Working from home is often considered the holy grail for managing the integration between work and other life activities. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home was usually undertaken one or two days per week in combination with other days at the office, and provided many benefits for workers.
For some, fewer hours commuting meant more time for family, friends and other activities, flexibility with working hours and perhaps even enabled a move out of the city.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work environment has drastically changed. And with more of us than ever working from home, it's crucial that we better understand the challenges.
A number of studies on working from home showed that support from employers and colleagues played an important role in reducing the negative impacts on health, and the conflict between work and family time. And while, overall, there are health benefits of working from home, women were less likely than men to experience any improvements in health.
So how do we ensure all of us thrive at a time when working from home is becoming the norm? It's important that organisations carefully consider developing formal working from home policies which set work-home boundaries, and ensure work roles are clearly defined and workloads are appropriate. Managers need training in how to manage teams that are working from home, including providing opportunities for networking with colleagues.
Like anything that impacts on our health and wellbeing, working from home guidelines should be based on the best available evidence. So how do we do this? We need to improve our understanding of the impact of working from home on physical and mental well-being. How do people set up their workspace at home? How do they separate family life and work life? How does working from home affect the way they feel?
At La Trobe University, we are conducting a study that will ultimately inform guidelines to help employers and employees create sustainable working from home environments. If you are working from home at least two days a week, take our survey so we can improve our understanding of what is needed to create good conditions at https://workingfromhome.questionpro.com
For many of us, work life has changed drastically due to the pandemic. Let's ensure we are approaching this new normal in the healthiest way possible.
Jodi Oakman is an Associate Professor in ergonomics, safety and health at La Trobe University.