UN study shows remote workers have difficulty sleeping
Working from home is great – but can it cause difficulty sleeping?
You would think that working from home and avoiding the daily, grinding commute to work would be fabulous, but apparently it can cause difficulty sleeping. Who knew?
One thing we already know is that remote working is becoming more and more popular, particularly in certain industries, such as telecommunications and marketing.
In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2015 nearly 25% of employed people in the US worked from home for all or part of their working week. You might also be surprised to realize that people in managerial and professional occupations are more likely to work at home than any other occupation.
So does this mean that workers in professional jobs who work at home have more difficulty sleeping, than their counterparts who don’t work at home? Well, I am not sure that we can go that far, but the latest study from the United Nations (Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work) has definitely found that insomnia is a consequence of remote working.
What are the benefits of working from home?
Before we dig into this United Nations study on the link between remote working and trouble sleeping, let’s take a look at the apparent advantages of working from home.
This might help us to figure out why insomnia is so common in nearly 25% of remote workers.
- Increased productivity: A recent study has shown that remote workers are happier at work and feel more valued as well. However, remote workers who work at home, because they enjoy the flexibility and freedom, are happier at their work than those who are required to work at home by their employers.
- More efficient: Hand in hand with productivity is efficiency, and another recent study found that work at home employees (at a call center) completed 13.5% more calls than those in the office. In fact, the remote workers at this call center were so efficient that they essentially worked an extra day each week! Whilst this is only one case study, it does increase the evidence that working at home increases both productivity and efficiency.
- Lower stress: Some people believe that working from home makes you less stressed, mainly because you don’t have to suffer through the daily commute. However, as you will soon see, remote workers can actually be more stressed than people who work at their employee’s premises, leading to difficulty in sleeping.
- Reduced turnover: People who work from home are less likely to take sick leave and leave their job. This is one of the big reasons why employers are increasingly finding the prospect of remote workers attractive and including this option in their business models.
- Improved work-life balance: One of the biggest reasons that people want to work from home is for a better work-life balance. Not having to race around in the morning and commute to work can really help you to feel less stressed in your life. Not commuting also saves lots of time that can be better spend with your family, jogging or at the gym. Don’t forget that many mums also work from home, because they appreciate the flexibility when they have a new baby or young children.
Of course, to be successful working from home you need to be disciplined and actually perform your work, not slacking off and wasting time. Remote working does give you increased freedom and flexibility, but you still have to work!
So what’s this UN study that says remote workers are more stressed and have more difficulty sleeping than people who don’t work at home?
Better lifestyle – but less sleep?
That just about sums up the latest UN report into remote working. This study did find that people who work at home have more flexibility in their working hours, could organize their days much better, and benefited from not having to commute to work.
All of these benefits resulted in an improved work-life balance and higher productivity. However, this study also found that the separation between work life and personal life is often blurred in people who work from home.
Remote workers tend to work longer hours each day and combined with a lack of clear separation between their work and home life, also report greater difficulty in sleeping, compared to people who work at their employer’s premises.
They also found that women are better at balancing their work and home life than men who work at home. Overall, longer working hours and an inability to separate work life from home life tends to lead to increased levels of stress, as well as sleeplessness in remote workers.
These negative impacts on the lives of remote workers seem to be at odds with other studies that promote a reduction in stress in people who work at home. Since the UN study covered 10 countries across Europe, it is clearly a representative sample, and should be take at face value.
Possibly the best conclusion that can be made from this and other studies, into the advantages and disadvantages of working from home, is to say that for many people remote working is a positive experience. For others (who might be better working at their employee’s premises) a lack of organisational skills and discipline can result in stress related problems and difficulty sleeping.
For lots of people however, if they are disciplined and focused on their work, they can achieve the right work-life balance, enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with remote working.
If you are one of the remote workers who has difficulty sleeping, then a sleep sound machine might prove useful in helping you to de-stress and sleep better overnight.
Read about the best memory foam mattress toppers that help you sleep better.