Despite concerns about declining productivity, a new survey has found that many employees working from home are logging more hours than ever before, leading to increased stress and threat of burnout among workers.
A new survey from ADP Canada and Angus Reid found that 44 per cent of employees working remotely are logging more hours than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Of the 44 per cent who reported working more hours, 10 per cent were logging at least eight hours more per week. The increased work hours are hitting those working from home more acutely, as 30 per cent of all employees – including those still going into the workplace – reported working more hours since the pandemic began.
Ed Yuen, ADP Canada’s vice president of strategy and business development, calls the additional hours worked by employees a “COVID tax.”
“The lines between work and home have obviously been blurred by the pandemic,” Yuen said in an interview.
“Whereas before I had a natural break of having a lunch break or leaving to catch the train or bus home, now I’m sitting at my desk and not having that chance to disconnect.”
The so-called COVID tax has meant that as the number of hours worked has increased through the pandemic, so have stress levels. The survey, which polled 1,501 Canadians working full and part time in April, found that stress levels increased over the last year. In April 2021, 41 per cent of respondents reported experiencing stress, up from 34 per cent in April 2020. An additional 46 per cent of those working remotely reported feeling less engaged with their work since the start of the pandemic.
While workers are reporting increased levels of stress, they are also being more productive. The survey found that 42 per cent of remote workers feel more productive working from home, and 37 per cent said they have noticed an increase in the quality of their work.
The work-from-home boom sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns, including among some corporate executives, about potential decline in productivity among workers. Goldman Sachs executive David Solomon called remote working “an aberration” that he plans on correcting as soon as possible. Many others, including Citrix CEO David Henshall, see a hybrid workplace as the way of the future, allowing employees to work from home but come into the office for certain tasks.
“There’s a double-edged sword when it comes to remote working,” Yuen said. “They’re reporting an increase in the quality of work as well as being more productive… but they are feeling more stress and less engaged. The question is how long that can be sustained before you see a kind of broader burnout.”
Yuen said employers should make sure workers take intentional breaks throughout the day to ensure they are not being overworked. For example, he says many companies are urging employees to go into “airplane mode” – where workers shut off communication – for a few hours to catch up on administrative tasks or focus on specific projects. Yuen also said people have underestimated the impact vacations play on our mental health, and that employers should encourage workers to take vacation time in order to help keep stress levels down.
The ADP survey was conducted between April 14 and April 15 among 1,501 members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey has an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.