Geneva, Feb 17: Using smartphones, laptops and other technology to work from home may help you do away with rush hour traffic, but also lead to longer working hours, higher stress and sleeping problems, according to a new UN study in 15 countries including India.
"This report shows that the use of modern communication technologies facilitates a better overall work-life balance," said Jon Messenger, co-author of the joint report by the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Eurofund.
The study is based on interviews with workers and experts in 10 European Union member states, Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan and the US.
The study identified several types of employees using new technologies to work outside the employer's premises, including regular home-based teleworkers, workers performing occasional telework and information and communication technologies mobile work (T/ICTM).
It highlights positive effects of teleworking, such as greater autonomy on working time and better work-day organisation, and reduced commuting time resulting in a better overall work-life balance and higher productivity.
On the down side, teleworking "blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations," Messenger said.
People teleworking have a tendency to work longer hours, and have higher levels of stress as a result of overlapping paid work and personal life. The analysis also shows that regular home-based teleworkers tend to be more likely to report sleeping problems in general, when compared to those always work at the employer's premises, the report said.
"In India, survey results indicate that a higher proportion of T/ICTM workers work long hours (defined as more than 48 hours per week) than office-based workers (66 per cent compared to 59 per cent)," it said.
As telework becomes more prominent so too has the need to disconnect in order to separate paid work and personal life, with France and Germany beginning to look at arrangements at the company level, and at existing and new legislation, such
as the "right to be disconnected" in the most recent revision of the French Labour Code, the report said.
There are distinctions between home-based teleworkers who seem to enjoy better work-life balance and 'high-mobile' workers who are more at risk of negative health and well-being outcomes, it said.
The report recommends promoting formal part-time teleworking so that people working from home can maintain their ties with co-workers and improve their well-being.