working days, or an average of 23 days, have been lost.
In both years, 35 percent of work-related health cases and 43 percent of lost working days were all accounted to stress.
How Have Companies And The Government Responded?
The balance between the demands of work and home life dominates concerns in the government regarding the impact of work on public health.
With that, the government and several companies have encouraged people who work from home and teleworkers with flexible hours, part-time contracts, and unpaid time off to take care of their children. They have also attempted to shut down emails out of working hours, and shorten the work hours. About three years ago, two-thirds of companies reported plans to increase funds on well-being and health policies.
The Effects Of Working From Home
There is, however, a downside to that. University of Bedfordshire Professor Gail Kinman said there is alarm over the potential risks of these health policies.
For instance, people may "graze" through work by refreshing emails and taking calls outside work hours. Studies showed that performing a work task outside office hours by constantly checking emails could increase stress levels.
"If you keep picking at work, worrying about it, your systems never really go down to baseline so you don't recover properly. You might sleep, but you don't sleep properly, the effectiveness of your immune system reduces," said Kinman.
Kinman said other research suggests that people want a quick way to relax, and so they turn to alcohol or comfort food.
The culture of "always-on" forces people to do more, work faster, and multi-task. In a report, Kinman notes a phenomenon called "presenteeism," where people would prefer to work even when they are ill.
Aside from that, work also overlaps time for hobbies, healthy eating, and exercise, Kinman said.
Tips To Stay Healthy While Working From Home
In the United States, at least 30 million individuals work from home, and the number may rise to 63 million this 2016, according to Forrester Research. As the work-from-home labor force faces both benefits and challenges, we've listed down ways to help work-from-home employees stay healthy.
1. Put up your own office at home in a different room. Working in your bedroom may seem comfortable, but it's potentially harmful for your health. If you bring your work materials inside your bedroom, your sleep quality may be compromised. Instead of your bedroom being a place to relax, it will remind you of the work you still have to accomplish. This is how work-related anxiety starts off.
2. Invest in a good chair or use a standing desk. If you work all day in front of your computer, you will be spending at least 10 hours sitting. Chances are, you will feel stiff and your legs, back, and neck will hurt. A comfy chair will help you work properly throughout the day. If you don't like sitting all day, you can use a standing desk to give your back a break.
3. Get up every two hours and go out at least once a day. Experts suggest that people who work from home should stand up at least every two hours. Set a timer to remind you to stand at least every once in a while. Sitting for too long can reduce your metabolism, harm your heart health, and elevate your risks for cancer.
4. Stick to your own work schedule. Because you create your own schedule, you should take advantage of this flexibility. You should prefer to work in a schedule as if you are working in the office, because working at odd hours can harm your mental health.
5. Set time for exercise. Just because you're at home all day, doesn't mean you shouldn't move. You should set time for workouts by either going with friends to the gym or doing functional fitness exercises on your own.
Photo : Del Devries | Flickr