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Because “business as usual” is being replaced by the (as yet unknown) “new normal,” it stands to reason that the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule at a common workplace location is also irrevocably changed.
Whether it’s remote work, working from home, or a combination of the two, where you work has been overshadowed by when you work. And when working from home (permanently, temporarily, or sporadically), the line between your work life and your home life is increasingly blurred.
When COVID-19 first reared its ugly head and companies scurried to adjust their assumptions about where their employees accomplish their work responsibilities, employee morale was initially high due to the new (and seemingly less stressful) remote working arrangement. After all, there was no commuting and you could work in your pajamas!
But moving to such telecommuting arrangements came as an unanticipated surprise for many employers. Because they were unprepared, they were unable to put into place a managerial style that would not only effectively direct but also guide and support employees in their new work settings. Overall:
- Some companies recognized the challenge of employees quickly setting up suitable home office space by providing additional monies to help them create viable home offices.
- Others became enamored with the ability to see and connect with employees via Zoom and scheduled endless video calls – leading to the dreaded Zoom fatigue.
- Still others believed that technology would enable them to simply continue “business as usual” – with little regard for the effects of a home-based workspace on employee work-life balance.
Changing to remote working impacted different employees differently: from a sense of isolation and loneliness to an almost euphoric response to the lack of interruptions. But as the newness of working from home eventually faded as the pandemic progressed, the obstacles to productivity and employee well-being became more apparent.
The siren call of the computer or smart phone interrupted employee sleep patterns and nagging sense of guilt for not working when they were at home (which was now their office). Even traditional 9-to-5 workers discovered that technology enabled them to read and respond to just one more email or to check just one more line item on a report.
Because there was no longer a clear delineation between one’s work and professional lives, clear boundaries disintegrated and scope creep set in.
While the daily commute can be considered to be a stressful grind, it did provide a transition period between work and home. Many employees used the morning commute to plan their daily schedule and the evening commute to reflect and unwind before moving into their personal roles.
Without this clearly delineated division, many remote workers chose to use what would previously have been commute time to “just get a few more tasks done” – whether it’s at 6AM or 11PM. The result is an expansion of work hours that is positively correlated with a rise in work-related stress and burnout.
Boundaries are critical in avoiding and overcoming burnout. Without clear boundaries, remote workers are highly susceptible to subtle but pervasive increase in the number of hours they work and a corresponding higher probability of burnout.
So, do these increased hours automatically translate into increased productivity? How many hours are too many hours to work in a week? Is there a “magic” number of hours that triggers burnout? What is the optimal number of hours to work for productivity, job satisfaction, and creativity? And so what if you do burn out – it can’t kill you, right?
In this video, you’ll find answers to these questions. Be sure to check out the work hours and burnout risk chart, too: you’ll be surprised how easy it is to work too many hours when you’re working from home.
© 2021 G. A. Puleo. Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on transforming the world of work by eradicating burnout. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.