Wales survey shows health declined for third of home workers

Lianne Dallimore, UNISON Cymru Wales Local Government Committee chair


The mental and physical health of a third of people working from home in Wales has deteriorated because of the new ways of working.

The same proportion of workers have not received any health and safety guidance about working from home.

These are some of key findings from the biggest Welsh survey of its kind into the effects of working from home.

UNISON Cymru Wales surveyed 950 workers delivering public services across local government; health; higher education; further education; police and justice; water; environment; transport; community and energy sectors.

The trade union says, whilst many have benefitted from working from home, too few employers have fully considered all the implications for their staff of home working and are not providing health and safety guidance.

UNISON’s survey shows a third of home workers are working longer hours and report a decline in their work-life balance.

Home workers reported experiencing musculoskeletal pain, feeling more fatigued, disrupted sleep patterns and eye strain.

The trade union wants employers to immediately act to ensure public service workers working from home have all the support they require.

UNISON Cymru Wales’ survey of home working found: –

  • 34 per cent were not provided with any health and safety guidance about working from home
  • 62 per cent say their employer did not conduct a homeworking risk assessment
  • 50 per cent are now doing more work (31 per cent the same amount)
  • 34 per cent are working more hours (59 per cent the same hours)
  • 35 per cent say their physical health has deteriorated
  • 34 per cent say their mental health has deteriorated
  • 27 per cent say their work-life balance has been negatively impacted

UNISON also points to generally lower paid workers on the front line in their communities, NHS staff, care workers, refuse workers and many others who by the nature of their jobs do not have a choice about whether they wish to work from home. The union says, generally better paid workers and managers have been able to benefit from home working.

Lianne Dallimore, UNISON Cymru Wales Local Government Committee chair, said,

“People are working harder and longer hours from our homes and it’s having an impact. A third of employees haven’t been given any health and safety guidance and there is a direct link to increased health problems and worsening work-life balance as personal time is consumed by work.

“This isn’t the kind of society I want to live in. Out of the Covid disaster, we have the opportunity to shape a fairer and kinder world. That means employers being more pro-active to support staff in the new ways of working and listening to their views and involving their trade unions.

“We have to be very wary of unfair divides opening up in society too, between the generally low paid front-line workers, for whom working from home is not an option and better paid who may be able to choose where they work.

“Lower paid workers must be better valued by society; they kept our communities going when times were at their darkest in lockdown.”

Dave Rees, UNISON Cymru Wales convenor, said,

“Home working under lockdown has adjusted the lives of many, but not everyone has been equally effected. Many employers expect more work to be done by their workforce for the same wages and they have ignored their duty of care to ensure employees’ safety and wellbeing. This is not acceptable.

“UNISON’s calling for Welsh government to ensure employers are providing their public service workers with all the necessary support for home working.”

Notes for editors

  • UNISON surveyed 947 workers delivering public services in the community, health, local government, further education, higher education, police and justice, water, environment, transport and energy sectors, in April 2021
  • Before the Covid pandemic, which of the following best describes your job?

I never/ rarely work from home


Occasionally I work from home


I regularly work from home


I work from home most days of the week


  • Since the Covid pandemic started in March 2020, have you worked from home some or all of the time?

Yes, all of time                                                                                  54.9%

Yes, some of the time                                                                     34.6%

No                                                                                                       10.5%

  • If not, do you think it would be possible for your job to be done from home if you had the right support?

Yes                                                                                                     16.2%

No                                                                                                       78.8%

I don’t know                                                                                      5.1%

  • Did your employer conduct a homeworking risk assessment?

Yes                                                                                                     38.8%

No                                                                                                       61.7%

  • Did your employer provide you with any health and safety guidance about working from home?

Yes                                                                                                     66.4%

No                                                                                                       33.6%

  • Whilst working from home during the pandemic, have you got as much work done as when you’re working in the workplace?

More work                                                                                         50.2%

Same amount of work                                                                     31.2%

Less work                                                                                          18.6%

  • Have you continued to work your contracted hours whilst working from home?

More hours                                                                                       34.1%

Same hours                                                                                      58.7%

Less hours                                                                                        7.3%

  • Working from home, has contact from your line manager been…

More frequent                                                                                   22.6%

Same                                                                                                  45.9%

Less frequent                                                                                   31.5%

  • Has working from home effected your physical health?

Improved                                                                                            20.6%

Stayed same                                                                                     44.5%

Deteriorated                                                                                      35%

  • How has working from home impacted on your physical health?

I’ve started experiencing musculoskeletal pain such as backache/ hip pain


I feel more fatigued                                                                         31.8%

I have developed a poor sleep pattern                                         23.7%

I have experienced eye strain                                                        23.4%

Other                                                                                                  12.6%

I have experienced no physical health problem


  • How has working from home impacted on your mental health and well-being?

Improved                                                                                            18.7 %

Stayed the same                                                                              47.5%

Deteriorated                                                                                      33.8%

  • How has working from home effected your work-life balance?

Improved                                                                                            43.9%

Stayed the same                                                                              28.7%

Deteriorated                                                                                      27.4%

  • Where would you like to work in the long term?

Permanently working from home                                                  14.6%

Agile working (office and homeworking)


Fully office based                                                                             13.8%

  • What are the barriers that would make long-term working from home undesirable for you?

Health and safety considerations


Mental health and well-being                                                        50.8%

Costs too high                                                                                  13.8%

Family circumstances don’t suit homeworking


I am unable to adhere fully to GDPR regulations in my home


Other                                                                                                  39.9%


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97