In the spring of 2020, a mass migration from office work to working from home occurred as a result of the global pandemic. In response, USC researchers issued a survey about the impact of working from home to a random sample of working-aged individuals in the U.S.
The researchers included: Burcin Becerik-Gerber, Dean's Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Gale Lucas, research assistant professor at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and Shawn Roll, associate professor in the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Together, they analyzed responses from nearly 1,000 respondents detailing everything from physical and mental health impacts to how different workspace setups impacted productivity. Below are some of their findings.
Slide of survey data regarding work from home situations for respondents. Image from CENTIENTS.
Respondents shared that they spend on average 1.5 hours more at their workstations while working from home, compared to similar work performed in a formal office setting.
"Healthcare and social services" employees spent significantly more time (over one hour) at their workstations than those in the "engineering, architecture" and "business and office" categories.
Those who have a dedicated workspace report greater productivity than those without one.
Mental health was also positively correlated with having a dedicated workspace.
Read more about how buildings can impact health and well-being here.
In the survey results, physical and mental health were significantly predicted by knowing how to adjust setup of a workstation. Specifically, physical and mental health improved with a consistent workstation setup. Working in a variety of places around the home--the kitchen table, the bedroom, the couch--instead of a dedicated room and space reduced productivity. Workers who had a regular desk or and adjustable office chair engaged more at their workstation compared with those who do not have such a desk or an adjustable chair.
Researchers partnered with Arup, a firm focusing across disciplines on enhancing the built environment, to create a smart desk to make workers more productive and improve their physical and mental well-being while seated.
Illustrations by Madelin Lum.