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Home Office is positive for physical and mental health when it is organized and has the right equipment

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The social and public health measures implemented as a result of the pandemic COVID-19 resulted in a rapid and unprecedented transition to teleworking in many sectors and regions around the world.

La World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) highlighted this Wednesday that this new modality changed traditional employment patterns and, in many cases, was established to stay or to be part of a “hybrid” model that offers numerous advantages, but also dangers to health, therefore what is urgently regulate it in order to protect workers.

With a technical report, UN agencies expose the benefits and risks of teleworking, and outline the changes needed to adapt to different forms of remote employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital transformation of work.

More health and well-being

The text indicates that teleworking well organized improved work-life balance, offers the possibility of a flexible schedule and physical activity, and saves time spent traveling.

Furthermore, recent studies report a lower incidence of high blood pressure and stress, less tendency to depression and greater emotional well-being due to quality family life, as well as the consumption of healthier diets because food is prepared at home.

On the other hand, remote work reduces air pollution and travel times, which also contributes to improving physical and mental health and social well-being.

Likewise, teleworking can achieve a productivity increase and a reduction in operating costs for many companies.

Scene of a family in Madrid. Rubén, 4 years old, and his little sister play while his mother, Daniela, works on her computer...

The risks

However, remote work without planning, assistance and health security It also entails risks, among which physical ailments stand out, such as musculoskeletal problems and visual fatigue, derived from prolonged work on the computer, which also occur when working in an office if there is no ergonomic workstation.

Equally worrying is the frequent lengthening of working hours and that many times one works even when sick.

Another possible harm is social isolation that can lead to a increased loneliness, exhaustion, depression, irritability, worry and feelings of guilt in workers. Likewise, it can lead to more conflicts between work and family than traditional office hours, especially when the professional occupation is very demanding. Domestic violence, increased tobacco and alcohol consumption, and unhealthy weight gain are other possible risks.

The WHO and ILO clarified that all These findings are based on preliminary studies and that more research will be needed to determine the true impacts of teleworking for different workers and over longer periods.

A teacher connects with her students teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increase in teleworking

The document details that as a result of the pandemic, remote work increased in Europe from 11% to 48% and 40% of paid work hours were carried out remotely. In Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 23 million people transitioned to teleworking in the second quarter of 2020.

According to available data, the shift to teleworking occurred mostly between employees with higher incomes and educational levels.

The agencies cite analysis indicating that remote work will keep growing and estimates that 34% of jobs in the United States, for example, could be done remotely.

“As teleworking is likely to increase, it is important to ensure that employers, governments and workers and their representatives understand how to address the impacts of this on health so that there is a balance of the needs of employees and companies or organizations,” the UN agency states.

In the opinion of Dr. María Neira, director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, WHO, in the long term, the effects of teleworking “will depend entirely on governments, employers and employees working together, and that there are agile and imaginative occupational health services, in order to implement policies and practices that benefit both workers and work.


For benefits to outweigh harms, UN agencies recommend that workers receive the proper equipment to complete your tasks; that they be provided with relevant information, guidelines and training to reduce the psychosocial and emotional health impact of teleworking; that managers be trained in effective risk management, remote management and workplace health promotion; and? the “right to disconnection” is established and sufficient days of rest.

According to the report, occupational health services must be capable of providing ergonomic, mental and psychosocial health care to those who work remotely, through digital telehealth technologies.

The document also encourages employers to discuss and formulate individual work plans for teleworking and clarifying priorities; be clear about deadlines and expected results; agree on a common system that announces availability for work; and ensure that managers and colleagues respect the system.

It also suggests designing special programs for remote work, combining measures for work and performance management with information and communication technologies and appropriate equipment, and occupational health services.

“As we prepare to emerge from the 'waiting phase' to settle into a new normal, we have the possibility of incorporate new supporting policies, practices and standards that guarantee that millions of people who do remote work have healthy, happy, productive and decent work,” said Vera Package-Perdigão, director of the ILO Department of Governance and Tripartism.

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Yair Ramirez
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