Working from anywhere – a positive trend or extra stress?

Working from anywhere

Work from anywhere, at any time? At first it sounds really rather cool, doesn’t it? But how realistic is working in this way, and how could it affect your health? In this article, we will explain whether working from anywhere, as it is called, is a positive trend or simply extra stress.

Who in Switzerland can work from anywhere?

Working from anywhere means that both the workplace and working hours may vary. This means that we don’t just work in the office between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, but at home, when travelling, in customers’ offices, abroad etc., and at the most varied times, and sometimes, maybe even at the weekend. Several different preconditions must be met to make working from anywhere even remotely possible. First and foremost, all the relevant information and communications technology is necessary. The problem here is that not every job can be done flexibly in terms of time and place.

In Switzerland in 2016, 38% of the workforce worked flexibly, rather than in the office, and approximately 36% worked flexitime. It can be assumed that these numbers increased during the pandemic. The expansion of flexible working models was already a positive trend even in the before times, however, so this is not a consequence of the pandemic in itself.

The need for flexibility

On the one hand, increased flexibility demands are holding sway in businesses due to, for example, customer expectations, technical advances and global competition. As a result, certain employers are very interested in deploying their employees so that their company can respond quickly and flexibly. On the other hand, there is also an increasing demand among employees for flexibility in the working day. The reasons for this are autonomy, time benefits, quieter surroundings at home, more productive and motivated working and the improved compatibility of professional and private life. Whether flexibility was something you wanted or is a condition of your employer’s, working from anywhere is having a great influence on us and our health.

The effects on health

Working from anywhere can affect us in many different ways. It isn’t good or bad per se. It has been shown that working from anywhere entails a higher risk of people working for longer, wanting to be permanently available, taking fewer breaks and shorter holidays, as you can also get work done late in the evening or at the weekend. This in turn results in more stress and less relaxation, which is not good for our bodies or minds.
Benefits can be expected when the individuals themselves can stipulate whether they wish to work from anywhere, and to what extent. In such cases, this mode of working tends to be associated with better health, less sickness absence, fewer problems and a better work-life balance. Motivation and performance may also be boosted.

As you can see, this mode of working has customised consequences. At the end of this article, we’d like to show you what you can do to make working from anywhere work better for you.

Important to bear in mind

  • Autonomy: can you specify your working hours or where you work from yourself, or at least negotiate them? If not, talk to your employer in case anything can be changed here. If you are the line manager, then try to involve your colleagues and give them the opportunity to state their opinions.
  • Planning: workplace and working hours should be as predictable as possible. That’s why good planning is so important. Plan the coming working week. When are you going to work from where?
  • Basic conditions and rules that apply to the entire team will simplify working from anywhere and contribute to the benefits. Here are a few examples:
    - A positive attitude to working from anywhere and support for it from your organisation and line management are absolutely essential.
    - Appropriate information and communications technology: it must be available and accessible.
    - A maximum number of working hours per day must be stipulated.
    - When you are available: specify, for example, when you can be contacted at home, and when not. This can be agreed using Team-Charta.
    - Planning breaks.
  • Stay in contact. It is important that you maintain contact with your colleagues so you don’t end up emotionally isolated. Meet virtually to have a coffee together or call somebody once per week and ask them how they are. The little question “How are you?” can make a difference.

Shared team rules and organisational basic conditions can be the reason why working from anywhere has a positive or negative effect on employee health and wellbeing. They will support employees by drawing the line between work and private life and help them to switch off from work and relax properly. Breaks are too often neglected, particularly when working from home, and there is a trend towards working longer hours. It is important for employees to learn that they don’t have to be available round the clock and that they don’t need to work more from home than they would usually, just to prove that they can also meet targets from home. The attitude and support of the employer also plays a central role here. A combination of working in the office and working from anywhere has proven to be very positive. Find more information and recommendations here.

 

References
Beermann, B., Amlinger-Chatterjee, M., Brenscheidt, F., Gerstenberg, S., Niehaus, M., & Wöhrmann A. M. (2018). Orts- und zeitflexibles Arbeiten: Gesundheitliche Chancen und Risiken (2nd edition). Kettler GmbH.
Krause, A., Schulze, H., & Windlinger, L. (2018). Mobil-Flex-Arbeit und Gesundheit. In A. Blum-Rüegg (ed.), Betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement Grundlagen und Trends. Report 7 (pp. 76-97). Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz.
Reimer, A. F., Mander, R., Hellert, U., & Krol, B. (2018). Gesundheitsorientierte Arbeitszeitgestaltung bei mobiler Arbeit. ARBEIT(s).WISSEN.SCHAF(f)T - Grundlage für Management & Kompetenzentwicklung. https://gfa2018.gesellschaft-fuer-arbeitswissenschaft.de/inhalt/A.9.9.pdf
Weichbrodt, J., Bruggmann, A., & Folie, A. (2020). FlexWork Survey 2020: Befragung von Erwerbstätigen und Unternehmen in der Schweiz zur Verbreitung mobil-flexibler Arbeit. Hochschule für Angewandte Psychologie FHNW. https://irf.fhnw.ch/handle/11654/31702

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