As ICTs have developed, teleworking has been discovered as an increasingly widespread , established and standardized work modality . It is a work system in which the person develops his work without the need to go to the physical headquarters of the organization for which he works. It is presented as a very common work modality in journalistic work, design, illustration, in the field of computing or related to the publishing world, such as translation or correction of publications.
Teleworking has advantages and disadvantages that have been widely investigated through the scientific literature. Regarding the advantages, the most obvious is to be able to develop the work living in any corner of the planet. It is possible that a cartoonist lives in Ávila and works for one of the great North American publishing houses, for example. Saving trips to work allows you to spend more time with the family , and in theory the worker has more autonomy when it comes to organizing their tasks and schedules.
On the contrary, the main problems associated with this type of work have required a specific analysis, since in many cases they do not coincide with the problems associated with face-to-face jobs. In this way, some of the problems that can arise from teleworking are: a tendency to overload tasks , since it is very common for teleworkers to be governed based on objectives and not based on schedules; stress developmentThe result of a poorly structured environment, and a certain tendency to experience role ambiguity has also been observed, since by not being at the organization’s headquarters, doubts are likely to arise about the role that a certain worker plays in the organizational chart. Also, with regard to physical health, problems related to sedentary lifestyle can develop ; Similarly, one of the main problems of this type of job is the lack of ergonomics in the work environment. The objective of this article is to develop a series of preventive guidelines regarding these risks, which are those that the scientific literature of the field has been collecting in a consensual manner.
It would be necessary to make a clarification regarding different ways of developing remote work , since there are complete and mixed modalities. Possibly the most common thing for a teleworker is that 100% of their performance takes place outside the organization, from home or anywhere else. However, there are times when performance is combined between part of the sessions at the organization’s headquarters and another part outside of it . This mixed model has been used mainly for two purposes: on the one hand, with the pretext of facilitating family conciliation, and on the other, as a measure to prevent occupational hazards. The first pretext is, from its own formulation, false, useless and also pernicious.
Teleworking does not have different demands from face-to-face work, sometimes the demand can be even higher , so its role as a conciliation tool is poor. Regarding the second point, as a risk prevention tool, it is useful. We know that the most frequent occupational accidents are traffic accidents while commuting to work. The highest risk of accidents is on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, which is why some organizations have experimented with the idea that telework days are implemented Monday and Friday in order to prevent accidents. This is just one example, of an infinite variety of combinations based on many different motifs.
Different risks for the health of workers are deduced from these two ways of dealing with teleworking. However, the guidelines to propose to develop telework in a healthy way are suitable for all of them. The first measures to be discussed have to do with comfort in the work environment, the next with overload and the last with the risk of isolation and sedentary lifestyle.
1.- Find a place to work at home
Usually the teleworker carries out his task from home. When we think of a person who works from home we imagine them on the couch, watching television, with the laptop on their knees, something to snack on, and enjoying the task. This is a very deep mistake . A maxim to develop work from home in a healthy way is to find a defined workplace.
If the house is big enough, an office is an ideal option . If the house is small, a little corner of a room that is intended solely and exclusively for work. That corner or that office must be the place dedicated exclusively to work. It is important that this location is not used to develop other types of daily activities, just as in an office of a company other activities other than work are not developed.
The main problem with working from home is managing to establish the barrier between what is a working day and when it stops being it. Setting physical limits is a good first step.
2.- Ergonomics of the workplace: design your desk
Once the workplace has been decided, it must be optimally set up. The furniture in the house is not necessarily adapted to the appropriate ergonomic measures for the development of a working day. Thus, it is important to find a desk and chair that meet the stipulated measurements . You must also take special care of the lighting, as well as the thermal condition in which the room is located.
To define the specific needs that a work environment must have, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs publishes what are called Occupational Risk Prevention Technical Notes . These easy-to-understand documents specify the dimensions that a work table must have, its height, the distance at which we must sit, the height of the chair, and everything necessary to design a workstation that favors comfort. Finding furniture that meets these dimensions is an essential requirement to avoid back , vision, muscle problems , or joint ailments . These work conditions are the most common in office work, and they tend to appear very early if you do not work in a comfortable workplace.
3.- Overload control based on time control
One of the positive elements of working from home is that the worker tends to have greater control over time and the distribution of tasks. This, which is apparently a virtue, tends to become the central problem of telework through task overload .
Without going into the empty speeches of positive psychology that would encourage you to “learn to say no”, something on the other hand important, a practical measure to avoid work overload is to define schedules . Just as a person has a set schedule in a face-to-face job, you can and should define the work schedule at home. In this way, the task load control will be limited by the duration of the day. Not setting schedules implies that you end up working marathon workdays.
4.- Biorhythms, sleep disturbances and evening schedules
On the other hand, the literature tells us that linked to the deregulation of schedules to which telework has a tendency, sleep disturbances develop, and alterations, in general, in the biorhythms of workers. To try to prevent these processes, in addition to limiting the hours of the day, it must also be defined in a specific and stable time frame for job performance.
5.- Disconnect from work
The paradox of working from home is that, while on paper it can present itself as an opportunity to spend more time with the family, it also has the ability to become a source of family tension.
Related to work overload and marathon days, the person runs the risk of spending a good part of their time in the workplace. On the other hand, there is a permanent connection phenomenon that needs to be controlled .
There is more and more research and studies on the relationship of the worker with his mobile phone. It is recommended to all types of workers that their work email is not synchronized with their personal mobile phone, or that they have two mobile phones: one for work and one for their personal life. Technology has the ability to blur the line between personal and work life , so we must control this effect in order to disconnect from work.
More than a century ago the labor movement began organizing around the demand for rest. Science endorsed rest, not only as a source of health for workers, but also as a productive tool. A person who has rested well will be more productive on his next workday. In 2018 the claim again needs to be rest. Through the permanent connection the worker can be constantly working. In teleworking, this effect is heightened, since the worker has his job at the end of the hallway of his house, so he is very close to sitting in front of the computer again before any more or less urgent claim.
6.- Establish limits with your family
Just as work overload can be a source of stress that implies family tensions, it is important that the family does not interfere with the development of the working day. The fact of working from home implies that for his family, the worker projects a feeling of permanent availability . He is always at home, with what is always available. Clarifying this with the family environment, explicitly, is a priority need for a correct performance of tasks.
Just as no member of the family would call a worker to leave their job in an office, no one should do so to interrupt the teleworker’s work time. As long as it is not a real emergency, of course.
The important thing, at this point, is to be clear . It is not a reason to be upset with any member of the family environment, because it may not be something they do intentionally. Therefore, it is important to clarify the time or space limit to avoid interference.
7.- Create a virtual social work environment
Another risk that the literature points out regarding teleworking is the tendency to isolation . The face-to-face work environment, in fact, has always been treated as a healthy socializing element, which tends to offer people frames of social support.
At present, we can assume face-to-face or physical social environments and also virtual social environments. Physical work environments are the most enriching, without a doubt, but fostering healthy virtual environments is a reality we must deal with.
Ideas such as participating in forums within the same company, or within the same organization, creating peer groups on social networks , as long as they are healthy groups, generate important ties to avoid isolation.
8.- Develop social activities outside the home
However, physical social environments are absolutely and absolutely essential. Going out with friends, with the family, or participating in regulated activities, such as neighborhood associations, sports clubs or cultural initiatives, represent a good strategy for socializing.
9.- Walking, doing sports … pay attention to your health
Finally, a sedentary lifestyle is the most common source of physical problems experienced. Thus, it is important to try to maintain a healthy diet, and go for a walk or practice some sporting activity. If a person who starts working from home perceives that he is gaining weight, he will find there a good indicator that he is falling into a sedentary lifestyle, with which he must take measures to tackle this situation.
A very common strategy is to have a dog at home, since it forces the worker to take breaks and go for a walk several times a day .