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Coping With Remote Working During Covid-19: The Latest Research, Digested

03 Dec 12:00 by Emma Young

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Covid-19 has changed our working lives, perhaps for good. Home-working is now common, and many of us have been doing it for months. With changing rules and guidelines, some of us have even gone from home-working to socially distanced office-working, to working back at home again. So what do we know about how these changes are affecting our mental health — and what can we do to make our new working lives better?

How are we feeling?

In January 2019 (pre-Covid-19), 35% of UK employees surveyed for the CIPD (a professional human resources body) reported that work had a positive impact on their mental health, while 27% said that work had a negative impact. By summer 2020, those figures had shifted to 34% and 26% respectively. On these measures, at least, Covid-19 had no obvious impact.

In this second survey, employees did report high levels of anxiety about contracting the virus at work — but despite this, half of those who were working remotely were looking forward to returning to their workplace. Almost half of all of the people surveyed also reported that social connections at work had worsened. Clearly, although the impact of work itself on our mental health hadn’t changed, altered work circumstances were — and are — causing difficulties, which are being further explored…

How bad is home-working?

“It can be argued that the crisis has led to the most significant, intensive social experiment of digital, home-based working that has ever occurred.”

This statement is from the website of the ongoing Working@home project, led by Abigail Marks at Stirling University, which seeks to understand the impact of this “experiment”. As the team points out, some commentators have suggested that home-based work is emancipatory, and improves work flexibility. However, the team also notes, “this new world order, where the home becomes a multi-occupational, multi-person workplace… not only challenges boundaries but also conceptions of the domestic space.” So how is it making us feel?

Overall, not great, according to their initial survey of home workers. One in three reported sharing their home working space, 37% reported that home conflicts have increased, and almost one in four said that they were doing poorly or very poorly in terms of general health. The most commonly cited trigger for household conflict was “interrupting or being noisy while you work”.

Continue reading this article on The Psychologist website.