Remote working has mixed effect on wellbeing, stress and productivity

remote working and wellbeingNuffield Health has released a review of remote working and its impact it on companies and their staff. According to The effects of remote working on stress, wellbeing and productivity (registration), while remote and flexible work help people deal with the conflicting demands of their lives, the evidence is unclear on how they affect productivity, stress and wellbeing.

The whitepaper analyses existing research, providing insights and recommendations for employers to make remote work a success.

The independent report, conducted with University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and written in partnership with Public Policy Projects, systematically reviewed published literature examining the associations between remote working and stress, wellbeing, health and productivity. The included studies drew upon over 7,000 individuals, looking at organisations of all sizes and across a number of different sectors.

The report suggests that remote working can provide employees with the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands, making it key to attracting and retaining talent. However, while it was linked to positive wellbeing, existing research wasn’t conclusive on the impact on levels of stress or productivity, due to mixed results.


A positive impact on wellbeing

Where remote working is a standard part of a working week, Nuffield Health suggests it is important for employers to offer training on how to manage the unique demands of remote working, to ensure it benefits both the organisation and the employee. For example, if remote working is undertaken at home it is important to ensure separation of work and home life so that home does not become a place more of demand and less of restoration.

Overall remote working was found to be positive on wellbeing. Where negative effects were found, it was largely the result of individual traits or factors that can be addressed organisationally, such as ensuring appropriate technology to enable seamless access to work material.

Following the review, Nuffield Health has made several recommendations for employers, including:

  • An organisation wide policy is needed with regards to remote working
  • Remote working requires considerable management time and effort to make it work successfully
  • Mental health wellbeing needs to be seen by employers as a vital part of their responsibilities, consideration for the impact working remotely can have on an employee’s mental health needs to be considered
  • Managers need to foster social and professional interaction, providing a sense of belonging to a bigger group. Problems that may arise from isolation, stress and mental ill-health need to be understood and advice and help provided.
  • A “one size fits all approach” should never be taken when it comes to individual staff working remotely
  • Trust between the manager and the employee is vital for remote working to succeed
  • Assuming the remote worker is based mainly at home, or using it as a base, it must be established whether the employee has suitable space; Employees working at home are likely to need a desk, chair, computer, broadband, phone and storage for any sensitive materials.

Dr Ben Kelly, Head of Clinical Research & Outcomes, comments: “Remote working is likely to continue to increase, changing the workplace dynamic. Remote working can provide the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands, making it key to attracting and retaining talent.

“The whitepaper has reviewed the limited available quality evidence to provide appropriate recommendations to employers in the UK. The health and wellbeing of a workforce can have huge implications not just on the employee but also the organisation and the wider economy. By ensuring we are looking after the physical health, mental health and wellbeing of employees we are able to sustain a healthier, happier workforce.”