[UK] Half Of Lockdown Homeworkers Unhappy With Work-Life Balance

16 APR 2020

An IES survey has found that half of the employees working from home during the current lockdown are unhappy with their work-life balance, People Management reports.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) conducted a poll of 500 workers, over the last two weeks, and the responses revealed that 50 per cent were not happy with their current work-life balance. 48 per cent of respondents said they were working longer and more irregular hours than under normal circumstances.

33 per cent of respondents reported feeling isolated and 64 per cent had increased concerns over issues like job security and the health of family members which were causing sleep loss. The IES says this problem was compounded by irregular hours.

These figures reportedly represent the interim findings of an ongoing study into the wellbeing of home workers. Stephen Bevan - head of HR research development at the IES and survey lead - said the results “painted a picture of a new home working workforce that faces significant physical and mental wellbeing challenges”. (Link via original reporting)

“Employers need to recognise they are still responsible for the wellbeing of their staff, even when working from home, and there are a number of steps they can take to improve employee wellbeing,” Mr Bevan said.

Additionally, the survey revealed a decline in other measures of wellbeing since the introduction of restrictions on movement. 20 per cent of respondents reported increased alcohol consumption since the lockdown began, while 33 per cent were eating less healthily and 60 per cent admitted taking less exercise.

An increase in physical complaints was also noted. Over half the respondents reported new pains associated with poor posture, including in their necks (58 per cent), shoulders (56 per cent) and backs (55 per cent).

Stuart Nottingham - director of Sun Rehabilitation - said it was not a surprise that a surge in people working from home should be accompanied by an increase in aches and pains. “Health and Safety Executive guidelines state a laptop is a temporary work device because of posture,” he said, pointing out that the majority people working from home will be doing so on a laptop without a proper screen or monitor.

To make matters worse, most dining tables were slightly taller than a standard office desk, adding to bad posture, Mr Nottingham said.

Homeworkers need to lift their laptops on to a riser or stack of books to position it at a comfortable height, and use a separate keyboard and mouse, he said. At a minimum, employers should supply a separate keyboard and mouse to each worker who does not have this equipment at home, he said. “We don’t need to be going into desks and everything else, just do the basics well,” Mr Nottingham advised, and advocated sitting on a pillow to help posture at a dining table if workers need to sit higher.

Mr Nottingham continued by saying that employers needed to ensure workers had a routine, which would help with work-life balance, stress and sleep. Comparing the situation in the UK to that in France where last year legislation was passed giving employers the right to disconnect from work. He said employees should be encouraged to put away their work devices and log off when they have worked their contracted hours each day.

“When people are at work, you're at work. And when you’re not at work you walk away from your desk, you close your laptop and don’t open it again until the next day,” Mr Nottingham said. “You get a routine and you stay in that routine.”