Working at home with the notebook can be handy – you can save the way to the office or take care of little things in the household. But tele work or home work is not always good for your health. While the office usually has secure desks and ergonomic office chairs, many people use their own kitchen table or sofa at home. In view of the rapidly changing work environment, the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva called for new efforts on Thursday.
According to ILO data, around 374 million people worldwide become ill at work every year or are injured in work-related accidents. Every day, it is estimated that 6,500 people die from illnesses caused by their work, and 1,000 people die in accidents at work.
Rising challenges are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer as well as stress and psychosocial risks, according to the ILO. Among other things, this can be attributed to fixed-term employment contracts, to employer demands for more flexibility in working hours and increasing telework or home work. Workers may feel isolated or stressful when work and leisure are less and less clearly separated.
Danger of isolation
Sometimes, smart technology and wearable devices have also led to stress and feelings of isolation. While they could help to improve safety, for example, by measuring fatigue or the quality of air someone has to work in, the ILO says. But employees may also feel that they are losing their autonomy over their work. They may miss the contact with colleagues, whereas earlier they exchanged more information directly or by phone.
Places for teleworking must actually comply with the same regulations as in the workplace. Employers are required by the Workplace Ordinance to design the workplaces ergonomically and instruct their employees. Many employees also work outside of these legal regulations from home or on the road, said the expert Nils Backhaus of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Dortmund.
According to national and international survey data, home office is not as widespread as in the Netherlands or Denmark. The hardest jobs are certainly jobs that would be done completely from home. Here the danger of social isolation is the highest, also problems would arise in companies, which maintained still a strong presence culture.
The chance to combine work and private life also carries the risk of over mixing the two areas, said Backhaus. Moreover, in the home office, people would often work longer and rarely meet the occupationally-appropriate rest periods.
Demanded anti-stress regulation
Experts believe “Intensification and unblocking are the crux of the modern world of work,” The federal states as supervisory authorities failed in health protection: Instead of continuously reducing supervisory staff, it would be necessary to rebuild. “The federal government must finally adopt an anti-stress regulation to reduce mental stress at work.” After all, most threats have long been known.
The rapid growth of industrial robots also brings with it new risks, according to the ILO. Robots made work easier, because they lift heavy loads. At the same time there is a risk of accidents at work in contact with these machines.
Authorities, employers and employees would have to investigate these new risks and improve labor standards where necessary, the ILO demands. The organization belongs to the United Nations. In addition to governments, employees and employers are represented. The ILO should improve social justice and labor rights.