Employers should adapt remote working policies to target physical activity, stress and diet, study recommends

Companies considering remote working in the post-pandemic world need to introduce measures to increase physical activity, reduce stress and improve diet for employees, a new study has found.

Academics at the Universities of Derby and Plymouth assessed the habits of 184 workers who had begun working remotely during the first UK lockdown in 2020 to measure the impact of the change to their lives.

The team surveyed participants’ living and working conditions to study the relationship between physical and psychosocial wellbeing and productivity under lockdown conditions, and examined how factors such as gender, employer support and parental duties affected their situation.

Compared to their pre-pandemic levels of activity, 70% of participants reported having a more sedentary lifestyle and around a third having increased their food and alcohol intake during lockdown.

In addition, two-thirds found consuming news about the virus psychologically distressing.

These factors contributed to a deterioration in mental health and employees’ effectiveness in their jobs, according to the study, entitled “Influence of the COVID-19 lockdown on remote workers’ physical and psychosocial wellbeing and work productivity”.

Dr Tronco-Hernandez continued:

“It is also essential that employers monitor workers’ wellbeing and implement systemic guidelines and practices to maintain it at as high a level as possible. This could include encouraging physically active breaks at work while also promoting individual lifestyle changes outside of the workplace, such as meditation or healthy cooking.

“Reasonable adjustments in the ‘new’ workplace arrangements and clear productivity expectations are important considerations for employers too. Targeted strategies such as these to support people working remotely as a consequence of COVID-19, as well as access to wellbeing research, may help to thwart, or at least attenuate, an international public health crisis on top of the one the pandemic has created.”

Read the research, which has been accepted for publication.

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