WFH - The challenges mentally and physically

Posted by Kate Whitebread 08/04/2020 0 Comment(s)

Working from home creates significant physical and mental challenges.


April 7th saw the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) publish a series of interim findings for their first of many COVID-19 homeworker wellbeing studies, which directly looked at how working from home for an extended period of time is affecting the UK workforce; with a direct emphasis on the challenges, physically as well as mentally. These initial findings depict a worrying snapshot of the declining mental and physical health of many homeworkers.


The interim findings have been drawn from 500 respondents during the first two weeks of the lockdown. The data has been analysed by the IES to produce a preliminary picture of how UK homeworkers have been impacted and the direct difference between remote working and office work. The first two weeks of lockdown have brought on significant changes to our daily lives, noticeably how we work. A key finding within the first two weeks of the mandatory lockdown was that there has been a compelling increase in musculoskeletal complaints. More than half of the 500 respondents expressed discomfort, especially in the neck (58%), shoulder (56%) and back (55%) in comparison to their ordinary physical condition. Although these statistics may seem staggering to some, ergonomists would have quite easily predicted these, knowing full well that most will not have a dedicated space to work for extended periods as well as not possessing the right furniture and equipment to support them throughout the working day.


Key Physical Statistics:



Looking after homeworker wellbeing:



The report found that 75% of respondents said their employer has not carried out a health and safety risk assessment of their home working arrangements. This is where we believe the problem lies. Although working on your bed may seem like it has its benefits (the easiest commute of your life), from an ergonomic stand point its the last place you should be working. For those who are yet to set up a dedicated home workspace please refer to DS’ Guide to Working From Home for tips to creating a productive workspace. However in the meantime conducting a health and safety risk assessment is of the utmost importance. We at DS are specialists in providing risk assessments which combines providing ergonomic recommendations and the supply of furniture and equipment if required.


How has working from home impacted mental health?

The survey was clear in its results, the mental health of survey respondents depicts a workforce with a lot on its mind. It was found that there are many contributing factors with poor sleep and increased risk of exhaustion a common theme. The majority of respondents reported a loss of sleep due to worry (64%); and corresponding increased symptoms of fatigue (60%), possibly as a consequence of just under half (48%) recording working patterns that include long and irregular hours. 50% of respondents reported not being happy with their current work-life balance; a third (33%) frequently feel isolated; over a fifth (21%) are concerned about job security, while two fifths (41%) harbour health concerns for family members.


Survey architect and IES Head of HR Research Development, Stephan Bevan, was quoted “Employers need to recognise they are still responsible for the wellbeing of their staff, even when working from home, and there are a number of steps they can take to improve employee wellbeing.”


Based on initial survey findings, IES have made numerous recommendations to employers and employees nationwide:

  • Make sure the home ‘office’ set-up is safe and ergonomic and that employees are mobile and take exercise.
  • Provide mental health support via informal messaging groups, virtual coffee mornings, access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and regular contact with management and colleagues.
  • Focus on ‘high risk’ groups by identifying employees with financial concerns, elder care, those struggling to adjust, those prone to feelings of isolation and those at risk of domestic abuse.
  • Rethink performance targets and monitoring, involve employees in decisions about reorganising work and reallocating tasks and priorities.

If you require any further information on the above please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly at

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