· News

Home workers struggling to switch off

Employees working from home are finding it difficult to achieve work/life balance, with 92% answering emails outside of working hours

The research, by occupational health service BHSF, surveyed UK employees working at least two days a week from home, and found that 44% of home workers respond to emails out of hours every day and 82% do so at least once a week.

This is an issue for home workers of all ages but older employees, who are more likely to have senior and demanding roles, are significantly more likely to work out of hours, the report noted. While more than a third (34%) of 18- to 30-year-olds respond to emails out of hours on a daily basis this rises to more than half (54%) of those aged 51 and over.

BHSF suggested that more should be done to introduce regulations around working from home and encouraged employers to update their guidelines to reflect modern working cultures. Just 39% of home workers said that their employers had produced any sort of guidance around working remotely.

Emma Parry, professor of human resource management and head of the Changing World of Work Group at Cranfield School of Management, told HR magazine that HR must focus on how it can better manage and support remote workers.

“We know that remote working and flexible [working] are rapidly increasing and we need to think about how we should manage that as a profession. Some organisations have dealt with it by having a cut-off time of 6pm for when employees can be contacted. But I don’t necessarily agree with that. It should be about the kind of expectations we put on people and giving them choice,” she said.

“There’s a lot of evidence showing that home workers and remote workers often feel unsupported. Sadly it’s still the case that we value people who are in the office, and who are visible, when we should be looking at outcomes and what people actually do.”

Chief commercial officer at BHSF Brian Hall said that while workplace wellbeing is high on the agenda for employers, home workers are often left behind.

“Over the past few years workplace wellbeing has risen on the corporate agenda. Employers have introduced many new practices and benefits in order to support both the physical and mental health of their employees,” he said.

“Flexible working has been at the heart of many wellbeing strategies, but our research shows that employers are failing to provide remote workers with sufficient guidelines. Ensuring employees can separate their home and work life, including being able to switch off from emails at the end of their working day, is crucial to protecting employee wellbeing.

“Introducing guidelines is good practice to ensure that colleagues understand what is and isn’t expected of them and can be an extremely useful tool to help home workers separate home and work life.”

OnePoll surveyed 897 UK employees who work at least two days a week from home for BHSF.