If you think working from home is an ideal situation, with flexible hours, less office drama, and more productivity, you might want to think again. According to a new study by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO), the practice can cause higher levels of insomnia, stress, and loneliness.
The report, titled Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work, analyzed the working habits of three groups of workers—those who regularly work from home, employees who split work between office and home, and those who work in various locations outside the office (“highly mobile”)—living in 15 countries around the world, which included the U.S., Japan, and 10 European Union nations.
While modern communication technologies have given employees the freedom to work beyond the office, Jon Messenger, the study’s co-author, warns that working outside the office has also lead to the blurring of “boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations.”
The study found that people working out of the office were prone to develop a negative well-being and experience adverse health effects. Nearly half (41 percent) of “highly mobile” employees reported higher levels of stress compared to office workers. The study also found that 42 percent struggled with insomnia compared to 29 percent of those who worked regularly in the office. People who worked out of the office tended to work longer hours, and many reported a feeling of isolation and the lack of informal information sharing that exists in a workplace.
To fix the disparity, the ILO has recommended formal part-time telecommuting, so that people from home can keep ties with their co-workers. That might mean coming into the office a few days a week to reconnect in person.
“It is particularly important to address the issue of supplemental work performed through modern communications technology, for example additional working from home, which could be viewed as unpaid overtime,” Oscar Vargas from Eurofound, which was also behind the report, said in a press release. “And [to] also ensure that minimum rest periods are respected, in order to avoid negative effects on workers’ health and well-being.”