COVID-19-driven work-from-home burnout is real

A new Monster survey reveals half of employees telecommuting due to the coronavirus are experiencing burnout, yet 52% don't have plans to take a break.

COVID-19-driven work-from-home burnout is real
12:25

Despite access to the comforts of home, people telecommuting due to COVID-19 are experiencing burnout, according to  Monster's latest "State of the Candidate" survey.

The poll, taken on May 5, with 1,251 US respondents, reported those telecommuting may be even more "incredibly prone to burnout," despite the general consensus that the risk of overworking is lower when working from home.

Half of respondents who are telecommuting said they are experiencing burnout and overwork. Another 52% polled said they do not have plans for a break to decompress or take a vacation.

But there are some examples of positive behavior, with the majority of respondents (71%) saying they are making an effort to take time for themselves during the work day, by taking a break, going for a walk, and spending time with family.

"For many people, this is their first time working from home and may feel forced into a situation they aren't prepared for," said Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert. "As a result, they're struggling with time management, establishing a healthy work/life balance, and household distractions. Although our poll shows they're taking time out for family and breaks from work, an overall sense of anxiety, fear, and confusion about when they will return to normal is exacerbating work tensions and impacting their overall productivity."

But even pre-pandemic, burnout has always taken a toll on employees, with one-third admitting their job has a negative impact on their mental health. The top stressor is mental health, followed by having enough money to cover bills and debts, and a toxic boss or co-workers. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs  (TechRepublic)

Since COVID-19 sent workers to telecommute, US workers have been on their computers/laptops for an additional three hours a day, a 40% rise compared to patterns seen before March 11. 

Workers in the UK, France, Spain and Canada start work days earlier and their workday is an average of two-hours longer.

Monster's report said: "Overworked, we falsely believe that any momentum is good momentum. In truth, without a strategy, we're just running in circles, not actually getting anywhere, and wearing the soles of our shoes perilously thin."

And a result of overwork is a decrease in productivity, according to Monster, which said its poll revealed that 62% of employees feel their personal productivity has dropped because of WFH, with an added sense of loss of control and identity, and the additional lack of routine or an office environment can hinder productivity.

It concluded that people need to work smarter, not harder, and "burning the candle at both ends can (and likely will) have the opposite intended effect." Those who WFH are given two options explained the report, have two options:

  • To continue panic-working toward and inevitable burnout or

  • Work sensibly and accept reality even though reality sucks right now for a lot of people.

"The key to success is a schedule," Salemi said. "Without a morning commute, many people are logging in earlier. Avoid that trap, and, instead, stick with a set start time each day."

The Monster community spoke and they listened: "We've heard from our community that mornings are the hardest time of the day to get into a groove," she said. "Discuss it with your boss and see if there are options for different start times. Many employers are flexible under the current circumstances with parents handling e-learning for their kids and getting the day started."

"Secondly, set up regular check-ins with your team. Sticking to a routine will help give structure to the day, and frequent check-ins will allow everyone to evaluate workload and expectations." 

"Last, but not least, have a firm end time. Agree to a time that you'll all log off and return to your personal lives. Resist the urge to answer or send emails after that established time—take advantage of the time you've gained by not having a morning and evening commute and enroll in those online ukulele lessons you've always wanted to take."

The report encourages a collaborative effort and added: "In this particular instance, fighting fire with fire just makes more fire. We all have to help each other, but nobody can be any source of help or comfort to others while buckling under burnout. That renders you rather useless, which, ironically, is exactly what you were trying to disprove by burning the candle at both ends."

The advice is practical and sensible, noting: "Tame the flame. Breathe deep, go for walks, and keep to a realistic work schedule. Remember to check in on your co-workers and see how they're coping."

Also see 

burnout

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto