The Institute of Employment (IES) recently carried out a survey to evaluate the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of employees have been forced to work from home raising concerns around the possible impacts this might have. Employers will have to attempt to manage these impacts including deterioration in mental and physical wellbeing, work morale and motivation.

Their survey considers the following:

  • Whether employees feel trust with their employers
  • Whether they are worried about job security
  • Have employees lost sleep worrying about finance, family, health, work-life balance, etc, and is this affecting their work morale?

Launched in March 2020, the survey was designed for homeworkers to measure their wellbeing whilst working from home during COVID-19.

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Physical Wellbeing

The survey asked homeworkers, ‘how often have you had this condition in the last 2 weeks compared to normal?’ More than half of respondents suffered from aches/pains in neck, shoulder and back, eye strain, headaches or migraines and loss of sleep from worry resulting in fatigue. Less than half experienced aches/pains in knees, hips, wrist/hand and elbow, heartburn or indigestion, leg cramps and chest pain. 

These results illustrate that working at home as a result of COVID-19 is having an affect on many components of employee physical health. It also illustrates that a good ergonomic set up plays a significant part in employee’s physical wellbeing at work.

Emotional Wellbeing

It’s clear that the current situation is also having a detrimental influence on the emotional wellbeing of homeworkers. A significant amount of employees stated that they don’t feel rested, calm or relaxed. In addition feeling inactive and having no interest in their day, was noted. Some respondents also felt anxious about the health of family members and friends. 

It was recorded that respondents were also worried about family finance and job security. Loneliness and isolation featured heavily in responses with many suggesting they don’t feel cheerful or in good spirits. 

Mental Wellbeing

The survey used the WHO-5 well-being index to determine the mental health of employees working from home. This suggested that those who are suffering most are:

  • looking after elderly relatives; 
  • living with parents or renting;  
  • new to home renting; 
  • working more than 10 hours longer than contracted per week; and 
  • in less frequent contact with their boss and younger workers.

These categories cover the vast majority of employees working at home. It’s clear this situation is having an impact on thousands of people’s mental wellbeing across the country. 

Other health concerns

It was noted that over almost half of respondents worried that they were exercising less, they did not have enough time to get their work done and were working long and irregular hours. 

A significant percentage of home-workers admitted they were under too much work pressure, their alcohol consumption had increased, they were eating less healthily and had continued working despite illness.

Action for employers

The overall findings from the survey suggest that there has been a significant decline in both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home. Results show that musculoskeletal health, diet and exercise has declined in the majority of homeworkers. 

However, the effects aren’t just physical, increased emotional concerns over finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance and family health were also recorded from the respondents. 

It’s clear that many employees working from home are facing a challenging time and support from fellow employees and most importantly employers is crucial during this crisis to maintain wellbeing, work morale and motivation.

There are a number of simple steps that employers should consider taking, as well as the normal compliance requirements around ergonomic set up (Display Screen Equipment). We recommend supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of employees with regular check ups – informal messaging groups or virtual coffee mornings are a good place to start. Regular contact with bosses and colleagues, particularly those at ‘high risk’ is essential. In addition, access to an Employee Assistance Programme would be valuable. 

We would also recommend that performance targets and monitoring may need to be adjusted accordingly, this may involve the reallocation of tasks and priorities.

If you would like support developing strategies for managing the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees who are working from home please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: