‘Remote working can boost well being, but the impact on productivity is mixed’

A new white paper from Nuffield Health looks at the available research on remote working.

Employee works from home


Remote working can provide employees with the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands and improve well being, making it key to attracting and retaining talent, but research is inconclusive about its impact on stress levels and productivity, according to a white paper by Nuffield Health.

The independent report, conducted with University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and written in partnership with Public Policy Projects, systematically reviewed published literature examining the associations between remote working and stress, wellbeing, health and productivity. The included studies drew upon over 7,000 individuals, looking at organisations of all sizes and across a number of different sectors.

The report says studies show more than 2.5 days a week at home could affect co-worker relations and that managers should consider encouraging some element of office working during the week. It also says that it is important to identify the right staff for homeworking based on their personality and the type of work they do. “The ‘one size fits all’ concept is totally wrong,” says the report. It cites research showing homeworking best suits people who are  happy to spend long periods on their own, are self -disciplined and self-motivated, resilient, able to separate work and home life and confident in working without supervision.

The report recommends that employers develop an organisation-wide policy on remote working and that managers are trained in how to manage remote workers to ensure remote working benefits both the organisation and the employee. It says effective remote working is based on a good level of trust between managers and workers and requires considerable management time and effort to make it work successfully. Home-based workers should have suitable space and equipment to do their jobs.

Another key issue is mental health well being. The report says employers need to consider the impact working remotely can have on an employee’s mental health, for instance, as a result of isolation.

It adds that managers need to foster social and professional interaction, providing a sense of belonging to a bigger group, and talks about how remote working can be a “game changer” for employees with disabilities.

Nuffield’s Head of Clinical Research & Outcomes, Dr Ben Kelly, says: “Remote working is likely to continue to increase, changing the workplace dynamic. Remote working can provide the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands, making it key to attracting and retaining talent.

“The white paper has reviewed the limited available quality evidence to provide appropriate recommendations to employers in the UK. The health and wellbeing of a workforce can have huge implications not just on the employee but also the organisation and the wider economy. By ensuring we are looking after the physical health, mental health and wellbeing of employees we are able to sustain a healthier, happier workforce.”

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