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Exhaustion, sleep disorders and the like: Working in the home office is a health hazard

Exhaustion, sleep disorders and the like: Working in the home office is a health hazard


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Digitization: Greater psychological stress through working in the home office

More free time thanks to the absence of work, more independence, no distraction from colleagues: At first glance, it sounds great when you have the opportunity to do your job from home. But working in the home office is also associated with health risks, as a new study has now shown.

Around 40 percent of employees in Germany already work outside of their company regularly, regardless of time or place. Almost half of them often work from home. A recent survey by the AOK Scientific Institute (WIdO) now shows that one of the great advantages of home office is that employees can plan their work more independently and have more freedom of choice and a say. At the same time, however, these employees also have greater psychological stress than people who only work in their workplace.

Advantages and disadvantages

“Exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders. Those who work a lot in their home office suffer from such problems more often than other employees. Nevertheless, flexible working conditions have many advantages. It is important to make the working conditions health-promoting, ”said Helmut Schröder, deputy managing director of WIdO and co-editor of the absenteeism report in a message. For the study, which appeared in the current Absenteeism Report 2019, the WIdO surveyed around 2,000 employees between 16 and 65 in spring 2019.

Higher job satisfaction

According to the information, many respondents with home office reported higher job satisfaction and the advantages of flexible work. In addition to greater autonomy, more than two thirds (67.3 percent) believe that they can do more work at home and three quarters (73.7 percent) appreciate that they can work more concentrated than in the workplace in the office. In addition, almost one in two (45.8 percent) with home offices described their workload outside the company as just right.

Many home office employees felt exhausted

But at the same time, 73.4 percent of those surveyed who often work in their home office felt exhausted in the past four weeks. For employees who work exclusively in the office, it was slightly less at 66 percent. Anger and annoyance complained to 69.8 percent of workers in the home office compared to 58.6 percent; in terms of nervousness and irritability, it was 67.5 percent in the home office compared to 52.7 percent. Listlessness, concentration problems and sleep disorders also differ significantly between the two groups.

Border between job and private life blurred

“In the home office, the line between job and private life is becoming more blurred. This increases the risk of recovery phases shrinking, ”said Schröder. According to the WIdO survey, one in three people with a home office often shift working hours to the evening or the weekend (33.9 percent). Just under a fifth of the respondents reported problems with the compatibility of working hours and free time (18.8 percent) or about calls or emails from the employer outside their working hours (19.5 percent). In addition, more than a third of employees with a home office say they have problems switching off after work (38.3 percent). For employees who only work in the company, this is only one in four (24.9 percent).

But despite the higher psychological stress, employees in the home office have fewer absenteeism (7.7 days) than those who only work at the company headquarters (11.9 days). “In the home office, working hours can be divided more precisely. In the event of illness, people may work less and then make up for lost working hours, ”explained Schröder.

“At first glance, it may sound like a contradiction that both the psychological stress and job satisfaction in the home office are higher. But whether the changes due to digitization result in health-promoting or health-damaging effects largely depends on the specific design of the work and on the digital skills of the people, ”affirmed Antje Ducki, professor at the Beuth University of Technology and co-editor of the Absenteeism Report , the results of the WidO survey.

Switch off digital devices

"Since the digital technologies are available around the clock, it takes, for example, more individual discipline to switch them off," says Ducki. Other experts also recommend regular "digital fasting". This included breaks in which the smartphone and the Internet were deliberately ignored. Switching on flight mode is one possibility. Digital stress can be avoided if the smartphone does not set the pace. It helps to block apps from push notifications and ban mobile phones from the dining table or from the bedroom for a good night's sleep. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


Video: MS Fatigue (June 2022).