Research shows that home working is associated with a higher risk of voice problems

Posted on: 09 November 2020

In June of this year, during the ‘first’ lockdown in Ireland, Dr Ciarán Kenny, Assistant Professor in Clinical Speech and Language Studies at Trinity conducted a research study to ascertain how our voices were affected by the switch to working from home for employees.

Research shows that people such as call-centre workers are very prone to voice problems because of how they speak; not just because of how often they are using their voice, but also because of how intensely they are using it compared to face-to-face communication. Most often, the issue is that people raise and tense their voice when they are not face-to-face. Reports at the time of the first lockdown were that some people working from home during this pandemic had started to report similar problems with symptoms like hoarseness, or a dry, tight or lump-in-the-throat feeling.

The findings of Dr Kenny’s study have now been published in the Journal of Voice, HERE.

A survey was issued to the general public to ask those working from home whether they noticed problems with their voice or throat. The study was the first to conclusively investigate whether using services like Zoom and Skype instead of working face-to-face could cause voice problems.

The main findings of the newly published research show:

  • One third of people working from home have a hoarse voice and that in 85% of those cases, it started when they began working from home.
  • Hoarse voice was not the only complaint. Almost 70% of people developed discomfort in their throat, most commonly a persistent dry throat. This also started when people began working from home.
  • Long-lasting hoarseness and throat problems can cause difficulties for people. It can affect the ability to communicate, which has an impact on social and occupational life.
  • The research concluded that those working from home should be given training and support by their workplaces to maintain their vocal health. In fact, companies have a legal obligation to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees when working from home.


Dr Ciaran Kenny, said:

According to the Health and Safety Authority, employers are required to accommodate the health needs of their workers, even if that work is being done from home. Companies routinely provide ear muffs to those working in loud environments or lumbar support chairs for people with back problems. One over-looked aspect of work is how much we use our voice for our jobs. Like any other part of our body, our voice can become damaged through overuse or misuse, which can lead to long-term hoarseness or loss of voice. This research has shown that home working is associated with a higher risk of voice problems. It is therefore in the employer’s best interests to ensure that their workers have the equipment and training needed to protect their voice.    



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