Are Employees Working Harder in Lockdown?
Most of the UK’s employees have remarked that their employers expect them to work outside the normal working hours during the lockdown. This has, over an extended period, contributed to serious health issues amongst the remotely-working workforce, contributing to fatigue, burnout and in some cases leading to adverse health effects. All this started shortly after the incorporation of remote working into the schedule of most of the country’s working population. Employees have remarked that the remote-working paradigm emphasizes on an employee’s perpetual availability and attentiveness throughout his working hours, and sometimes beyond. A majority of the population are still struggling to get used to it and to keep up with the timely delivery of their workloads.
An important thing to note here is the thin line of demarcation created between work and home which leads to considerable stress for the employees. A majority of the employees admitted to be under a heavier work stress than while working from office, leading to doubts about if and when to disconnect from stressful periods while remote-working. This cycle of events then directly led to affecting the mental health of those in question, along with serious bouts of depression and anxiety.
The 2021 Working From Home Study, conducted by Wildgoose, raised concerns about the availability of sick leaves to employees and how the employees were planning to use it. It was found out that about 29% of the employees faced serious health issues, including illnesses, while working. Small to medium-sized organizations had the greatest percentage of employees who were working from home while being sick or under tremendous physical and mental strain. Employees have reported a marked increase in official workload as compared to last year, when working from office.
This brings the onus on HR teams to effectively manage the well-being of the workforce and effectively communicate to the employees the management’s stance on the well-being of its employees, and to take leaves as and when required. The workforce have also themselves stressed the importance of internal communication, especially with fellow colleagues and team members, as a key measure to lower stress levels.
An important thing to note here is that casual communication plays a vital role in invigorating employees to cope up with the physical and mental stresses of a remote-working schedule and helps them to deal with issues such as associated isolation and subsequent anxiety. Natural and timely breaks from work, filled with casual conversations with fellow colleagues freshen up and motivate employees for the additional pushes required to give their daily inputs to work. The importance of such conversational sessions or casual team meets must never be underestimated.
The scenario exacerbated the disruptions in the personal lives of remote-working parents, with at least one parent suffering daily from health issues due to fatigue, thus greatly reducing the time required to interact with and look after the kids. A majority of the working population expected their organization to provide child support, in lieu of flexible working hours or other alternatives.
Mental well-being cannot be sustained by the “always on” ideal which remote-working has supposedly publicised, mental health experts argue. Employees on the verge of a burnout are physically and mentally fatigues and cannot think clearly or make effective decisions. Besides that, work has more to do with efficiency than speed, atleast in the long run; thereby greater emphasis must be laid on mental state of employees who’re even being driven to perform outside work hours.
The fact that performance and efficiency during longer working hours depends on the employee’s mental state has greatly been overlooked, and more so during the initial stages of the move to remote-working by organizations the world over. However, with considerable improvements in remote-working technologies and strategies, experts have devised improved ways to allow the employees to invest more thought into their tasks while keeping their stress levels at bay. They say that’s tasks are best accomplished one task at a time.
HR experts and organizational HR staff must give due priority to communication from the employees in this regard, especially during stressful times like these. The HR staff must let the employees know that they’re accessible in case of any queries or work issues, and make them feel comfortable whenever approached and listen to whatever they have to say, keeping an open mind throughout the discussion.
A 2020 study conducted by the Harvard University has found out that break between work directly improve the subsequent concentration and focus of the employees at work and help them deal with stress and anxiety issues in a better way than most conventional methods. This “right to disconnect” rule needs to be implemented in all organizations worldwide so that their employees can perform better whilst leading healthy lives. France, leading all Western nations, has already introduced this “right to disconnect” law in 2017, thereby mandating all local and international located therein to carefully delineate and implement time periods wherein employees can be legally off work or take a break. Other European countries such as Spain and Ireland are also following in France’s footsteps in making the lives of the local workforce better, and so is the US.
The “right to disconnect” is now wholly looked upon as an mandatory workers’ right to periodically disengage from daily work. It directly owes its incorporation as well as importance to the Coronavirus pandemic, which drastically changed existing work methodology as well as disrupted social and public lives massively. The 2021 Harvard Study has also found out that employees who regularly exercise their “right to disconnect” daily at work are better performers than long haulers. As of now, there are huge demands by the global citizenry to implement the “right to disconnect” globally in all nations, and have even met with considerable legislative success in various European nations. Time won’t be far when the right to disconnect may become a reality.