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Study reveals hybrid workers are exercising more, sleeping longer and eating better

A new UK study has revealed that hybrid working is leading to a healthier workforce, with more time being dedicated to exercise, sleep and healthy eating.

Research among more than 2 000 hybrid workers by IWG, one of the world’s leading operators of flexible workspaces, reveals that the time saved by reduced commuting has led to multiple health and well-being benefits – including weight loss, better cooking habits, improved mental health and a longer night’s sleep.

The average hybrid worker is now getting 4,7 hours of exercise a week, compared to 3,4 hours before the pandemic, with the most common forms of exercise being walking, running and strength training. They are also sleeping longer, with the additional time in bed each morning equating to 71 extra hours – or three days – of sleep a year.

Eating habits have also dramatically improved. Seventy percent of respondents said that hybrid working has given them the time to prepare a healthy breakfast every day since hybrid working, while more than half (54%) have more time to spend cooking nutritious meals during the week. Workers are eating more fresh fruit and vegetables (46% and 44%, respectively), and one fifth (20%) are eating more fish. A quarter have also cut their intake of sweets since pre-2020.

More exercise, better sleep and healthier eating have, unsurprisingly, led to more than a quarter (27%) of workers saying they’ve lost weight since the start of the pandemic. Two in five (42%) have lost between five and 9,9kg, while a remarkable 23% have lost more than 10kg. The biggest drivers of weight loss have been increased time for exercise (65%) and more time to cook healthy meals (54%).

IWG partnered with Dr Sara Kayat, the renowned resident GP of ITV, to examine the health benefits of hybrid working. A wellness expert and passionate advocate of the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle, she believes hybrid working can free up time to give workers a helping hand.

“There is no doubt that hybrid working has facilitated some major health benefits,” said Dr Kayat. “A balanced diet, physical activity and good quality sleep are the bedrocks of a healthy lifestyle, and this data suggests that each is more widespread due to the extra time afforded by a hybrid working model.

“Stress management and social connections are also incredibly important to mental well-being. A healthy work/life balance is essential to achieving these; allowing people to work closer to home and make more time for family, friends and stress-busting hobbies.”

Hybrid working has seen increasing numbers of desk workers splitting their time between home or a local workspace and the office – dramatically reducing their commutes in the process and saving several hours a day.

Hybrid working is also delivering productivity gains. Almost four in five (79%) say they have been more productive since pre-2020 as a result of less work-related stress (47%) and having more time to relax and unwind after work (46%). Research from Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford Graduate School of Business, reveals that overall productivity is up 3% to 4% due to hybrid working, showing a tangible benefit for both businesses and staff.

With increased productivity at work and more free time outside of work, it is no surprise that two thirds (66%) feel that their mental health is good as a result of the shift to hybrid working. Just more than 80% say they feel they have had additional personal time compared to pre-2020. The majority spend this time promoting their health and well-being by spending time with family and friends (55%) and exercising (52%), or taking a short walk during the day (67%) – all of which has a positive knock-on effect on mental health.

“This study confirms what we have been seeing for a while now – how hybrid working is building and maintaining a healthier and happier workforce by reducing the need for long daily commutes,” said Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG.

“Offering hybrid working is such an important and easy way for businesses to put their employees first by freeing up their time and giving them greater control over their schedules. Organisations that have adopted hybrid working are not only seeing healthier and happier workforces, but more engaged and productive teams.” – IOL