Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to continue working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, far away from the potential perils of the daily commute on public transit or sharing a workplace with others.
But there is a downside to working from home. If it feels like the workday is getting longer, it’s not just your imagination. It is.
The endless work day
A comprehensive study conducted by experts at Harvard Business School and New York University found that the average work day has increased by 48.5 minutes since the COVID-19 pandemic and work from home lockdown started. And it’s not just in the U.S. The authors based their conclusions on interviews with over three million workers in North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
A previous study conducted in the early days of the pandemic found work schedules increasing by up to an even heftier three hours per day.
“From New York City to Tel Aviv, the telecommuting revolution has meant a lot more work,” concluded financial information company Bloomberg.
More meetings and emails
What’s filling up that extra time on the job? It’s the traditional culprits – meetings and emails.
We’re attending more meetings than ever before, although now they are held remotely via Zoom or similar teleconferencing services. Thankfully, the typical meeting is now shorter than before. We’re also spending more time emailing co-workers, especially at night, after the traditional work day ends.
What helps explain the increased after-hours communication? Researchers say the work day is becoming more fluid as workers have to take time during the day to care for children or other family members, and squeeze in other personal commitments. That helps push basic work tasks to after-hours, when there are fewer distractions.
Watch out for burnout
Increasingly blurry lines between work and home, and the seemingly never-ending work day, mean workers may be at risk for burnout.
A study by online employment company Monster reveals that 69 percent of employees say they are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home during COVID-19. Compounding that, the majority of workers find themselves taking less personal time off than they normally would since the pandemic started, and over 40% of workers are frustrated by their lower productivity while working at home.
Creating order out of #WFH chaos
Let’s face it. Since the pandemic started, we have all lost control over many aspects of our personal and working lives. We can’t turn the clock back to “normal” but there are a few things we can do to make our days more manageable.
To combat burnout while working from home, schedule breaks during the work day, and get outside to expand your horizons beyond those same four walls. Take periodic days off to rest and recharge (and frankly, just get away from that laptop and the uncomfortable chair!). Set firm boundaries for when work stops and your personal time begins, and write down some personal goals you would like to accomplish while taking advantage of the extra time at home. Finally, recognize that simultaneously working and caring for children or other family members is a challenge for everyone. Years ago, I remember staying home to take care of my daughter, who had chicken pox, while trying to get work done, with definitely mixed results. Cut yourself some slack, and talk to your employer about trying to set up a work schedule that can work for both of you.