Impact of homeworking putting employees at risk

Detrimental impact of home working on the nation’s mental and physical health reveals failings in employers’ duty of care – putting many people at risk

New research by Fellowes Brands reveals:

  • A third of workers (38%) feel stressed / anxious and lonely / isolated (32%)
  • Over 1 in 4 suffer strained eyes (27%), stiff neck (27%), a sore or aching back (26%), and headaches (25%)
  • 1 in 4 (25%) are overwhelmed and almost 1 in 5 feel undervalued (19%)
  • Less than half (49%) have a proper home workstation with 10% admitting to working from their sofa, 5% from their bed and 3% on the floor
  • 45% of workers have NEVER completed a home workstation risk assessment
  • 47% work longer hours when working from home than in the office
  • 65% of workers had to pay for their own home office equipment – spending £1,300 on average

Fellowes Brands is calling on employers and the public to act now to future-proof the health of the nation, as lack of clarity around home working legislation could put workers at risk.

 Fellowes Brands, the leading healthy workspace solutions provider, reveals the alarming impact home working is having on the mental wellbeing and physical health of the nation. Over a third (35%) of UK workers admit feeling stressed or anxious, lonely and isolated (32%) and tired or lacking in energy (38%), while working from home during lockdown.

Inadequate home workstations are putting people’s physical health at risk as less than half (49%) have a proper set-up. Current legislation around home working is outdated and lacks clarity – it is only a legal requirement for employers to provide workstation risk assessments if employees are ‘permanent’ home workers. As home working has increased due to the pandemic, research calls for employers to do more as 10% of people admitted to working from their sofa, 5% from their bed and 3% even worked on the floor! It is no surprise, then, that nearly half (49%) experience more physical strain working from home, with over a quarter suffering strained eyes (27%), stiff neck (27%), a sore or aching back (26%), and headaches (25%).

Top requirements for equipment include better back support from their chair (29%), a new chair (27%) and less time spent sitting down (25%). Employees are also resorting to spending their own money on home working equipment (65%), spending on average, £1,300 – suggesting employees are unhappy with the support they are receiving.

The global pandemic has forced employers and workers to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and embrace a new way of working at home and in the office. But what are employers doing to support their workforce and safeguard their health? And how can we all take steps to create a healthy and happy working environment that supports the flexible home / office workplace of the future?

Employers are failing in their duty of care for home workers

Research reveals that almost 1 in 5 (19%) think their employer does not care about their mental health or wellbeing – putting productivity, results and making money above their welfare. 45% of employees have never completed a workstation risk assessment – potentially putting physical and mental health at risk. 58% don’t know or don’t fully understand what their rights are when it comes to having a safe and healthy home working environment and 59% believe home working should be regulated by the government.

Kizzy Augustin, Health & Safety Partner at Russell Cooke Solicitors says: “Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. The coronavirus pandemic has meant more people are now working from home – a trend we are likely to see continue. This means an increase in flexible or hybrid working between office and home, so employers, need to take responsibility, be proactive and work collaboratively, to continually review and adapt working practices for their employees. Current regulations are somewhat outdated and do not necessarily reflect modern working practices. If there is a permanent shift to new ways of hybrid working – legislation and associated guidance should be updated to ensure it remains relevant and protects the health, safety and welfare of employees.”

Desire to work from home in the future despite lack of support from employers

Despite the common perception that home working means a better work / life balance, nearly half (47%) work longer hours when working from home, compared to in the office, with over 1 in 4 (27%) unable to separate their home life from their work. 1 in 5 feel guilty taking a break and 29% are too busy to do so. More than a third (35%) feel they need to be available at all times throughout the day and over 1 in 4 (29%) say their employer rarely or never encourages them to take time away from their desk when working from home.

While working from home is placing physical strain on workers and negatively impacting their mental health, most people (89%) are keen to continue working at home in the future; enjoying the greater flexibility (60%). However, most (63%) would feel more motivated and productive if they had a better home working environment yet 42% say their employer did not support them in creating a good working from home set-up.

Fellowes Brands is calling for employees’ health and wellbeing to be more of a key focus for the future, as just 29% of senior-level decision makers are considering the introduction of specific guidelines or regulations around home working, welfare or equipment provision, and only 28% will be making a conscious effort to increase focus on employee health and wellbeing.

Ergonomist and physiotherapy expert, Emma Crumpton, says: Many people have had to make changes to their usual working practices and have set up workstations at home as a response to the Pandemic. These measures, whilst hopefully temporary, are likely to be a feature of working life for the foreseeable future. It is vital for our health and wellbeing, as well as our productivity and job satisfaction that adequate assessment, equipment provision and adjustments to work practices and workstations are made to reflect these changes and reduce associated risks. Visit the Fellowes Brands website for top tips to help you stay healthy while working at home or the office:

Complete your own home workstation risk assessment here and share with your HR team or appropriate member of staff or line manager.

Jeremy Cooper, UK Marketing Manager, Workplace Health Division at Fellowes Brands UK says: “It is essential that employers identify both the physical and emotional needs of their staff. We need to go beyond the office and embrace a work environment that is adaptable and supportive for all ways of working. Fellowes Brands has a range of ergonomic products and services, including back supports to laptop risers, to help maintain a healthy, happy and productive workplace, whether in the office or in the home.”