Working from home in the midst of a pandemic: WHO and ILO establish crucial measures to protect the health of workers


The COVID-19 pandemic restricted millions of working professionals from their homes, making working from home a common and widespread practice. While the arrangement offers the comfort of home, it also poses a number of health risks. Therefore, one should keep in mind certain measures to protect their health while telecommuting.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) described the health benefits and risks of working from home. In addition, they highlighted the measures that must be taken to adapt to this change.

Elucidating the many benefits of working from home, the report from the two UN agencies said that telecommuting offers improved work-life balanceflexible work schedule opportunities and physical activityreduced traffic and reduced time spent in the community, and a decrease in air pollution.

This, according to the report, can improve mental and physical healthand the social welfare of workers. In addition, it also has the potential for increased productivity and lower operating costs for many companies.

The report warned of the potential mental health risks of telecommuting. (Source: Pexels)

However, it also warns of possible risks to physical and mental health and social well-being in the absence of adequate planning, organization and support for safety and health. Some possible adverse effects could be: isolation, exhaustion, depressiondomestic violence, musculoskeletal and other injuries, eyestrainincreased use of tobacco and alcohol, prolonged sitting and screen time, and unhealthy weight gain.

To prevent them, the report also highlights the role that governments, employers, workers and health services must play in workplaces.

According to Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, “The pandemic has led to an increase in telecommuting, effectively changing the nature of work virtually overnight for many workers. In the almost two years that have passed since the start of the pandemicIt has become very clear that telecommuting can easily bring health benefits and can also have a dire impact.”

“Which way the pendulum swings depends entirely on whether governments, employers and workers work together and whether nimble and inventive occupational organizations exist. Health services to implement policies and practices that benefit both workers and work,” he added.

From providing relevant information, guidelines and training to reduce the mental health and psychosocial impact of networking to training managers in effective risk management, remote leadership and workplace health promotion, the report sets out several crucial steps employers must take to promote the well-being of employers while working from home.

He also asked to establish the “right to disconnect” and enough rest days. Occupational health services should be enabled to provide ergonomic, mental health and psychosocial support to teleworkers using digital telehealth technologiesaccording to the report.

He also asked to establish the “right to disconnect” and enough rest days. (Source: Pexels)

Emphasizing the importance of these measures, Vera Package-Perdigão, Director of the ILO Governance and Tripartism Department, said: “Telework and, in particular, hybrid work are here to stay and will probably increase after the pandemic, as both companies and individuals have experienced its effects. feasibility and benefits.

“As we move away from this ‘holding pattern’ to settle into a new normal, we have an opportunity to embed new policies, practices and supportive standards to ensure that millions of telecommuters have a healthy, happy, productive and decent job” .

Offering recommendations for organizing telework that meet the needs of both workers and organisations, the report suggested including measures such as: discussing and developing individual telework work plans and clarifying priorities, being clear about timelines and expected results , agree on a common system for signaling availability for work and ensure that managers and colleagues respect the system.

In addition, it requested organizations with employers working from home to develop special programs for teleworking combining measures for work and performance management with information and communication technologies and appropriate equipment, and occupational health services for the support of general health, ergonomic and psychosocial.

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