Description: Sometimes you may run across references to large scale studies that take broad, general looks at parts or sectors of the population and sometimes those large survey studies take a look at aspects of mental health. Before taking the results of such studies at face value it is well worth taking a moment or two to think about what the reported result do not tell you. The article linked below talks about a timely issue involving the question of how completely people should return to working in office locations following the big pivot to working from home during Covid. You can think of this moment in time as a sort of natural experiment. Many people moved to working from home and now many organizations are trying to decide whether to just switch back to ‘in the office’ work or to support some or a lot of continued remote work. Putting aside questions of organizational health and productivity (important questions but not so psychological), think about the question of employee mental health. Look for the part where the author talks about what the report had to say about employee mental health when working from home and when working at the office and note, particularly, what it says about how this seemed to play out for men. Read the article and then re-read that particular section of the article talking about mental health and then ask yourself what you do NOT know about questions of remote work and mental health. What else would you like to find out about? What additional research could/should be done? Tis is a valuable research opportunity to look at how work-life is organized or could be organized and about how that could affect work-life balance, wellbeing and mental health going forward so give it some thought!
Source: Canadians, especially men, want remote work to stick around, Vanmala Subramaniam, The Globe and Mail.
Date: September 15, 2022
What sorts of questions came to mind for you? Could there be differences between those who stayed in the office and those that worked more from home that pre-existed the workplace shift? Were there differences in the work from home experiences of men and women that were more related to issues of domestic task sharing and responsibility than to the work location question? How did the Covid array of challenges, threats and issues play into this? What sort of research do we need to do, and with who should it be done, if we are going to clarify our understanding of what is going on with the back to the office question? Interesting times invariably raised interesting psychological research questions!
Questions for Discussion:
- What did the survey discussed in the article suggest about the impact of working from home on mental health?
- What are your thoughts on the reported finding that men had better mental health outcomes when working from home?
- What sorts of research questions do you now have about the role of working from home or office on mental health?
References (Read Further):
Future Skills Centre (2022) The shift to remote work: How workers in Canada are adapting to working from home. Link
Oakman, J., Kinsman, N., Stuckey, R., Graham, M., & Weale, V. (2020). A rapid review of mental and physical health effects of working at home: how do we optimize health?. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1-13. Link
Xiao, Y., Becerik-Gerber, B., Lucas, G., & Roll, S. C. (2021). Impacts of working from home during COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental well-being of office workstation users. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63(3), 181. Link
Kitagawa, R., Kuroda, S., Okudaira, H., & Owan, H. (2021). Working from home: Its effects on productivity and mental health. Covid Economics, 74, 142-171. Link
Evanoff, B. A., Strickland, J. R., Dale, A. M., Hayibor, L., Page, E., Duncan, J. G., … & Gray, D. L. (2020). Work-related and personal factors associated with mental well-being during the COVID-19 response: survey of health care and other workers. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(8), e21366. Link