A Texas A&M University School of Public Health research team discovered that allowing employees to work remotely during natural calamities and other crises that induce workplace displacement may improve individual and organizational resilience.
The experts worked with a large oil and gas company in Texas to examine the ergonomic software data of employees. The company closed its offices throughout the study period owing to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, requiring employees to work remotely for an incredibly long time.
The researchers looked at employee technology data before, during, and after Hurricane Harvey. While total computer use reduced during the crisis, employees’ work patterns returned to normal after seven months of working remotely.
This study, published in IOS Press, delves deeper into the world of information workers, who account for nearly two-thirds of a company’s workforce and are growing more habituated to working remotely due to the pandemic.
“In the future, there will be a greater percentage of the workforce who is involved in some sort of office-style technology work activities,” said Benden, who is director of the school’s Ergonomics Center.
“Almost all of the study’s employees were right back up to the same output level as they were doing before Hurricane Harvey. This is a huge message for employers because we’re having national debates about whether or not employees should be able to work remotely or in a hybrid schedule.”
“The research shows that if you perform a certain way at a given pace for a certain amount of time, you’re more likely to be injured from that work,” Benden explained. “However, if you work a little less or a little less frequently, break up the duration, or have certain other character traits—like posture—you’re less likely to develop a problem from doing your office work.”
Benden also stated that taking breaks does not affect the quality of work carried out by employees.
“The people who took the recommended breaks were more productive overall. They got more done,” he said. “We need to learn this about people, we need to teach people about it, and then we need to help people actually do it.”
The researchers believe that these statistics can be utilized to promote healthy behaviours among employees, including those who work remotely, and inform employment policies. Moreover, collecting such data can assist businesses in addressing remote employee health issues such as depression and drug dependency.