Employers must make sure they support the health and wellbeing needs of people working remotely, new research suggests.
Occupational health specialist BHSF found that overall employees appreciate the flexibility of home working. When asked how working from home makes them feel, the top three responses were free (50%), in control (47%) and calm (46%).
However, just over a quarter (26%) of those surveyed said that working from home made them feel remote, 24% felt isolated and 21% lonely.
BHSF said that employers need to be aware of these negative feelings associated with working away from the office, and should take steps to make home workers feel included and part of the business.
According to the survey, 25% of employers had made no special adjustments, such as arranging regular face-to-face meetings or providing relevant equipment, to make remote workers feel part of the team.
Older employees -- many of whom have years of experience working in an office -- are most likely to feel lonely and isolated. To address this, employers should consider extra wellbeing support for these people, such as more frequent catch-ups with their line manager.
The survey also found that home working appears to be particularly beneficial for women. Half (50%) said it made them feel calm, compared to 39% of men, and 52% of women said it made them feel free. Employers looking to improve mental health in their organisation should take note of this and explore whether encouraging home working may have a positive effect, particularly for their female employees, BHSF said.
"The results of the survey clearly show that it is not enough to simply offer flexible working to get the best out of employees," commented Dr Philip McCrea, chief medical officer at BHSF.
"Employers must look at how they manage remote workers effectively, supporting their specific health and wellbeing needs to ensure that they get the most out of these employees.
"If implemented in the right way, home working can have a significant positive effect on employees' mental health."
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