Despite the UK coronavirus lockdown easing, official government guidelines still state that if people can work from home, then they should continue to do so. While this will change in the coming months, the reality is that many employees face the probability that their home working days certainly aren’t over.
However, while working from home does afford a number of benefits for employees, it also presents numerous challenges, many of which can impact on an individual’s health.
Recent research from insurer Canada Life revealed that more than one in three employees (35%) has continued to work from home while feeling unwell during lockdown. It’s a reality that highlights just how rife presenteeism is among home workers.
When quizzed about the reasons for continuing to work from home despite feeling unwell, 40% of respondents said they did not feel as though their illness justified taking time off. Meanwhile, 26% said their workload was too large to take time off, even for sickness.
However, the number one reason given for being present at home while sick was fear of repercussions. Indeed, 41% of 26-34-year-olds, 33% of 18-25-year-olds and 20% of over-55s worked from home while unwell.
One in five workers said their colleagues or senior members of staff made them feel guilty about taking time off.
The ‘always on’ work culture that many organisations seem to have developed over the years is often cited as one of the main reasons for presenteeism. At a time when individuals are already suffering mentally and physically, there is a significant chance that productivity will be negatively impacted.
Faced with increasing work pressure, especially when working from home, many individuals are turning to alcohol.
Research commissioned by connectivity firm 99&One revealed how more than one in four (26%) home workers are using alcohol to help them cope with work-related stress. Sadly, this is actually a fraction more than would switch off their phones in response to being stressed (25%).
Meanwhile, 16% said they would tell colleagues they were taking a break offline and 17% said they would put their phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode.
In March UK alcohol sales increased by 22%, suggesting that many people were drinking more at that time.
Finally, the lockdown has had a profound effect on workers’ sleeping habits, with research revealing that almost two-thirds (63%) of people have witnessed the quality of their sleep deteriorate since March.
The research, undertaken by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori, also found that 39% had slept fewer hours per night than before the lockdown was announced. Financial worries and stress associated with the coronavirus pandemic were given as the main reasons for this sleep deficit.
Conversely, 29% said that they had actually slept for more hours per night, but felt less rested than they would typically the following morning. This was a particular problem among 16- to 24-year-olds, 44% of whom cited it as an issue.
With three separate pieces of research highlighting the reality of home working, there is no denying that there is a problem here that needs to be addressed. For employers, health insurance products have perhaps never been so important.