Health promotion in the home office – Topic overview
Health promotion in the home office
Since the Corona pandemic, the number of employees who work partly from home has risen sharply. In 2022, about 60% of office workers worked at least partly from home and about 15% did a third of their work from home. In addition to structural challenges, many companies also face a shrinking impact on employee health and well-being. This article serves as a guide for home office health promotion and provides valuable tips.
Not all home offices are the same
Home office commonly refers to working from home within one’s own four walls. Legally, however, this can be divided into two groups.
In the case of so-called teleworking, it is contractually stipulated that an employee does the work from private premises, but purely decentralised, without a workplace being made available in the company. In addition, there are occupations where the work performance is provided for both in the company and in the private premises of an employee. This is called alternating telework. In telework, work equipment must be provided by the employer and work in private premises is regulated by the Workplace Ordinance.
In the case of mobile work, work in the private premises is not provided for by contract, so there is no workplace outside the company. This means that the Workplace Ordinance does not apply to mobile work. This results in additional need for action for occupational health management.
Maintain a setting approach to health promotion in the home office
A main component of workplace health promotion (WHP) is the setting approach (lifeworld approach). On the one hand, this approach aims to strengthen the individual skills and resources of workers in the setting, e.g. in the company, at the behavioural level. The individuals in this setting should be actively involved in shaping it. In addition, structures should be created at the relationship level within the framework of health promotion, which enable a health-promoting working environment. The setting approach also applies to the working environment at home and should also be applied there to ensure health promotion in the home office.
Which health burdens are most common in the home office?
In a broader sense, health-related stresses can be divided into psychological, physical and psychosomatic stresses. The latter expresses itself in a symptomatology that is characterised by both physical and emotional complaints.
The most frequently mentioned psychosomatic complaint is exhaustion due to work. A large proportion of employees complain of partial to constant symptoms of exhaustion. In 2020, about 15% of employees said they were constantly exhausted. Concentration problems in connection with psychosomatic complaints are also frequently mentioned. The number of those affected rose by about 10% from 2020 to 2022 to almost 62%.
Emotional and psychological stress has increased throughout society since the Corona pandemic. In the workplace context, more than two-thirds of the people surveyed say they suffer from anger/annoyance at least some of the time, and the same number say they feel burnt out rarely to constantly. Slightly more than every tenth person states that they feel burnt out all the time.
Working in a home office can lead to a lot of additional stress if employees are not able to get rid of the work in their minds. Especially in the home office, it is often difficult to switch off due to the mixing of private and professional boundaries. This is referred to as cognitive irritation, which describes the fact that problems from everyday work are dealt with in the mind after work. Although fewer people were affected by this in 2022 than in the two years before, 16% of employees report not being able to switch off after work and only a quarter do not see themselves affected by cognitive irritation at all.
Musculoskeletal disorders have been the undisputed top cause of sick leave in companies for years, accounting for 21.5%, or about one fifth. In the home office, back and joint complaints are the most frequently cited physical health problems. 62.8% of homeworkers state that they rarely to constantly suffer from these complaints. 14.3% said they suffer from them all the time. Only 21.% of employees were free of physical complaints in the home office in 2022, which is a slight decrease compared to the previous years 2020 and 2021.
What are the starting points for health promotion in the home office?
Psychological stress often arises in the home office as a result of a lack of soft skills.
As is often the case in life, opportunities are linked with risks and advantages with disadvantages and must be weighed against each other. The same applies to work and health promotion in the home office. On the one hand, employees have gained a high degree of flexibility and autonomy. Many employees find it easier to “get everything under one hat”. For example, errands such as doctor’s appointments, domestic obligations such as childcare and private interests such as sports can be better integrated into the daily routine. For families in particular, this can relieve the burden and increase well-being. On the other hand, it increases the demand for discipline, personal responsibility, self-regulation and time management. Especially for people who need fixed structures and employees under 30, this can quickly become overwhelming. Acquiring these soft skills is necessary in order not to be distracted within one’s own four walls, but mainly in order to leave unfinished work lying around when working hours are fulfilled. This applies both to active work on the desktop and to intellectual engagement with work-related topics.
Social isolation influences mental health
Working from home often eliminates a significant part of the social environment. Often, the close interaction with colleagues creates a “we-feeling”, which helps to absorb the workload. In addition, the many encounters in the office offer the opportunity to talk about stressful issues. Studies show that the perceived social isolation increases after about three days in the home office if the necessary contact with colleagues is missing.
Physical complaints as a result of lack of movement / ergonomics
Since working in a home office with mobile work does not fall under the workplace ordinance, very few employers provide ergonomic office equipment due to the high costs involved. Employees therefore set up the second workplace themselves, whereby the ergonomic requirements are often not met. In addition to putting more strain on the spine, an unergonomic workplace promotes imbalances, tension and headaches due to one-sided strain. Additional physical strain arises in the home office through lack of movement due to shorter and less frequent walking distances.
Quelle(n) und weiterführende Links
- Quelle: Fehlzeiten-Report 2022: Verantwortung und Gesundheit | SpringerLink
- Weiteres: Schreibtischarbeit – gesundheitswissenschaftliche Einordnung