A recent report by a leading healthcare specialist has highlighted the wider issues associated with working from home, says Latus Health.
The findings of Bupa’s Wellbeing Index revealed it may take the UK years to recover from long-tail health impacts of the pandemic as people struggle to stay active, especially when working from home. It said the increase in sedentary lifestyles presented a long-term health risk that could be as significant as smoking.
Yet Latus Health argues that the findings don’t represent the future of remote working, and that although the survey was conducted in March this year, many people are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. The leading occupational health service provider believes that those working from home during the pandemic didn’t get a chance to engage in social interaction outside of the home, contributing to feelings of stress and low mood.
It says there is a clear scientific underpinning to this theory, in that if we do not have social interactions, then we are missing out on one of the easiest ways to boost oxytocin – one of our feel-good hormones. With Oxytocin also proven to be protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s, it believes this provides another good reason for businesses to encourage social interaction amongst workers as a key wellbeing strategy, especially in those who are working remotely.
Jack Latus, CEO of Latus Health, comments: “Uncertainty always leads to a reduction in resilience. It’s essential to look beyond the obvious when assessing the cause of low mood. When we consider some of the peripheral wellbeing benefits of going to the workplace, there are signs that not going to work, and working from home could lead to a lower mood. The social interactions and consequential physiological, hormonal, and mental benefits we get from being in the same building as our co-workers are so important.”
Current forms of remote working often prioritise work-life integration, giving full-time workers more flexibility around what they do, who they see and when. Working remotely was popularised by the pandemic, and what was once essential for health reasons is now seen as essential for providing the flexibility employees require.
However, Latus Health says the emotional impacts of working remotely cannot be ignored, particularly when it comes to safeguarding mental health. Without seeing your team in the office daily, it may be difficult to notice the warning signs of mental health and signpost them to services that may be of use, particularly online platforms that offer employees the flexibility to access support anytime, anywhere.
However, Dr. Sameer Sarkar, a Latus Health advisory board member and psychiatrist, warns that the technological factors must be right in order for businesses to provide quality support. He argues that the quality of bandwidth provision is essential when considering mental health care for all patients. However, in many cases, where an employee is in need of support regarding their mental health, virtual appointments allow them to access this from wherever they feel the most comfortable.
He says: “Even if you can see a patient on video, unless the quality of the video feed is smooth and uninterrupted with perfect picture and sound, one is likely to miss the subtle signs one would rely on to give vital clues to the patient’s mental state and accompanying risk. It might sound trivial but it is very important to note that when the patient is not making eye contact it could be because the patient is downcast or a lag in the video feed.”
Dr. Sarkar agrees that the advancement of technology has the power to change the landscape of mental health at work.
He adds: “With the experience of the pandemic and the rapid expansion in remote consultations across digital platforms now with us, we can strive to make things better. There could be greater investment in bandwidth, and improvements in the platforms and with the advancement of VR, the patient and clinician can even share the same virtual space. It would not eliminate all of the problems but arguably enhance the human connection that underpins safety in all our clinical encounters. The foundational basis of medicine is to cure some, to relieve more, but to comfort all. Whether delivered remotely or in-person we must strive to enhance all three, and hopefully, technology will help us to do just that.”
Improving support for remote workers has to be a priority, particularly at a time when statistics show that employees aren’t currently receiving adequate workplace support for issues relating to emotional and physical health, and as a result are seeking additional support to remedy the issues they face.
Whilst certain employers, government officials and organisations use this as an excuse to condemn the working from home movement, businesses instead need to address the solution. Increasing the level and accessibility of support for those working from home would allow employees to receive the care they need whenever they need it, and make more proactive decisions surrounding their health.
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