Public Health Wales research reveals impact of working from home on health and wellbeing
New research published by Public Health Wales has revealed that while the majority of people would like to continue working from home, nearly half surveyed also reported a decline in wellbeing and feelings of loneliness.
The survey, carried out between November 2020 to January 2021 during the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, asked adults in employment in Wales whether they could work from home and the impact of it had on their health and wellbeing.
The survey asked respondents to consider their preferences for the future. Three in five respondents wanted to spend at least some or all of their working week working at home. One in five wanted to avoid home working entirely.
Worse mental wellbeing
Of those who could work at home during the pandemic, almost half reported worsened mental wellbeing (45 per cent) and increased feelings of loneliness (48 per cent).
Groups who were more likely to report these effects included:
- Younger workers in their 30s
- Those who lived alone
- Those with poorer mental wellbeing
- Those living with limiting pre-existing conditions
The effects of working at home had on diet and exercise were more mixed. Whilst four in 10 reported a decrease in their levels of physical activity, three in 10 reported an improvement.
Likewise, approximately one in three reported a poorer diet, while one in four reported an improvement.
Findings provide a reminder that the opportunity for home working may not be accessible to all.
Men, those living in more deprived areas, those in temporary employment and those with poorer mental and physical health were all less likely to report being able to work from home during this time.
Melda Lois Griffiths, Senior Public Health Research Officer, Public Health Wales, said: “Our survey in Wales captured the views of those able to work from home (WFH) at a single time point during the pandemic.
“Whilst our findings are in line with other national studies, it is difficult to separate out the effects of WFH from the impact of restrictions to social contacts during this time.
“Reflecting on the ways in which home working impacted health during the pandemic can help to inform approaches to stay well as we adjust to ways of working going forward.”
Professor Alisha Davies, Head of Research & Evaluation in Public Health Wales, added: “Despite some reporting a negative impact to health while home working during the pandemic, largely people wished to continue working remotely to some extent into the future.
“Other studies have shown that, amongst those who continue to WFH, loneliness has improved but levels of psychological distress remain slightly higher.
“Supporting employers and employees to realise the benefits from home working alongside minimising the potential harms – specifically to mental health, is important.”
Homeworking and hybrid models of work continue here in Wales, and the Welsh Government has announced its long-term ambition is for 30 per cent of the workforce to be working remotely on a regular basis as part of a drive to encourage fairer and more sustainable employment.
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