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Working from home in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic: cross-sectional results from the Employees Working From Home (EWFH) study

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Objectives To investigate the impacts, on mental and physical health, of a mandatory shift to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design Cross sectional, online survey. Setting Online survey was conducted from September 2020 to November 2020 in the general population. Participants Australian residents working from home for at least 2 days a week at some time in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Main outcome measures Demographics, caring responsibilities, working from home arrangements, work-related technology, work-family interface, psychosocial and physical working conditions, and reported stress and musculoskeletal pain. Results 924 Australians responded to the online questionnaire. Respondents were mostly women (75.5%) based in Victoria (83.7%) and employed in the education and training and healthcare sectors. Approximately 70% of respondents worked five or more days from home, with only 60% having a dedicated workstation in an uninterrupted space. Over 70% of all respondents reported experiencing musculoskeletal pain or discomfort. Gendered differences were observed; men reported higher levels of family to work conflict (3.16±1.52 to 2.94±1.59, p=0.031), and lower levels of recognition for their work (3.75±1.03 to 3.96±1.06, p=0.004), compared with women. For women, stress (2.94±0.92 to 2.66±0.88, p<0.001) and neck/shoulder pain (4.50±2.90 to 3.51±2.84, p<0.001) were higher than men and they also reported more concerns about their job security than men (3.01±1.33 to 2.78±1.40, p=0.043). Conclusions Preliminary evidence from the current study suggests that working from home may impact employees' physical and mental health, and that this impact is likely to be gendered. Although further analysis is required, these data provide insights into further research opportunities needed to assist employers in optimising working from home conditions and reduce the potential negative physical and mental health impacts on their employees.

Funding

This work was supported by Medibank and Optus, grant number (N/A).

History

Publication Date

04/04/2022

Journal

BMJ Open

Volume

12

Issue

4

Article Number

ARTN e052733

Pagination

10p.

Publisher

BMJ

ISSN

2044-6055

Rights Statement

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non- commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/