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In a new report, EU-OSHA takes stock of occupational safety and health (OSH) related to telework. Indeed, the unprecedented spread of this form of work organisation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has raised questions about its long-term impact. While it has helped companies to evolve and survive the crisis, it has exposed workers to an increased risk of musculoskeletal and psychosocial disorders.
The EU-OSHA study is based on a literature review and a series of interviews with 48 employees and 18 employers conducted in three countries – Spain, France and Italy – from February to May 2021.
The literature review provided extensive evidence on telework and psychosocial risks. Less research has been done on MSDs and their interrelation with psychosocial risks. According to the European Agency, compulsory telework during the pandemic may have exacerbated psychosocial risks and MSDs, mainly because of the lack of choice and its exceptional intensity and duration. However, research into the experience of telework during this period can provide valuable insights into OHS issues for the post-pandemic context. Among other aspects, the study highlights the emergence of psychological risks related to intense virtual communication and a high prevalence of self-reported MSDs related to sedentary work, poor ergonomic conditions, long working hours and work-related stress.
Together with its national focal points, EU-OSHA has found that in most EU countries the experience of telework during the pandemic has triggered legislative developments.