The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization have called for measures to be put in place to protect workers’ health while remote working. A new technical brief to healthy and safe teleworking, published by the two UN agencies, outlines the personnel risks, as well as the benefits, of teleworking and the changes needed to accommodate the shift towards different forms of remote work arrangements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital transformation of work.
Among the benefits, the report says, there can be improved work–life balance, opportunities for flexible working hours and physical activity, reduced traffic, and time spent commuting and a decrease in air pollution — all of which can improve physical and mental health and social wellbeing. Teleworking can also lead to higher productivity and lower operational costs for many companies.
However, the report warns that without proper planning and organization and without health and safety support, the impact of teleworking on the physical and mental health and social wellbeing of workers can be significant. It can lead to isolation, burnout, depression, home violence, musculoskeletal and other injuries, eye strain, increase in smoking and alcohol consumption, prolonged sitting and screen time and unhealthy weight gain.
The report outlines the roles that governments, employers, workers and health services at workplaces should play in promoting and protecting health and safety while teleworking.
Measures that should be put in place by employers include ensuring that workers receive adequate equipment to complete the tasks of the job; providing relevant information, guidelines and training to reduce the psychosocial and mental health impact of teleworking; training managers in effective risk management, distance leadership and workplace health promotion; and establishing the 'right to disconnect' and sufficient rest days. Occupational health services should be enabled to provide ergonomic, mental health and psychosocial support to teleworkers using digital telehealth technologies, the report says.workers should receive adequate equipment to complete the tasks of the job.