Telecommuting, the right gestures for the health of employees

For many of us, telecommuting requires finding the right organization, to install an office space in our home, sometimes cohabiting with our family, our spouse, our children… But it also implies to take care of the quality of the environment in which we work! Solutions exist that allow companies to act and preserve the well-being and health of their employees, and this at home.

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Telecommuting is defined by the INRS (National Institute for Research and Safety) as “any form of work organization in which work that could also have been performed on the employer’s premises is performed by an employee outside these premises on a voluntary basis“.

Telecommuting is defined by the INRS (National Institute for Research and Safety) as “any form of work organization in which work that could also have been performed on the employer’s premises is performed by an employee outside these premises on a voluntary basis“.

Sommaire

Les avantages du télétravail, pour le salarié et pour l’employeur
Les risques du télétravail
Quelles mesures de prévention mettre en place ?

The advantages of telecommuting, for the employee and the employer

Benefits for teleworkers

For some workers, telecommuting can have many benefits such as:

  • Increased flexibility of time and location
  • Greater professional autonomy
  • Reduced commuting time
  • Better integration of disabled employees or people living in rural or remote areas
  • Time savings
  • Better concentration compared to working in open space
Benefits for employers

On the employer’s side, telecommuting allows :

  • A reduction of absenteeism and delays, especially in big cities
  • A reduction of about 30% of the negative environmental impact due to the elimination of certain journeys according to the ADEME,
  • An improvement of the company’s brand image because telecommuting has become a real asset for hiring,
  • Economies of scale on office space and running costs,
  • Better talent traction; telecommuting, whether in hybrid or 100% mode, offers companies the opportunity to find talent from all over the world. This is more than an advantage when you’re in remote and smaller cities than some metropolitan areas that are full of people looking for professional challenges.

Risks of telecommuting

While telecommuting has some advantages, it also presents new challenges for companies. While 90% of employers provide at least some computer equipment (computer, telephone), only 10% provide ergonomic equipment (chairs, footrests, desks).

A poorly adjusted workstation or lack of physical exercise leads to have risks on the employees.

The main physical risks of teleworking

Telework, a risk for the vision

A vision risk: 

Working continuously on the screen can cause visual fatigue if the work environment is not adapted (heaviness of the eyeballs, redness, stinging, glare, temporary myopia, dry eyes, headaches…). These risk factors depend on each individual (visual defects, age, poorly adapted vision correction…) but it can also be linked to a workstation that is not very ergonomic (reflections on the screen, inappropriate lighting, poorly positioned screen, eye/screen distance that is too short, poor image quality…)

Telecommuting, housing a major determinant of population health

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD):

This refers to a set of painful attacks on muscles, tendons and nerves that can be caused or aggravated by professional activity (immobility, screen, keyboard, mouse).

39% of respondents have experienced unusual pain since the implementation of telework. (Ugict-CGT)

MSDs are the leading cause of compensated occupational diseases. (Santé Publique France).

Telecommuting, increased sedentary lifestyle of employees

Increased sedentary lifestyle of employees:

Telecommuting is often associated with reduced physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle shows a risk factor for chronic diseases: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers…

According to the WHO, a sedentary lifestyle is the 4ᵉ leading risk factor for death in the world and responsible for 10% of deaths in Europe! In addition, according to the National Observatory of Physical Activity and Sedentariness states that “when we are inactive, we tend to eat more than necessary and foods often rich in fat and sugars.

Psychological risks

Psychosocial risks are the second most common reason for work stoppages in France

Psychosocial risks (PSR) generally correspond to an imbalance between the employee’s situation and his work environment, with harmful consequences on his physical and psychological health. They often result in stress, anxiety, depression, professional exhaustion, burn-out…

Telecommuting seems to be at the origin of some psychosocial risk factors such as

Social & professionnelisolation
Work-lifeimbalance
Goal-related stress
Decreased motivation
Poor time management
Mental overload

The social cost of stress at work is estimated at between 1.9 and 3 billion euros for France. (Ameli) Psychosocial risks have an impact on the functioning of the company and can be detrimental to its proper functioning (absenteeism, turnover, work atmosphere …), they are not to be underestimated!

Environmental risks

Indoor air is on average 5 to 7 times more polluted than outdoor air even though we spend 80 to 90% of our time indoors. This is due to many factors and pollutants that can have an impact on our health: air quality, noise, humidity, light…

Too much exposure to these factors can have a negative impact on the concentration and productivity of employees, but also on their health.

It has been shown that a good quality environment improves cognitive abilities and reduces absenteeism.

Telework, a risk for the vision

Poor air quality

In addition to pollutants brought from outside, many substances can be released inside the house, notably by building materials, furniture, perfume diffusers, candles, combustion appliances, animals or various human activities (smoking, cooking, maintenance and DIY activities, office work, etc.). These pollutants can have various effects on health, such as: asthma, respiratory allergies, irritation of the nose and airways, and some substances can be carcinogenic.

Telework, a risk for the vision

Excessive noise exposure

The daily noise exposure level of employees must not exceed 80 dB(A) on average over an 8-hour period, otherwise it can damage health.

Noise pollution can have consequences on hearing, on the body but also on work because it makes concentration more difficult. Learn more about the impact of noise on the health of employees here.

Telework, a risk for the vision

Mold exposure: 

Indoors, it is advisable to check that the humidity is less than 60% to avoid the development of mold. In addition, it is advisable to work with a temperature between 20 ° C and 24 ° C to ensure optimal concentration.

Exposure or inhalation of spores or mycotoxins emitted by molds or the presence of dust mites and their droppings cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and allergies. How to remedy humidity? More information here.

Which preventive measures should be put in place? 

Some tips for the employer:

According to the labor code, the employer is responsible for the health and safety of employees.

Here are a few tips to preserve the health and well-being of your remote employees:

  • Set up frequent communication, either verbally or in writing,
  • Continue internal QWL actions: implementation of videoconferencing for example,
  • Make employees aware of the importance of differentiating between professional and personal time,
  • Make employees aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle,
  • Equip employees, if possible, with ergonomic equipment,
  • Ensure the quality of the working environment of its employees: air quality, noise, etc.

Some tips for telecommuters:

  • Avoid and limit noise pollution

It has been decided that the level of daily noise exposure of employees should not exceed 80 dB(A) on an average over than 8 hours, as this could affect their health and concentration in their work.

When teleworking, we are disturbed by work, family or neighbors; it is therefore necessary to take breaks in a quiet area, to isolate our self from the noise as much as possible or to equip our self with earplugs or anti-noise headphones to avoid a decrease in performance.

Noise is the second most damaging environmental factor in Europe after air pollution (WHO)

Noise is the second most damaging environmental factor in Europe after air pollution (WHO)

To learn more about the consequences of noise on the health of employees, go here

  • Optimize lighting

We have seen previously that an unsuitable luminosity can cause visual fatigue for the employee. This is why it is necessary to have a good balance between natural and artificial light. To do this, position the workstation near to window and position the screen to have no reflections. If natural light is not sufficient, turning on the light or adding an individual lamp on the desk can be solutions.

  • Pay attention to the temperature

To work effectively, the indoor temperature must be between 20°C and 24°C. Outside this range, concentration can be affected. With the low temperatures showed in recent days, we tend to overheat our homes. Adjust the heating level to maintain an ideal temperature for work.

  • Preserve indoor air quality

In teleworking, it is important to take care of the indoor air quality. The carbon dioxide (CO2) that we naturally produce when we exhale can quickly reach high concentrations and negatively affect the efficiency and productivity of employees, but also their health. An exposure to only 1000ppm is enough to notice negative effects such as headaches, loss of attention, asthma, fatigue… Learn more here.

To limit these risks, it is important to renew your home’s air regularly when teleworking. It is recommended to ventilate at least 10 minutes per day. In addition to improving the indoor air, this avoids the transmission of Covid-19.

For teleworkers, telework has more advantages than disadvantages but it is necessary not to underestimate these potential risks. Meersens can help you take care of the health and well-being of your employees even at a distance! Air quality, noise, temperature, light… Make the invisible visible with Meersens solutions.

Meersens, analyse the quality of your environement

Meersens is a positive impact environmental health company, mobilized to create a sustainable future, enabling environmental risk mitigation and positively contributing to the health and well-being of stakeholders – by providing customized environmental monitoring and prevention.

Meersens provides 360°, real-time, historical and predictive multi-pollutant monitoring and insight for any location with high accuracy, enabling you to mitigate risks and make better decisions.

Whether you are a company wishing to act for its employees, a city for its citizens, Meersens can help you!

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