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To Hybrid Work or not to Hybrid work?

That is the question!

While hybrid working has majorly been a part of life since 2020, what was seen as a more temporary fix has now made its way into the mainstream of working life. People appreciate the more favourable work-life balance that home working affords, and employers need to extend their health and safety considerations to include a more long-term focus on potential hazards that arise when people are working outside of the office.

Recent reports such as The Burnout report 2024 and updates in the terminology from the HSE (First Aid) Reg 1981 have drawn further attention towards Mental and Physical Health, especially when we start to think of the impact of hybrid working.

Are the recommendations actually any help to supporting someone and their health?

The Burnout Report (Click here view the report) discusses stress and burnout figures, the risks from MSK injuries and maps out recommendations such as the importance of work-life balance and guidelines to deal with MSK injuries.

New terminology from the First Aid Regs 1981 highlights employers’ responsibilities to take account of employees’ mental health in their first aid needs assessment.

But is this a well worn path of recommendations, just regurgitating terminology and recommendations?

In the modern day, work-life balance refers to the balance between an individual’s personal life and their professional commitments. It is about finding a harmonious integration of work and personal activities, ensuring that neither side dominates or negatively impacts the other but for those of us that work from home can we easily separate work and home-life?

It is important to note that work-life balance can vary greatly depending on individual preferences, career demands, and lifestyle choices.

Achieving work-life balance is not necessarily about dividing time equally between work and personal life, but rather about finding a sustainable and fulfilling blend that promotes overall wellbeing and satisfaction.

It may involve setting clear boundaries, practising effective time management, embracing flexible work options, and learning to disconnect and recharge when needed.

Ultimately, creating a lifestyle that allows individuals to thrive both professionally and personally.

Musculoskeletal (MSK)

The workplace health report 2024 reported around 43% of the Uk population are reporting musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, it is expected that instances of pain caused by MSK will remain very common in the workforce.

Hybrid workers make up the majority of the individuals who suffer from MSK pain (37%), followed by retail workers (20%), the  data also shows that 1 in 2 manual workers have reported experiencing current musculoskeletal pain.

These figures still show physical labour has the greatest strain on the body – whilst being static, stationary, sitting also compromises the health of our bodies, the musculoskeletal health of employees must be addressed.

Effectively managing risk among hybrid workers requires both information and education. 

Often, individuals tend to primarily focus on office ergonomics when considering this issue. It is recommended that all individuals have access to a chair with adjustable features. This may not be feasible at home due to limited space or a preference for a different aesthetic. It’s important to ensure they are able to work comfortably and efficiently.

It is important to be practical. If someone is using a kitchen counter, it is necessary to teach them how to use it safely.

Equipment is only one component of the solution in helping a worker effectively adjust their posture and develop better behaviours. Taking short breaks can lead to more successful results.  

Waiting lists for treatment are now reaching almost 11 million, the onus is now landing on employers to reduce the risks. The solution will always come back to education, helping a worker to understand the hazards they are exposed to and give them the tools and knowledge to address those hazards.  Offer a wellbeing approach to supporting employees who have musculoskeletal conditions.

Updates from the HSE include taking into account an employees’ mental health when conducting a needs assessment and “it maybe helpful to have people trained”.

What does that actually mean?

To consider or regard; to include (as in an estimate or plan) or pay attention to; to notice; to allow for.

The document also states that there is no current change in the law.

If mental health is to have the same focus and same importance as physical health, then legislation needs to change. Many businesses are still not compliant with the law, so when given a choice “maybe helpful” are they really going to comply?

Ultimately, there are countless positives as to why hybrid working is a great choice for so many – better work-life balance, less commuting time, save money travelling, less stress being in rush hour traffic or packed public transport etc etc.

But then we look at the flip side – do you truly get a better work-life balance? Or are you sitting at your desk for longer with less office distractions? Are you working slightly longer than normal working hours as you don’t have to ‘get home’? Are you missing that social aspect and connection with colleagues?

You add in the risk of MSK conditions and burnout, is hybrid working the correct way to go?

Our belief is that employers MUST extend their Health & Safety considerations to include a longer term focus on potential hazards, both physical and mental, that arise when people work outside the office.

If you would like to discuss the points discussed in this article further, or if you need support to tackle MSK or burnout in your organisation – please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
Email: info@greencrossglobal.co.uk or call: 0330 120 0105 and speak to our expert team of consultants today.

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