Why WFH Can Be So Exhausting, According To Research (Part I: Overworked)

 

In a pre-pandemic world (as far back in time as that sounds), the idea of working from home (WFH) would’ve probably been enticing–maybe even seductive. No more morning and evening commutes with packed trains and annoying track faults. No more funky smells and awkward encounters with exhausted strangers falling asleep on your shoulder.

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After a couple of months into the pandemic, working from home isn’t really all that great. While most WFH employees have now re-attained their pre-pandemic productivity, they’re also more stressed, overworked, and exhausted than before.

According to the recent NUHS Mind Science Centre Survey, working from home is even more stressful than being a frontline worker. 61% of WFH employees reported feeling stressed out, compared to 53% of frontline workers.

Likewise, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, Singaporean employees working from home are the most burnt out among their counterparts in the 7 other countries surveyed, including Japan and Germany.

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Clearly, adjusting to the demands of WFH isn’t as simple as improving productivity alone; it necessitates managing the long-term effects of WFH on employees’ holistic well-being and development as well.

Doing this, however, calls for a proper, research-backed understanding of why exactly WFH is so exhausting in the first place. To start with, then, here’s two ways WFH leaves you feeling overworked.

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1. Work-life boundaries have become almost completely porous

The greatest challenge of WFH remains the collision between your professional and personal workspaces. The gradual erosion of the work-life boundaries that we generally took for granted pre-COVID-19, then, is inevitable.

Previously, you had particular rituals–like those dreaded commutes, or putting on an office-ready outfit–that helped you effectively and neatly separate your professional and personal lives.

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Now, though, you’re spending all day constantly mentally switching between all your different roles in life. Your 9 to 5, for exmaple, no longer just requires you to be an employee; it probably also requires you to tend to your children as you work. In the long run, it’s incredibly draining.

Indeed, almost a third of Singaporean WFH employees surveyed in the Microsoft Work Trend Index chalked their burnout up to a lack of work-life separation.

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More specifically, as reported by employee engagement platform EngageRocket, it’s the pervasiveness of distractions at home, the space constraints, and family presence that make it difficult to clearly delineate your work and personal life. 66% of WFH employees reported that this was their biggest stumbling block with regards to adjusting to WFH.

 

2. People are working longer hours than they did before

Following the erosion of work-life boundaries, it’s no surprise that people are now clocking longer work hours than before in WFH than they did pre-COVID-19. 3 hours longer, to be exact, according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index.

Similarly, EngageRocket surveys indicated that almost 70% of its respondents identified longer working hours as one of the biggest struggles of WFH.

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Official working hours have remain unchanged throughout the past few months, but it seems to have made little difference.

While WFH, it’s harder to tear yourself away from work when all it entails is getting up from your spot and going into the kitchen or the living room (as opposed to packing up and commuting home from the office at the end of the day.)

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