Recent Article written by SHRM addresses the increased burn out and negative experiences of working from home. We at Enso have seen an emergence of Isolation, diminished collaboration and burn out, and suicidal ideations, and agoraphobia. At Enso we had more crisis calls from our work from home clients than ever before. Many of the emergency sessions were due to fears of contracting COVID 19 and experiencing any of the catastrophic symptoms including death to self or others. Those fears coupled with isolation left many, previously emotionally healthy and balanced clients, with intense suicidal ideations. Why is it that more previously healthy and balanced people struggle with burnout and catastrophic thinking.
Research shows remote employees are working longer, spending time in more meetings and having to keep up with more communication channels. Nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before, according to a survey of 2,800 workers by Los Angeles-based staffing firm Robert Half. The survey also found that working parents were more likely to work weekends and more than eight hours per day than those without children. Men were more likely than women to report working on weekends and putting in 40-plus hour workweeks. And more workers under the age of 40 said they usually work weekends and more than eight hours per day than those older than 40.
"While remote work affords employees greater flexibility, it also makes disconnecting extremely difficult," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "Many people feel pressure to keep up with rising workloads and are putting in long hours to support the business and customer needs."
Renee Zung, vice president of career services at career management firm Keystone Partners in Raleigh, N.C., was not surprised by the findings. "It is easier to unplug when you work onsite at an office," she said. "Leaving your office at the end of the workday creates a natural boundary, and traveling home provides the time you need to unwind and decompress. It is hard to set up boundaries if your office is in your bedroom or at the kitchen table. It is easy to check one more e-mail, add more details to a presentation or return a few phone calls to colleagues."
Lack of balance Training
The lack of employee training on how to manage the boundaries between work and life in the years before COVID-19 is an underlying problem, said Cali Williams Yost, a nationally recognized expert on workplace flexibility and founder of the consultancy Flex+Strategy Group in New York City.
"Managing the boundaries between work and life is a skill set people need and most didn't have before the pandemic and still don't," she said. "Simply handing an employee a laptop and downloading Zoom or some other collaborative software is not enough to help employees manage their work and lives through the pandemic and beyond."
Fear and uncertainty about the economy and job security also drive some of this behavior, Yost added. "Taken together—lack of boundary-setting skills, lack of alternatives to work, and fear—this is a perfect storm of overwork."
At Enso our clients have confirmed the aforementioned data. We've noticed the same trends being reported from our clients and have helped many of them learn to set boundaries and balance in their work from home lives; while safely navigating social distancing and the need for human connection. Our Corporate Wellness Program offers direct care services and trainings to corporate employees to encourage long term success and health of their staff. People who don't actively practice self care and find their identities in their productivity at work are more likely to burn out and experience long term health consequences from the lack of stamina expected from longer hours.
Long Term Effects
"It is unclear if this increase in average workday span represents a benefit or drawback to employee well-being,"
Evan DeFilippis, a Ph.D. candidate in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School in Boston and one of the study authors. "On one hand, the flexibility to choose one's working hours to accommodate household demands may empower employees by affording them some freedom over their own schedule. On the other hand, the change in work schedule may be a consequence of a blurred distinction between work and personal life, in which it becomes easy to overwork."
"Stress is a common factor in heart attacks, depression and other health-related problems. If you are working nonstop that means your body is working to keep you up, adding stress to your organs, especially your brain and heart. Sitting too long at your computer can lead to carpal tunnel, back issues and vision issues. Wearing earbuds all day long can lead to hearing loss."
Supporting Work/Life Balance
Experts agree that the trend toward a longer workday will not be sustainable, and that HR and line managers should support flexible scheduling and encourage employees to take breaks during the day and time off when needed. "The pandemic has pushed companies to prioritize employee experience," McDonald said. "Savvy employers are making lasting changes to support their staff's needs and well-being."
Enso Coaches and Clinicians make the following suggestions to aid in increased work life balance:
Determine set schedule of "off" and "on" times
Establish clear boundaries with checking emails and messaging
Take stretch breaks from the computer after sitting for over 3 hours.
Shift your mindset from an "all or nothing" perspective to an "enough" perspective; where you complete "enough" work because there will always be more to get done.
Diversify your leisure activities. Binging Netflix or scrolling on instagram doesn't offer the relaxation that it once provided. Not giving your brain a diverse experience adds to a lack of motivation and procrastination of daily activities and goals.
Add excitement where you can. Create an in home scavenger hunt with yourself or your roommates.
Add healthy snacks to your daily routine. Being mindful of your eating is the first step to changing your overall health and wellness.
Journal multiple times a day. Actively checking in with yourself about how YOU are doing is beneficial to creating a meaningful relationship with yourself which increases confidence, self esteem, and lasting relationships.
Go to therapy or see your coach regularly. We rely on a mirror to get dressed and tell us if anything is out of place. Seek a professional mirror to help you become aware if anything is out of place.