News & Media

Survey shows impact of working from home on mental health

17 November 2020

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Marie Sherlock

·        Key issues must be addressed before remote working becomes the norm 

·        Labour Bill will support those working from home  

·        We are one of the few EU countries with no protection in employment law for remote working  

  

Speaking ahead of the launch of Labour’s Working from Home (Covid-19) Bill 2020, the party’s Employment Affairs spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock has identified several key concerns raised by her recent survey of remote workers.  

  

Senator Sherlock’s survey was completed by 305 respondents who had moved to remote working as a result of the pandemic.  

  

Senator Sherlock said: 

  

“Our survey identified a number of key issues that must be addressed if remote working is to become the norm. More than a third of respondents to us cited negative effects on their mental health as one of the main drawbacks of remote working. More flexible working therefore must be accompanied by stronger protections for workers in the home. 

  

“The single most common problem with remote working, according to our survey, is the lack of a suitable workspace in many people’s homes. This is reflected in the fact that private renters were more than twice as likely as owner-occupiers to say that remote working had been problematic for them. As one respondent told us: 

  

“Working two feet from your bed for eight hours a day is bound to have an impact on health and stress.” 

  

“With this in mind, our Bill would require employers to provide a suitable home workstation, including appropriate IT equipment and a suitable chair. We are also calling for the replacement of existing supports, which are often difficult to access, with a single, flat-rate payment from employers to employees. This payment would assist with the added costs of home working, rather than leaving such support at the employer’s discretion.  

  

“Labour’s Bill also provides a legal right to ‘disconnect’ from out-of-hours communications. This is in response to more than 40% of survey respondents having criticised the blurring of lines between work and home caused by Covid-19. A right to ‘disconnect’ is vital if we are to meet the concerns of workers like those who told us:

 

“It’s very difficult when working from home to not adopt an ‘always on’ mindset.” 

  

“My big issue with working from home is the dilution of the boundary between work and private life.” 

  

“It’s difficult to maintain boundaries to stop work encroaching on my free time.” 

  

Senator Sherlock continued: 

  

“At the moment, we are one of very few EU countries without adequate legal protections for remote working. This is simply not sustainable as the number of people working from home has grown from just over 200,000 at the beginning of 2020 to almost 700,000 today.  

  

“While many people have enjoyed positive effects from their time spent working remotely, our survey has identified a number of key issues that now need to be addressed. Our laws are out of date, and the Covid crisis has shown the urgent need for reform.