working from home advice

home working advice

Months on and it hardly feels appropriate to call working from home the ‘new normal’ anymore. What started as short-term leave from the office as lockdown approached, has now transformed into an at speed entire workforce transition. 

With the adjustment in full flow, we wanted to check in to see if perceptions around working from home have changed and how the nation is bearing up. To find out more, we ran a poll across our website homepage and LinkedIn channel to  gauge what hours people are working from home and whether they are subject to burnout. 

Longer working hours for two thirds.

It may not come as a surprise that two thirds (65%) of Brits who are working from home stated that they are working longer hours, according to our poll.

Last year, research from the TUC revealed that travelling to work is taking longer than ever before – with the average daily commute now stretching to almost an hour. Getting to and from work every day is taking 59 minutes on average, an increase of five minutes from a decade ago, says the TUC - the equivalent of 221 hours a year. With this huge chunk of hours now back for former commuters to play with, it could be possible that the extra time is being spent continuing working. 

For some, the overall hours allocated to the working day may be the same if a commute is factored in, however for those that previously enjoyed zoning out, browsing social media, or catching up on their favourite Netflix series, are more than likely to be trading a once cherished bit of ‘me time’ for responding to emails. 

The most common reason why staff worked from home over the past seven days according to ONS data (w/c 12th October) was because their employer had asked them to (59%), although 50% did so because they were following government advice. Some 24% normally worked from home.

‘Everyone would rather work from home’ - a common misconception.

Home working has its long list of benefits - our previous research revealed that 1 in 3 employees state that their mental health is better working from home, and Randstad’s 2020 employer brand research highlighted that the most attractive nonmonetary benefits desired by employees are centred around flexibility, with flexible working hours and being able to work from home being two of the top three key drivers. 

While many see the added flexibility and lack of commute to be beneficial to their work life balance, evidence suggests that employers are in fact benefiting from remote working too. A recent study carried out by Talk Talk discovered that 30% of managers reported that their teams have been more productive and 35% said they had been more collaborative. Talk Talk CEO even went on to suggest that productivity levels are so high, that they can achieve a week’s worth of work in four days.

For two thirds of normally office-based employees however, the increase in hours could in fact be contributing towards burnout and poor mental health. Over a quarter (28%) of office workers surveyed in October feel that their mental wellbeing is for the better when they are office-based. 

Dr Christine Grant, deputy head of the school of psychological, social and behavioural science at Coventry University, said avoiding the office to halt the spread of coronavirus is likely to be characterised by “over-working” at home, with 60-hour weeks “the norm” in many cases. 

Feeling the burn?

At first sight, many saw flexible working as a solution to the ‘always online’ burnout culture - something which presents a greater work life balance, before the pandemic.

According to a new study of 2,000 UK workers commissioned by the flexible workplace provider TOG (The Office Group), over half (51%) of respondents said they had been working outside of their typical hours since lockdown, with the average Brit putting in an extra 59 hours of work at home - the equivalent of seven working days, over the last five months. 

So what exactly is burnout? It’s not necessarily correct to think that it simply means you’re feeling tired from working. 

The term “burnout” first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, was originally defined as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one's devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” More simply put, if you feel exhausted, start to hate your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, you are showing signs of burnout.

The stress that contributes to burnout can come mainly from your job, but stress from your overall lifestyle can add to this stress. Personality traits and thought patterns, such as perfectionism and pessimism, can contribute as well -

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How to prevent burnout.

As the research above points out, it’s very likely that the majority of employees will be working longer hours and taking fewer breaks working from home. Although our recent findings suggest that mental wellbeing when linked to physical working location is unaffected for the majority, employers must take a moment to ensure those that are at home are comfortable, safe and not subject to burnout. 

For some, working from home can be isolating and causing burnout. 

Some quick tips for managers to help those in need is to: 

  • ensure regular team and one to one catch-ups are in place - find an online tool that works for everyone. If your business didn’t have home working procedures in place before lockdown, it’s also likely that the self-assessment was generic. 
  • work with remote staff to tailor a self-assessment to reflect the specific needs and hazards of their work - an unsuitable home working environment or uncomfortable setup might be contributing to poor mental health. 
  • encourage set office hours. Where workload permits, encourage workers to switch off when they should usually leave the office. 
  • take holiday. Although holiday might not be the most appealing at the moment with movements and activity restrictions, it’s important to take time to switch off. This also prevents a rush in bookings of time off when government safety restrictions ease up.

For more information on managing a healthy lifestyle and for the all of the latest tips on working from home, access our working from home hub below.