Working from home increases stress, insomnia

The opportunity to work from home might seem like a sweet deal, and the expanding availability of digital technology is making it more and more common, but it might not be all that good for one’s health.

According to a recent report from United Nations International Labour Organization, new research has found that people who work from home may actually suffer from more stress and insomnia than those who regularly go into an actual communal workplace.

The new report Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work looked at research on employees in 15 countries and identified both benefits and drawbacks of remote work. The report highlights a number of positive effects, including a better overall work-life balance and higher productivity. The disadvantages, meanwhile, included a tendency to work longer hours, and high stress levels.

“This report shows that the use of modern communication technologies facilitates a better overall work-life balance but, at the same time, also blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations,” said the ILO’s Jon Messenger, co-author of the report.

The authors provide recommendations such as promoting formal part-time teleworking to help people maintain ties with co-workers, and restricting informal and supplemental work involving long working hours.

The issue might seem like an easy one to fix on the surface of it. France, for example, recently passed a “right to disconnect” law, requiring companies to stop trespassing on employees’ personal time with emails and other communications. But it isn’t necessarily that simple.

Though labour lawyer Patrick Thiebart told NPR that burnout and other health issues are on the rise due to an increasing burden digital demands on employees, he also noted that restricting the right to message workers outside of official work hours might not be the solution. One reason is because many businesses operate across several time zones.

However local legislators opt to handle things, it’s easy for individuals to get caught up in work and not feel the time passing. Remote workers could find ways to set boundaries and draw clear distinctions between “working time” and “off time,” as well as take time out to relax and restore.

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