Image: DenEmmanuel, Getty Images/iStockPhotos

Remote work is taking its toll on employees, with daily tasks for their job piling up and rest breaks few and far between. On Wednesday, Superhuman released the results of a survey of 1,000 people working from home to analyze the impact the shift to remote work imposed on them and how it is affecting attitudes toward jobs.

The uncertainty about working from home versus the office is one of the problems. Two out of every five employees in the U.S. expect to continue to work from home through the end of 2021, according to a Willis Towers Watson report from February.

Most people wouldn’t consider email stress inducing, but the report found that chasing Inbox Zero (the clean slate where every email has been archived, delegated or answered) is important to 98% of respondents.

The situation is dire: many also said sorting an inbox of unopened emails or dealing with excessive Slack or Teams messages is one of the most unpleasant parts of working remotely; 29% of office workers said email and chat are the most egregious WFH liability, nearly enough to make them quit. Slack or Teams messages were given as the top reason to consider leaving their positions. It’s so bad that 49% of employees surveyed said they’d rather clean their bathroom than sort through 10 days worth of unopened emails.

SEE: Working from home: The future of business is remote (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Responsiveness cycle for emails and notifications

The need to immediately respond to messages is causing stress among workers. A majority of employees (64%) said they would rather commute to work again than sort through the emails, Slack and Teams meetings and other notifications that result from working remotely.

The report noted, “We overcompensate for the lack of in-person connection—firing off endless messages and responding without delay. More than 3 in 5 remote workers say they’re more likely to reply immediately to an email from their boss or team (63%) than to a text or DM from friends or family (37%).”

Women feel more pressure and obligation to address and respond to incoming emails or chats than their male counterparts. For women, 64% of respondents said they can’t go more than five minutes without opening a notification for some form of communication from work, and only 56% of men said they’d do the same.

But being compelled to respond has made women dissatisfied with work: Women are 75% more likely than men to say they enjoy work less now than they did pre-pandemic.

Boomers are more chill than their younger colleagues when it comes to feeling pressure to always be current in their work. Nearly a third of WFH employees who are 40 and younger (31%) can’t wait a minute after waking up to check their email. Consequently, of those older than 40, only 19% were as eager to hear from work.

Technology issues causing dissatisfaction

The email tidal wave has overwhelmed many employees. Video calls are the biggest pain point, with 29% of employees saying that video calls make them want to leave their job. Email volume makes 22% of employees want to quit, while 29% blamed a Slack/Team overload on their desire to bail on their company.

What employees want

A whopping 36% of employees said they’d like to take a daily break or take time for a nap or exercise during the work day if their employer allowed it. Another 36% said they’d like a devoted self-care day once a month, and 34% would like a dedicated meeting-free day each week. Getting the right equipment to work with is a factor for 31% of workers who say they’d like to have a one-time stipend to perfect their home office setup. And 26% would like a monthly budget for productivity apps or software.

The productivity tool need is intense. Even the most tightfisted employees are willing to spend money to relieve the pressure. Fifty percent of remote workers said they spent their own money on tools to help manage their productivity, and another 17% plan to do so in the future.