THE mental and physical health of a third of people working from home in Wales has deteriorated because of the new ways of working.

The same proportion of workers have not received any health and safety guidance about working from home.

These are some of key findings from the biggest Welsh survey of its kind into the effects of working from home.

UNISON Cymru Wales surveyed 950 workers delivering public services across local government; health; higher education; further education; police and justice; water; environment; transport; community and energy sectors.

The trade union says, whilst many have benefitted from working from home, too few employers have fully considered all the implications for their staff of home working and are not providing health and safety guidance.

UNISON’s survey shows a third of home workers are working longer hours and report a decline in their work-life balance.

Home workers reported experiencing musculoskeletal pain, feeling more fatigued, disrupted sleep patterns and eye strain.

The trade union wants employers to immediately act to ensure public service workers working from home have all the support they require.

UNISON Cymru Wales’ survey of home working found: –

  • 34 per cent were not provided with any health and safety guidance about working from home
  • 62 per cent say their employer did not conduct a homeworking risk assessment
  • 50 per cent are now doing more work (31 per cent the same amount)
  • 34 per cent are working more hours (59 per cent the same hours)
  • 35 per cent say their physical health has deteriorated
  • 34 per cent say their mental health has deteriorated
  • 27 per cent say their work-life balance has been negatively impacted

UNISON also points to generally lower paid workers on the front line in their communities, NHS staff, care workers, refuse workers and many others who by the nature of their jobs do not have a choice about whether they wish to work from home. The union says, generally better paid workers and managers have been able to benefit from home working.

Lianne Dallimore, UNISON Cymru Wales Local Government Committee chair, said,

“People are working harder and longer hours from our homes and it’s having an impact. A third of employees haven’t been given any health and safety guidance and there is a direct link to increased health problems and worsening work-life balance as personal time is consumed by work.

“This isn’t the kind of society I want to live in. Out of the Covid disaster, we have the opportunity to shape a fairer and kinder world. That means employers being more pro-active to support staff in the new ways of working and listening to their views and involving their trade unions.

“We have to be very wary of unfair divides opening up in society too, between the generally low paid front-line workers, for whom working from home is not an option and better paid who may be able to choose where they work.

“Lower paid workers must be better valued by society; they kept our communities going when times were at their darkest in lockdown.”

Dave Rees, UNISON Cymru Wales convenor, said,

“Home working under lockdown has adjusted the lives of many, but not everyone has been equally effected. Many employers expect more work to be done by their workforce for the same wages and they have ignored their duty of care to ensure employees’ safety and wellbeing. This is not acceptable.

“UNISON’s calling for Welsh government to ensure employers are providing their public service workers with all the necessary support for home working.”