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Home Work?

Posted 6/27/2018 by UHBlog

If your company’s use of telecommuting employees has increased, have you considered the health and safety concerns? Ask us about proven programs to increase your staff’s well-being.

Busy family home with mother working as father prepares meal

Working from home is on the rise. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 13.4 million people work at least one day at home per week – an increase of over 4 million people, or 35 percent, in the last decade.

“Telecommuting offers a lot of advantages to employers, many of whom are operating in increasingly virtual and global environments,” says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD, who is medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. “They can hire the best person for a job and by allowing them to work remotely, their geographical location may not matter, depending on the job.”

Remote work arrangements are advantageous to employees, too.

“One element of becoming burnt-out or stressed at work is a sense of lack of control,” Dr. Adan says. “Working from home or outside the office can potentially give you that control and help to alleviate burn-out.”

Burn-out and chronic stress often go hand in hand. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls chronic stress the health epidemic of the 21st century. The physical, emotional and behavioral problems caused by stress cost businesses an estimated $300 billion a year due to:

  • Illnesses and stress-related health conditions
  • Absenteeism
  • Loss of productivity

But working remotely can lead to more work-related stress in some situations. For instance, some companies and managers may not know what to expect from employees who work remotely and pile on to an already heavy workload. Other times, employees feel vulnerable because they aren't physically connected to their team.

“It can be easy to blur the lines of work and home,” Dr. Adan says. "Employers and employees need to have rules around (telecommuting) to avoid the health hazards of remote working.”

The health and safety hazards include:

  • Emotional isolation
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Poor workplace ergonomics
  • Poor eating and exercise habits
  • Sleeplessness

To make telecommuting successful, Dr. Adan recommends:

  • A regular start and stop time. “There should be some breaks built in, and a beginning and end time set,” Dr. Adan says.

  • A designated space to work. “You don’t want your office to invade your bedroom, dining room or private space,” she says.

  • Regular communications with the work team. Make use of technology to stay in touch.

    “You should make an intentional commitment to stay in touch and meet for in-person meetings,” Dr. Adan says.

  • Social outings. To avoid feeling socially isolated, you may want to work at a coffee shop or meet with other people who work from home or for themselves.

  • Use of wellness programs. Targeted wellness programs that are designed to reduce workplace stress can help employees manage a remote work environment. Several programs are offered through Connor Integrative Health Network, including its Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) – recognized as a 2016 Crain's Health Care Hero for improving the lives and health of those in Northeast Ohio – and mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes.

    For those people who are looking for an in-depth program, consider attending the University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network's upcoming symposium that covers non-pharmacological approaches to pain. This conference is on Friday, September 14, from 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Hilton Cleveland Downtown. The symposium is in response to the opiates crisis and the millions of Americans suffering from chronic pain.

    The day-long conference is offered to clinicians and non-clinicians, such as employers, human resources managers and others who want to learn about readily available, evidence-based therapies that can help reduce pain, build resilience and improve outcomes. For more information and list of speakers, log into https://case.edu/medicine/cme/courses-activities/conferences and click on 'conferences.' Scroll down to September events until you see, “Transforming Healthcare: The Non-Pharmacologic Approach to Pain / Clinician Well-Being.” You can also call 216-983-1239 for information.

If you’re interested in stress management training for your workplace, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Francoise Adan, MD is a psychiatrist and the medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Dr. Adan or any other doctor online.

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