It is widely believed that remote workers are healthier than those who commute to work – however, a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that employees’ health is more determined by flexibility than remote options.
A Royal Society of Public Health study analyzed data from 2,000 remote workers, and while the study found that remote work has many benefits, it also has some negative consequences. Mainly, remote workers are more likely to experience musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the neck, shoulder, and lower back. They also are more likely to experience disturbed sleep and less likely to exercise.
The reason for this, the study notes, is that remote workers tend to sit for long periods without taking breaks. This can cause poor posture that isn't corrected by occasional walking, stretching, or standing, as office work can be. Additionally, remote workers are more likely to work longer hours and experience work-related stress, which can also contribute to musculoskeletal pain.
However, it is important to note that the negative effects of remote work can be mitigated with proper work habits and a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Paola Zappa, an organizational behavior professor at University College London, told Yahoo Life that the study only showed the effects of short-term remote working. Much of the data was taken at the pandemic's beginning when remote workers were not yet settled into the lifestyle.
Regardless, the study emphasizes that remote workers should take frequent breaks to stretch, move around, and change their posture. They should also try maintaining a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene.
In addition to physical health, remote work can also impact mental health. While remote work can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction, it can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. To combat this, remote workers should make an effort to stay connected with their colleagues and maintain a healthy work-life balance.