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Working from home causes drop in many Irish employees' mental and physical health, survey finds

Alcohol consumption and back and neck problems are also on the rise.

Image: Shutterstock/Kite_rin

WORKING FROM HOME is having a negative impact on a large portion of the Irish workforce, with many reporting sleep loss, a drop in physical and mental health and a less healthy lifestyle, a new study has found.  

With vast swathes of the population working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mental Health First Aid Ireland undertook a national survey to guage the effect of the dramatic shift in work patterns.  

The research found that half of respondents are experiencing more fatigue than usual, while 40% also reported a loss of sleep due to worry.

Managing the boundary between work and home life was described as ‘very difficult’ by 42% of respondents, while nearly half of those surveyed said that working longer hours has become a feature of their job.

Despite the extra hours, 59% of people revealed that they are worried about their job security.

A range of musculoskeletal problems, including neck, back and shoulder pain, have also cropped up for around 45% of workers. Over 40% reported experiencing more eyestrain than usual.

Diet and exercise have also taken a hit with 24% admitting to drinking more alcohol, nearly a third saying that they are eating a less healthy diet and 40% exercising less.

Four out of every ten workers were found to be experiencing poor well-being, as defined by the World Health Organisation’s ‘well-being index’. 

Despite the drawbacks more than half of the respondents (57%) said they loved the autonomy of working from home, while 34% said they felt more motivated.

While many are harbouring worries about job security, some 53% still said they felt valued by their employer and almost three quarters (72%) felt trusted by their employers.

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The survey was carried out between mid-May and mid-June and a total of 1,179 people who are working from home responded.

Speaking about the results, Martin Gillick, National Training Co-ordinator for Mental Health First Aid Ireland’s Adult and Workplace programmes said: “Employers repeatedly state that their most important asset is their staff. The results of the survey have shown the challenges that home working and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic present.

These challenges, now more than ever, place an onus on all employers to put in place systems that support the wellbeing of staff.

“These should include both formal and informal supports that foster workplace wellbeing and may include training programmes such as Mental Health First Aid as part of an overarching wellbeing strategy. At the end of the day, a happy and supported workforce is good for business and society.”

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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