With the ending of pandemic restrictions imminent, new research warns that physical health could be at risk as employees return to offices.
Employees in the UK scored their agreement with the affirmation “I get more exercise at home” 6.9/10, versus 5.7/10 worldwide, demonstrating the positive effects working from home has had on physical activity levels in the country.
As workforces begin to use their offices more often, whether on a full time or hybrid basis, employers must explore ways to support their employees’ physical wellbeing, as this has an impact on their overall wellbeing and productivity.
Although agreement with the statement “I feel less fatigued and more energised” was neutral (4.8/10), it is higher than global agreement (3.2/10), indicating increased physical activity’s contribution to overall mental health and wellbeing.
Jason Brennan, psychotherapist and Director of Wellness and Leadership at Wrkit said: “Those who have been working from home for the past 16 months are primarily office-based employees, whose jobs are sedentary by nature, but this does not mean they should be sat down for eight hours a day. Employers should look at implementing physical activity resources into their benefits offering to encourage employees to take the best possible care of their health, both physical and mental.”
Although research shows that working from home has made employees more active, it has had negative impacts on other elements of physical health as many employees were suddenly forced to work from inadequate home offices.
When the first lockdown was announced, searches for “ergonomic chair” increased by 236% from the previous week as people looked to deck out their home office, but interest in the term peaked in January 2021 as people began to feel the consequences of working without proper back support for months on end.
Similarly, the popularity of the search term “office back pain” has hit all-time highs four times during the pandemic, up to 54% more than the pre-pandemic peak.
Jason continued: “Physical wellbeing support is not limited to encouraging activity, it is also ensuring employees are not working in positions that are damaging their bodies. As many businesses will be adopting a hybrid working strategy going forwards, this applies to both office and home working situations.
“This may involve loaning, purchasing or subsidising supportive chairs for employees working at home and sharing resources demonstrating good working posture and the consequences of bad posture. Employee benefits offerings, such as Wrkit’s Move module, can give access to on-demand activity videos including desk stretches which employees should be encouraged to do throughout the day.
“As we navigate into the new business world, businesses need to protect their employees’ health as failure to do so may lead to increased sick absences, lowered productivity and heightened staff turnover, especially as so many businesses are putting more of a focus onto employee wellbeing. Those that do will experience higher levels of employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.”