What health benefits does working from home bring? Psychiatrist: “In general, people felt more productive at home”

A meta-analysis shows that working from home brings major health benefits, but also disadvantages, such as antisocial working hours.

Working from home brings benefits to employees' health – Photo Archive

A number of 1,930 researches related to working at home showed what are the advantages and disadvantages of this way of working. Working from home allows people to eat healthier, feel less stressed and have lower blood pressure, according to a large-scale review of the academic literature on post-pandemic workplaces, The Guardian reports.

But people who work from home are also more likely to snack, drink more, smoke more and gain weight, the study by researchers from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and King's found College London.

If employers think that home workers are lazy, they should think again, because studies suggest that these people are less likely to take sick leave, tend to work longer hours, and even work late at night or on weekends.

Work from home culture

The meta-analysis, led by UKHSA's Charlotte Hall, looked at 1,930 academic papers on home working, teleworking and other types of hybrid and home work in an attempt to distil the often conflicting research.

Homework should be treated as seriously as office work, says Professor Neil Greenberg, a psychiatrist at King's College London and one of the authors of the study.

In the old days of office work, people realized that if you put everyone in the same room with no soundproofing, everything was unpleasant and you didn't have a very productive workforce. Now that we've moved to a work-from-home culture, it makes sense for organizations and the government to ensure that people who work from home do so in the most efficient way possible.“says psychiatrist Neil Greenberg.

The psychiatrist said research shows there are winners and losers in many areas of home work. The work environment depended on how much space there was at home, the equipment available, and how much control workers had over their day.

If people with higher incomes often enjoyed working at home more, those who had more responsibilities at home, such as childcare or housework – often women and those living alone – tended to be more stressed.

In general, people felt more productive at home. It was especially good for creative stuff, but much harder to deal with boring stuff. Many people were worried about their career prospects – the feeling that if you are not present at the office, you will be overlooked,” Greenberg said.

The health of employees who work from home

In terms of health, the shift to working from home during Covid has been linked “of an increase of the consumption of vegetables, fruits, dairy, self-prepared snacks and meals; younger workers and women benefited the most in terms of healthier eating“, the study highlights.

One research reviewed found that 46.9 percent of employees who work from home gained weight, and another study estimated the percentage to be 41 percent. Most of the papers reviewed showed that those who work from home are more sedentary.

Managers had to think about finding ways to support those who work from home and help create their work environment. There is a saying in science that at some point we have to stop admiring the problem and think about solutions. We know quite a lot now. So we have to ask ourselves “what is the best training for a person who will become a part-time home worker?”. What we must not do is ask ourselves 'would it be useful to train a person to do the work at home? The answer is clearly yes“, explained the psychiatrist.

Returning to the office

Some companies have asked employees to return to the office full-time after the Covid pandemic is over. For example, the JP Morgan company required managers to be present five days a week.

If companies like JP Morgan are afraid that people at home will be lazy or not do a good job and they can't keep an eye on them, then I think it's an outdated conceptGreenberg said.

He points out that denying options to work from home will mean that talented employees can find other jobs. That will make companies less flexible in the event of future crises, such as another health emergency, strikes or severe weather that prevents people from getting to the office, the specialist adds.

“If they only do it out of fear, then they risk being left behind. We have examined a huge amount of evidence over the last few years and what our analysis shows is that there are ways to make the home working approach work well for the organization and also for the employee“, says the teacher.

The analysis was published in the Journal of Occupational Health.