Why WFH Can Be So Exhausting, According To Research (Part II: Overloaded)

 

The verdict is out: working from home (WFH) may have seemed like a dream come true at first, but it’s actually left more people feeling more exhausted than before.

Given the sheer uncertainty of the future in this pandemic, something has to be done to help people cope with WFH in the long run.

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It started with understanding the ways in which WFH leaves people feeling overworked; thanks to paper-thin work-life boundaries and longer working hours, people feel they’re spending more time and energy during WFH than before.

Not only are WFH employees overworked, though, they’re also more cognitively and emotionally overloaded than before. In the long run, it ultimately worsens the strain on their individual self-management faculties, potentially increasing the risk of job burnout as well. Here’s why.

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1. People are overloaded with information

It’s no secret that Singapore’s work culture is decidedly more “always-on” than that of our Asian counterparts in the region. WFH, however, seems to have exacerbated the effect; more employees feel compelled to be available 24/7 now than before.

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Recent surveys by US health services firm Cigna found that after the imposition of COVID19 measures, 78% of Singaporean employees felt the expectation that they be available for work round the clock, compared to 72% pre-COVID-19.

Indeed, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, people are communicating more frequently both during and after working hours; they’re attending to and making 55% more calls a week, and twice as many after-work chats between 5pm and midnight.

The likely cumulative effect is a workforce that is cognitively bursting at the seams with information.

 

2. The uncertainty of the future leaves many feeling constantly anxious

 

With no clear end in sight to the pandemic, “coronavirus anxiety” remains a pervasive phenomenon amongst Singaporean employees.

On top of adjusting to the new normals of social distancing, porous work-life boundaries, restrictions on businesses and so on, it’s hard to plan for (or even imagine) the future.

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Navigating so much change and uncertainty is understandably detrimental to employees’ mental and emotional well-being while WFH.

According to Qualtrics, for example, recent survey results indicate that 68% of people worry about retrenchment. Additionally, around 65% stated that they felt more anxious and stressed out than before.

 

3. Pre-pandemic social support systems at work are no longer as easily accessible

The sheer sense of camaraderie from physically working with your co-workers, having water-cooler conversations, group lunches and post-work drinks cannot be underestimated.

The pandemic, however, swiftly put an end to all of these things; drastically reducing face-to-face time.

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Given this state of affairs, it should come as no surprise that some employees would feel much more socially isolated from their colleagues than others. As indicated by the Microsoft Work Trend Index, almost 28% of WFH employees attributed their increased WFH stress levels to feeling disconnected from their co-workers.

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