Face-to-Face, Home Office Hybrid Work Model Could Make Sleep Worse, Study Says

There’s a strong trend towards the hybrid work model, one that alternates face-to-face activities with the home office, but that can create difficulties for people to sleep regularly and even increase or cause insomnia.

Researchers at the Instituto do Sono say the challenge from this model is the change in time between days of in-person activities verses a home office.

One benefit of working at home, though, is that while face-to-face working requires more time between waking up and arriving at the workstation, by staying at home, it’s possible to lengthen the hours of sleep. The information comes from Agência Brasil.

Quality of sleep

In addition to breaking the routine of bedtime and waking up, hybrid work can decrease the quality of sleep. This is because by working on a remote system, people divide their time at home between work, taking care of kids, other duties and sleep. Also, having workers at home mixed that work-life balance, so companies felt more comfortable reaching workers outside of regular business hours.

“And companies made their work more flexible and they were no longer afraid to send an email at midnight, waiting for a response,” said Gabriel Natan Pires, biomedical doctor and researcher at Instituto do Sono.

To maintain a better quality of sleep, he said, the worker must follow a routine with specific time for leisure, work, food and rest. Not following these habits can even lead to negative reflexes for the immune system. “It’s like our brains need clues to figure out when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up,” Pires says.

Pires adds that on work-from-home days, workers may be able to sleep a little longer, since they don’t need to drive to their place of work, but it’s important that they start and end the work day the same time. “This plan will work if the company takes care of the employee’s mental health and the professional does not give up sleep to increase productivity,” he says. “Even because it’s a utopia to work until 11 p.m. and think that at 11:05 p.m. you are going to sleep .”

Another home challenge

Another challenge for hybrid work, Pires says, is finding a good working environment at home so as not to harm health and maintain the routine. People who already have insomnia should maintain regular work and healthy habits, as any deviation could make the condition worse.

“You have to have a rule to see if this person who is ready to hybrid work can really adapt to that,” he says. “The idea is that people who cannot, prefer office work because if the uncertain routine affects the sleep, being in the office can be less harmful.”

Remote work and insomnia

According to Pires, the COVID-19 pandemic has generated a pandemic of insomnia. At least 60% of people have experienced insomnia during the pandemic, either due to anxiety because of the health crisis or routine changes.

“It’s one thing to work at home because you have chosen it, another is to want to work because it was imposed, knowing that there is no suitable environment and that I have to stay locked up, like my kids, who can’t go to school,” he says. “It wasn’t remote work. It changed the routine and sleep lost space because working at home without rules tore it up and extended the working day, which ran out of time to finish.”

Don’t work too late

One major problem is when workers work too late, which increases the chance of insomnia. Your brain needs to wind down before bedtime. Working before bed brings all of that stress to bed, and just when the brain is supposed to slow down, that late-night stress can result in a reaction similar to post-traumatic stress.

“If I started to pick up my cell phone in bed and started to stress, over time my brain would associate my bed with a stressful environment. In the past, I used to lie down in bed and sleep was coming because it was an environment of relaxation, not now,” Pires says. He added that if you want to fall asleep around 10 p.m., you should start winding down by 8 p.m. “Sleep should be allowed and natural,” he says.

Worsening of sleep

A survey by the Instituto do Sono found that 55.1% of participants had poorer sleep patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period in which remote working predominated. One of the reasons cited by more than 1,600 survey participants was a change. Participants also pointed to fear of getting sick, financial insecurity and estrangement from family and friends.

According to data from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), in the most acute phase of the pandemic, 11% of Brazilians joined remote work, totaling 8.4 million people in 2020. Of them, 63.9% came from the initiative of which 51% were related to education, 38.8% to the financial sector and 34.7% to communication activities.

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