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Working from Home Risks

Posted on Feb. 16, 2017, 6 a.m. in Stress Sleep

A new report from the UN reveals that working remotely increases the risk of unpaid overtime, stress and insomnia.

A recent report issued by the United Nations International Labour Organization states that working remotely heightens stress as well as insomnia. Though working away from a traditional office certainly saves money on gas and vehicle wear and tear, it has several downsides. Those who work from home, coffee shops and other non-traditional environments are much more likely to work unpaid overtime hours, be plagued by stress and the inability to obtain a restful night's sleep.

The UN's study is based on information taken from 15 nations. Researcher found that those who worked outside of a traditional workplace were more productive than their cubicle-trapped peers. However, working remotely brings about longer hours, high-intensity work and plenty of interference from environmental distractions. The study distinguished between those who work at home, those who work at multiple off-site locations and those who work at the office as well as other places.

A Look at the Numbers

Each group reported high levels of stress and more frequent insomnia than those who work on-site at a traditional employer's premise. Slightly more than 40 percent of mobile employees indicated they felt stressed. In comparison, merely one-quarter of traditional office workers felt a degree of stress. Perhaps the most surprising statistic from the study pertains to insomnia. A whopping 42 percent of those who work from home or other locations outside of the office suffer from insomnia. Merely 29 percent of those who work at their employer's building suffered insomnia.

Why the Study's Results are Important

It is clear that working from home or other spaces typically reserved for social activities or one's personal life poses significant risks for employees. However, the study's co-author, Jon Messenger, is adamant that employers should allow staff to work off-site at least on a part-time basis. He indicated that working from home two to three times per week is the “sweet spot”. Workers benefit from face-to-face interpersonal interactions with co-workers. Yet enjoying physical isolation from others helps workers complete tasks in an efficient and accurate manner.

A Reluctance to let Employees Work Remotely

In certain contexts like the country of India, data shows that most employers hesitate to let employees work remotely. The fear is that increased worker autonomy will remove the element of employer control. A lack of control threatens management. Furthermore, many employers do not trust employees to work in a diligent manner when outside of the office.

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The ILO report was co-authored by the Dublin-based research group Eurofound and incorporated data from 10 European Union countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan and the United States.

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