Remote working is key to attracting workers but its effect on stress and productivity is ambiguous, according to research by Nuffield Health.
A white paper published by the not-for-profit healthcare provider reviews the impact of remote working on employees and employers at organisations of all sizes across different sectors.
The report concludes that remote working could provide employees with the flexibility to juggle work and home-life demands, and is linked to positive wellbeing. However, it adds that research proved inconclusive on the impact of remote working on stress levels and productivity, and indicates mixed results.
The report, The Effects of Remote Working on Stress, Wellbeing and Productivity, was conducted with University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and written in partnership with Public Policy Projects, and reviewed published research on the topic.
Nuffield Health concludes that employers should offer training on how to manage the unique demands of remote working, for example, to guarantee separation of work and home life.
The report says remote working was found to be positive on wellbeing overall, and that negative effects were largely because of individual factors that could be addressed organisationally, such as ensuring appropriate technology to enable seamless access to work material.
Nuffield Health makes several recommendations for employers, including the need for an organisation-wide policy on remote working, consideration of remote working on mental health, and fostering of social and professional interaction.
A "one-size-fits-all approach" should never be taken, and trust between manager and employee was vital for successful remote working, it concludes. It should also be established whether or not an employee working from home has a suitable space and necessary equipment such as a desk, chair, computer, broadband, phone and storage for any sensitive materials.
Dr Ben Kelly, Nuffield Health head of clinical research and outcomes, said remote working was likely to continue to increase, and its flexibility made it key to attracting and retaining talent.
"The health and wellbeing of a workforce can have huge implications not just on the employee but also the organisation and the wider economy," said Kelly. "By ensuring we are looking after the physical health, mental health and wellbeing of employees we are able to sustain a healthier, happier workforce."