There is a lot of research related to mental health and remote work. As a Human Resources Administrator who works in the People Operations Department, one of my concerns is mental health in the workplace. Sometimes it’s easy to forget about how we can work on this part of our lives, and sometimes we pay more attention to our physical health.
Yet, According to the World Health Organization (2018), mental health is an essential component in our lives and refers to more than only the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. Mental health is a state of well-being and it depends on multiple social, psychological, and biological factors, which means that everyone has different characteristics in their personality that will affect their mental health.
As Modites, we have one common factor that affects our mental health: working remotely. We are grateful to Modus Create for giving us this opportunity as we do not have to worry about how we will get to work, where we are going to have lunch, or not having enough time with our family, friends or pets. And, there are many more benefits.
First, I would like to define what remote work is. The European Framework Agreement on Telework defines remote work in article 2 as:
Telework (remote work) is a form of organizing and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employer’s premises, is carried out away from those premises on a regular basis (European Framework Agreement, cited in Tavares, 2015, p. 8).
Another definition of remote work is given by Belzunegui-Eraso and Erro-Garces (2020):
Telework facilitates flexibility and a strong work-family balance while reducing the environmental impacts of mobility…consists of a relatively new model of alternative work arrangements…telework implies work achieved with the help of communications technologies and conducted outside the employer’s location (Belzunegui-Eraso and Erro-Garces, 2020, pp. 1-2).
When did we start to think of remote work as a possibility? Well, the interest initiated in the 70s when the term of telecommuting was used to talk about work away from the office. In the 80s remote work started to grow, the employers saw this kind of work as a new opportunity. It was in the 90s when teleworking jumped into another level; in this decade, companies around the world saw the opportunity to create flexible work programs. In 2016, census data from the United States and the European Union showed that, respectively, 23% and 5% of employees worked remotely (Vries, Tummer and Bekkers, 2019).
Technology has changed the way we work. It has provided opportunities to work from different locations and allowed people to have schedule flexibility and how they do their tasks. This is so important for the well-being of the employees (Grant, Wallace and Spurgeon, 2013).
The Importance of Remote Work for Our Mental Health
This well-being means better performance and productivity. Tolhurst (2019) explains a recent study by Vodafone which found that three-quarters of 8,000 companies around the world have flexible practices, 61% showed an increase in their profits, and 83% said that remote work increased their productivity. But, why does this happen?
There is no single answer to this question. There are a lot of studies with different perspectives, but in one study called “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work” created by Messenger, Vargas, Gschwind, Boehmer, Vermeylen and Wilkens (2017), they synthesized information regarding remote work from researches in: Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan, United States, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom. The study shows that remote workers have less stress compared with regular workers. The difference between both groups is 25% according to the results of the study. Furthermore, people who work remotely are happier, healthier and experience less work-life conflicts, those reactions appeared in 80% of cases.
The study also explains that remote workers report less chance of having a mental illness. The researchers focused on depression, anxiety, and burnout, three mental conditions that provoke problems related to productivity and work satisfaction. The results showed people who work from home have a 34% possibility to present these conditions compared to the 46% of regular workers (Messenger, et al. 2017).
Remote workers agree that working flexibility has become a huge opportunity for workers to improve relationships with their family, social life, and work. This happens because they have fewer constraints and gain autonomy at the same time. The borders between working and non-working time now can be adjustable to the needs of people, and let them balance their working hours and adapting to the needs of the company (Tavares, 2015).
A study made by Filardi, De Castro and Fundão (2018) called “Advantages and disadvantages of teleworking in Brazilian public administration: analysis of SERPRO and Federal Revenue experiences” shows that remote workers consider as the main advantages of the approach, reduction of costs regarding commuting and food, they feel safer, less exposure to violence, and lowered pollution. The researchers also compared these results with others and they observed a better quality of life in the remote workers. So it is really important to have this in mind: not only related to tasks, remote workers have a better lifestyle when compared with normal workers.
In a study called “Teleworking: a strategy of motivation” created by Vega and Flores (2014, cited in Benjumea-Arias, Villa-Enciso and Valencia-Arias, 2016) they mentioned that remote work helps the employees to improve:
- Emotional self-regulation
- Stress reduction
Because they can manage their tasks and time, it’s really important for the employer to trust their employees to let them make decisions about what is the better approach for a specific task.
How Remote Work Helps Modites and Modus Create
According to the American Psychological Association, people whose jobs are highly complex perform better when they work remotely than when they work in the office. The researcher explains this is because these kinds of jobs require concentration or significant problem-solving (Abrams, 2019).
So, at the end we can see that remote life has clear benefits. Hunkeler (2020) confirms the studies mentioned above explaining these benefits:
- Less time spent commuting: this reduces the stressful and unpleasant commute, your mental health will thank you for this!
- Improved employee retention: the flexibility regarding remote work improves how people feel about their jobs, this creates a healthy place to work.
- Access to a wider pool of applicants: Modus Create has an incredible multicultural team. People from every part of the world have access to work at Modus.
- Greater autonomy: the opportunity to lead your process is a way you can improve your skills, and increase your confidence to design your own project for Modus Create.
- Lower costs: the employees can reduce their expenses, and the company too, at the same time.
- Make better use of technology: Modus Create as a software development company needs to be in touch with technology. This is a huge opportunity because it allows Modites to use invaluable tools to complete tasks and communicate.
- Increased productivity: according to a Canada Life Survey, remote workers rank their productivity as 7.7/10 compared to 6.5/10 for regular workers.
As we can see, remote work has great advantages, not only for companies, but for their employees. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to keep our mental health in check, and remote work can be an instrument that we can use for this purpose. But, it’s still a challenge. It’s important to keep improving how we approach our tasks. Living a remote life is like technology: it changes every second.
Abrams, Z. (2019). The future of remote work. American Psychological Association. Recovered from: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/10/cover-remote-work
Belzunegui-Eraso, A. & Erro-Garces, A. (2020). Teleworking in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Sustainability, 12(), 1-18.
Benjumea-Arias, M., Villa-Enciso, E. & Valencia-Arias, J. (2016). Benefits and impacts of teleworking in human talent. CEA, 2(4), 59-73.
Grant, C., Wallace, L. & Spurgeon, P. (2013). An exploration of the psychological factors affecting remote e-worker’s job effectiveness, well-being and work-life balance. Employee Relations, 35(5), 527-546.
Hunkeler, I. (2020). 8 benefits of allowing employees to work remotely. Zippia. Recovered from: https://www.zippia.com/employer/8-benefits-allowing-employees-work-remotely/
Filardi, F., De Castro, R. & Fundão, M. (2018). Advantages and disadvantages of teleworking in Brazilian public administration: analysis of SERPRO and Federal Revenue experiences. Cad. EBAPE.BR, 18(1), 28-46.
Messenger, J., Vargas, O., Gschwind, L., Boehmer, S., Vermeylen, G. & Wilkens, M. (2017). Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work. Eurofound.
Tavares, A. (2015). Telework and health effects review, and a research framework proposal. University of Coimbra, Portugal. Recovered from: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/71648/1/MPRA_paper_71648.pdf
Tolhurst, K. (2019). Managing mental health in changing business models. Recovered from: https://www.iod.com/Portals/0/PDFs/Campaigns%20and%20Reports/Mental%20Health/Managing-Mental-Health-in-Changing-Business-Models.pdf?ver=2019-05-08-171250-623
Vries, H., Tummers, L. & Bekkers, V. (2019). The benefits of teleworking in the public sector: reality or rhetoric?. Sage Journal, 39(4), 570-593
World Health Organization (2018). Mental health: strengthening our response. Recovered from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response